“[New billionaires in fast-growing countries] have to buy longer-range airplanes. If you’re flying from Mongolia to Nigeria, it’s either a three-day journey flying commercial or a nine-hour flight on your jet.”
The ABCs of Private Flyers
There are probably as many reasons to fly privately as there are private flyers. But you can subdivide the species into types, to a degree. Of course, the characteristics may overlap, but here are three examples:
Type A–for “Active.” These are the folks who have their computers humming and spreadsheets open before the engines even start spinning. Often, they travel in packs, with one leader, the Alpha passenger, calling the shots. There is usually a cadre of three or four mid-level operatives, perhaps supported by one or more lower-level assistants to handle the heavy lifting.
For these passengers, the hours spent airborne are as valuable as those spent in the office or boardroom–sometimes even more valuable, as there are no distractions or interruptions and there’s nowhere to hide if the going gets tough. The cabin of a business aircraft makes an ideal think tank, and with today’s advanced connectivity, Type A passengers can allow just as much of the outside world in as they please.
I first encountered Type A passengers in 1986, when I wrote an article on the PGA Tour’s turboprop Cheyenne 400LS. Before takeoff, I was amazed at the swirl of activity set into motion by the arrival of PGA Tour commissioner Deane Beman and his management team. Even before the door was latched, they were all strapped in and their spreadsheets were unfurled (this was B.C.–Before Computers). Questions and answers, problems and solutions, proposals and counterproposals were flying around the narrow cabin like ricocheting machine gun rounds.
Type B–for “Boring.” But in a good way. Even Type A people sometimes need to rest, and a long flight allows them to occasionally assume the role of Type B passengers to catch some Zs. With the shades drawn and seats laid flat in “berthing” mode, the cabin of a business aircraft can become an effective sensory-deprivation chamber. In fact, it comes with its own white-noise machines–which conveniently double as “engines.”
Even without sleeping, some passengers find the hours spent high above Earth to be the ideal down time–a chance to read, watch a movie or catch up with colleagues or family. I remember asking a West Coast charter broker about Hollywood’s most notorious customers. When he mentioned pop icon Madonna, I conjured up images of mile-high sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. If you did, too, you’ll be surprised to learn that, even before takeoff, the so-called Material Girl would don jammies, snuggle deep into the jet’s king-size bed (alone)–and go to sleep. The broker made me promise not to tell anyone (oops).
Type C–for “Copilot” (unofficial). Some Type Cs–the ones who sign the checks–are just as enamored of flying as the pilots, and they can experience much of the wonder and satisfaction of the view from the front row.
This passenger type can be the crew’s best friend. Type Cs might even be private pilots themselves. Who better to recognize the potential of private flying as a business asset? In most cases, these passengers understand the safety constraints and would never compromise the crew’s attention at inappropriate times. But they also recognize when it’s OK to have an over-the-shoulder chat about flight plans, weather, fuel prices or equipment. In many cases, the reason the company flies privately is because the boss loves airplanes, and the way they can help his business grow.
Whatever type passenger you are–and you can change types from flight to flight–you’ve undoubtedly given long, hard thought to the value you place on private flying. However you choose to pass your hours aloft, you know it will be time well spent.
Mark Phelps welcomes comments and suggestions at: firstname.lastname@example.org.