Nobody these days needs to be reminded how frustrating it can be to fly by commercial scheduled airlines. The check-in delays, security hassles and overbooking have caused customer complaints to spike in recent years, causing more passengers to search for an alternative to air travel. But without your own aircraft and an expensive pilot’s license, the only way to avoid the airlines and still travel by air has been private aircraft charter.
When we think of chartering our own aircraft however, what comes to mind are busy executives, Hollywood stars and politicians jaunting around the globe in multi-million dollar business jets that can cost as much as $6,000 or more per flight hour to rent. There are less expensive fractional aircraft ownership alternatives available on luxury turboprop aircraft such as the Pilatus PC-12, but the cost of these shares is still out of reach of many middle income travelers and small business owners.
Recent advances in today’s composite general aviation aircraft like Cirrus Design’s slick SR-22 Turbo G3 have pushed the performance envelope of smaller four passenger aircraft far beyond what was imaginable just a few years ago. The SR-22 has a maximum cruise speed of 219 knots true airspeed (252 miles per hour), but is usually operated more closer to 220 miles per hour. Compared to your Grandfather’s old plane that lumbered along at 125 miles per hour, modern luxury four-seat aircraft can seriously shorten trip legs and make multi-city day trips possible.
Realistically, very few people afford to fly by expensive aircraft charter. But what if the fares for private air charter ever dropped to a price point that was affordable to all of us? By flying the Cirrus SR-22, one charter network is now flying business and pleasure flights for under $500 per flight hour for the whole plane.
Stratus Alliance is a network of independent, FAA-certified charter operators strategically placed around the country that is capitalizing on the efficiency of the SR-22. Stratus Alliance is able to book “destination direct” charter flights for up to three passengers per flight to small municipal airports within their service area, which includes the East Coast and Texas.
The new secret weapon of these new charter travelers is the use of the smaller airfields surrounding every city in the land. When the competition is stuck at the gate while the airline tries to decide if they should cancel their flight, a traveler on a chartered SR-22 will have already launched for a flight to a small airport just a few miles from where they need to be. When other travelers are trapped on the tarmac awaiting departure, the people who arrived on a chartered SR-22 will have already finished negotiating a couple of morning deals.
More people are discovering the affordability that comes when flying single-engine air charter, and industry experts predict this new single-engine charter model to blossom into a nationwide powerhouse. Right now, medium-sized corporations can only afford to fly their upper management via private air charter, while their sales, technical, engineering and support personnel must roll the dice and put up with the undependable schedules that comes with flying commercial. As more of these companies realize they can now get their key personnel on site quickly with a “moment’s notice” flight, we’ll begin to see a whole new level of competitiveness evolve.
Copyright (c) 2008 Dan Pimentel