Once you decide to begin the search for a new aircraft, you need to have a criteria for prioritizing your options. You may like the King Air 350 but will it do what you need it to do? Likewise you may write off the possibility of a Citation VI and not realize that it is the perfect aircraft for you and can do over 90% of the travel you need. So how do you begin to narrow down your choices?
First, clearly establish your “Key Missions”. Conklin and deDecker, one of the leading authorities on aircraft acquisition, says simply that, “Key missions are the ones that define success for the organization’s use of aircraft.” (1) In order to purchase the right aircraft for your organization, it is crucial to understand these key missions. Are most of your flights regional? Are you travelling from 500 to 750 nautical miles? Or are most of your flights transcontinental? You look at the “normal” trips, the most frequent trips you expect and the likely conditions (weather, field lengths, passenger/cargo loads etc.) If 85% of your trips are in the southeast, you have to decide if that extra $3Million of acquisition cost and $250,000 in annual operating costs are worth being able to make a longer flight just 15% of the time. Does that cost offset making a fuel stop? Sometimes the convenience and importance of the mission might mean that yes, you need the plane to be able to make that trip. Other buyers might say, “No, the fuel stop is fine.” But nonetheless, it is important to define the mission.
Secondly, “Evaluation Parameters” describe other criteria that affect the ability of the organization to achieve its mission with an aircraft. If you are an air ambulance company, door size will be an important evaluation parameter. Perhaps you are going to be moving a number of people and need airline-styled passenger seating. Or maybe your aircraft will only move 8 or 10 people and an executive seating arrangement makes more sense for your needs. Are there special avionics needs or certification needs for your airplane?
It is vitally important to do this work before you move too far down the road toward acquisition. In the end, it will save you time and potentially a lot of money. So, determine your key missions and spend some time working through the evaluation parameters with your flight department and aircraft broker.
Remember you don’t just need a plane, you need the right airplane for you.
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