Editor's Desk: Peeling the onion

Buyers' Guide » 2008
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 - 5:00am

"Peeling the onion" is such an overused metaphor that I hesitate to repeat it here. But it suits private air travel so well that I simply can't resist.

You can be a business jet traveler by peeling away just one layer from the onion. Many users happily fit in this group. They ask their personal or administrative assistants to call their charter broker, fractional-aircraft provider or company flight department for a departure the next morning. Then they show up at the airport at the appointed time, wave a quick greeting to the pilots and climb on board, with no more interest than if they were stepping into a limo.

Others pull layer after layer off the onion, going deep below its surface. They buy their own aircraft, set up a flight department, build a hangar, install a fuel farm, hire pilots, maintenance technicians and flight attendants, manage other people's aircraft, obtain a charter certificate, set up an FBO at their airport, get their pilot's license and so on and so on.

In between are those people who charter occasionally; buy fractional shares; try jet cards; go into a partnership with a colleague to own an aircraft; quiz their lawyers and accountants about aviation taxes, laws and finance; engage a management company to take care of their airplane; and bore their family, friends and neighbors to tears extolling the virtues of business aviation.

This first Business Jet Traveler Buyers' Guide is for all these people-and those who haven't even picked up the onion yet. Paraphrasing the catchphrase that appears on the cover of all Business Jet Traveler issues, our goal with this publication is to provide a handy reference source that will help current and prospective users of business aviation to maximize their investments in private air transport.

We don't expect every article and directory in this Guide to be useful to every reader. There are, after all, many layers in the onion. But we do think everyone interested in private air travel will learn something of significance from this Guide-if only that general aviation involves a lot more than he or she might ever have imagined.

We hope you find the Business Jet Traveler Buyers' Guide valuable and would be grateful for your feedback. Drop us a line at editor@bjtonline.com and let us know what you like, what you don't like and what you miss. Frankly, we could have created a guide that is twice, or even three times, the size of this one, but we simply could not handle a bigger onion our first time out. Maybe next year. If nothing else, we've left ourselves plenty of room to grow.

Are they private, corporate, business or executives jets?

A confusing number of terms are used to describe civil aircraft that are not operated by airlines.

The Federal Aviation Administration uses general aviation to include everything that is not airline or military. The word aircraft, by the way, covers anything that flies within the atmosphere, including balloons, helicopters and all types of airplanes. The FAA considers general aviation airports those that don't have scheduled airline service.

Private aircraft often refers to small, piston-engine-powered airplanes, but strictly speaking, the term also includes privately owned military aircraft and airliners. John Travolta, for example, owns a Boeing 707 airliner.

Corporate aircraft more specifically describes aircraft that are operated by companies and flown by professional pilots. Corporate jets narrows the meaning to jet-powered airplanes.

Business aircraft is broader than corporate aircraft, bringing in airplanes and helicopters that are flown by owner-pilots for business purposes. Executive aircraft is a tad broader than business aircraft. Private jets, corporate jets, business jets and executive jets are frequently used as synonyms. Often, the speaker will include chartered aircraft in the usage as well.

Private air travel typically is most inclusive, covering the whole spectrum of non-airline aviation travel options, but leaving out aircraft that don't really take you anywhere predetermined, like balloons and hang-gliders. Who owns the aircraft is immaterial to the meaning.

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