My interest in aviation began when I was stationed at MacDill Air Force base in 1970. My private pilot license was issued 1/15/1971, a mere forty years ago. A commerical license followed in 1976 and then an instrument rating in 1977. After moving to Connecticut in 1981, the flying days were over. The topic of aviation was rekindled by Nick Nash, a summer intern at IBM shortly after we had formed the Internet Division of the company 15 years ago. Nick went on to get a degree, magna cum laude, at Harvard. He is now a Vice President at General Atlantic, a global growth equity firm. Nick was an excellent communicator and he asked me one day if he could do an interview on the subject of aviation. Nick titled the interview “I really prefer having an engine!”
Ten years later, I got very interested in aviation once again when the Elipse 500 was announced. The Eclipse was the first of a new class of aircraft called the Very Light Jet (VLJ). With a number of breakthroughs in aviation technology, the Eclipse promised to offer a dramatically more affordable business model for jet aircraft. The small six-seat business jet is powered by two lightweight Pratt & Whitney Canada PW610F turbofan engines. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt in 2008. A new company was formed recently and they are building a new version of the aircraft, to be called the Eclipse 550, with planned deliveries in 2013.
Another VLJ was announced in 2006 — the Embraer Phenom 100 — developed by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer. The Phenom was much more appealing than the Eclipse — significantly more space, larger windows, and great performance. My partners at Executive Jet Partners LLC (EJP) and I ordered a Phenom in 2006 and just over three year later, I went to Brazil to bring it back to Connecticut. It was quite an adventure. See the full story here.
EJP is a private company owned by three retired executives in Connecticut who have a love of aviation. Two of the three are private pilots and all three love to fly. EJP took ownership of the Embraer Phenom 100 executive jet in October 2009. The Phenom has six seats – two for the pilots and four for passengers. It is certified by the FAA for single-pilot operation, but most passengers are more comfortable with two pilots up front. It can fly 1,365 miles non-stop at 41,000 feet altitude at an airspeed of 435 mph. Like many aircraft owners, EJP makes the Phenom available for charter when the partners are not using it. We hope to make a business out of aviation charter. To make that happen requires a good partner who is an expert in managing aircraft. Enter Corporate Flight Management (CFM). CFM is a private Smyrna, Tennessee company that manages aircraft; provides marketing, dispatch, and scheduling; coordinates maintenance; and provides pilot services. (See the CFM blogs for some interesting aviation commentary). CFM pilots are experienced professionals and are trained and certified in the aircraft that they fly. CFM has a division based in Danbury, Connecticut and currently has seven airplanes in their fleet, two of which are Phenom 100s. See the entire CFM fleet here.
Chartering a private aircraft is not inexpensive, but it is incredibly convenient. When sharing the cost among multiple passengers, the cost approaches first class airfare. One of the many advantages of private aviation is that the aircraft can take off and land at thousands of airports not serviced by the airlines. For example, if you have a business or a personal reason to go from Danbury, Connecticut to Springfield, Illinois, there are no direct flights. A connecting flight through O’hare in Chicago departs Laguardia at 6 AM and gets into Springfield at 9:18. If you live in Danbury, you would have to leave home at 3:30 AM. The available return flights take four hours or more. One flight leaves at 12:15 PM (which leaves you about an hour for your visit) or at 6:20 PM, arriving into Laguardia at midnight and getting home almost 24 hours from when you got up. A charter flight can depart directly from Danbury at 7:15 AM and arrive in Springfiled at 9:15 AM. You can arrive at the Danbury Airport at 7:05 and be in the air at 7:15 AM. You can take whatever baggage you want and use your laptop from takeoff to landing. Without even mentioning amenities, the best part is the return flight. It would be scheduled whenever you choose to depart. You can bring as much baggage as you want and be productive for your entire flight. The cost would be significantly higher than a commercial flight, but the convenience is incomparable.
Charter is not for everyone. It is incredibly convenient albeit very expensive. But if you want to splurge for that special vacation in Florida, Canada, or the Bahamas, or if you have a business trip where productivity and your time are valuable, then charter is worth considering. When it comes to passengers on a charter, you can have the plane to yourself, or bring three to seven others (depending on what kind of plane you charter) with you at no additional cost — you charter an airplane, not a seat. An interesting approach to sharing is at Social Flights — a startup company that is using the power of the Internet to enable like-minded travelers to find each other and share the cost of a charter. If you have questions about a charter or want to get a no-charge quote for a flight, contact CFM or 615-220-1761.