aircraft ownership

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Whole Aircraft Ownership: Is It Right For You? see more

    NAFA member, David Wyndham with Conklin & de Decker, highlights the benefits of sole ownership of a business aircraft.

    If control over your company’s transportation is paramount, sole ownership of a business aircraft is particularly attractive. With high enough utilization, it is also very cost effective. 

    As a generalization, when your flying needs come close to (or exceed 200 annual hours), whole aircraft ownership can be more cost effective than fractional, charter or membership programs. Whole aircraft ownership offers the following benefits.

    Freedom: With whole aircraft ownership a company has the freedom to select the best aircraft to satisfy its needs. Within safety and operating regulations, that aircraft can be operated as the owner requires.

    Customization: When a company acquires its own aircraft, the outfitting of the aircraft can be done to suit its operational and travel requirements.

    Options for colors, seating, carpeting materials (and more) are able to be matched to your needs and preferences. The larger the cabin size, the more flexibility there is in how the interior can be configured.

    Service Levels: The aviation department personnel are the owning company’s employees. Not only is that company able to shape their training and manage their competence, it can affect how they interface personally with passengers.

    The ability to hire the employees that fit the organization can be invaluable, and this service level generates a rapport that is effortless and comforting.

    Control: In the US, Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) allow the most flexibility and opportunity for control to not-for-hire operations flown on behalf of the aircraft owner. A company-owned aircraft that is used in support of the business of the company falls under these rules.

    While all aircraft must be operated safely, the sole owner of a business aircraft has greater influence over operations than either a charter customer or a fractional owner. Factors influencing safety and security are within the operator’s control.

    A whole-aircraft owner has the highest levels of privacy. You can discuss sensitive business, or leave important corporate documents and personal items on board the aircraft.

    Responsibility: With this high degree of control comes an equally high level of responsibility. While the FARs state that the pilot in command is the ultimate person responsible for the safe operation of the aircraft, the owner is responsible for the hiring and training of that pilot. The owner has liability for the actions of its employees, and this extends to the aircraft operation.

    The owner can manage this risk via high-quality training and insurance. The crew should be trained to the highest appropriate levels of competence. Maintenance engineers (if applicable) also require regular training.

    An individual or company owning or leasing their own hangar is also responsible for ground safety. The owner shares the risk by properly insuring the aircraft and crew.

    Managing and directing the detailed operation of aviation activities requires individuals versed in management and Business Aviation - a skillset commonly accomplished either by having an in-house aviation manager/director, or by contracting the management of the aviation operation to a management company.

    The Role of Management Companies

    A management company can offer a turn-key approach of contracting the function and oversight of the aviation operation. These companies specialize in flight operations.

    For a first-time owner of a business aircraft, we usually recommend contracted management for starting the aviation operation. In additional to providing flight crews and functional oversight, the management company can provide economic benefits as well:

    • Fuel can be purchased in bulk on behalf of multiple aircraft owners;
    • Discounts can extend to maintenance (the management company with multiple aircraft should be able to negotiate discounts for spare parts);
    • The management company can purchase insurance for its group of owners at rates that can be lower than for a single aircraft.

    While management companies tailor their services to meet an owner’s unique requirements, they typically offer the following oversight:

    • Hangaring the aircraft
    • Managing the aircraft records
    • Hiring and training the flight crews
    • Managing the maintenance of the aircraft
    • Handling the billing and verification of all variable operating expenses (including fuel, maintenance, etc.)
    • Ensuring that all regulatory requirements are met by the aircraft and crew
    • Refueling the aircraft
    • Cleaning and cosmetic upkeep of the managed aircraft.

    Offsetting the Costs of Whole Ownership 

    If you, as the owner, desire to further reduce your total costs, a management company can charter the aircraft when you’re not using it, provided the firm has authorization under FAA Part 135 (or its equivalent in non US countries).

    This relationship is complicated as there are regulatory restrictions governing operational control of any aircraft used for commercial service. The general terms are as follows: 

    • The aircraft owner pays all the operating costs (fuel, maintenance and other aircraft operating expenses).
    • The crew may be billed as salaries or as an hourly fee.
    • The aircraft owner gets a set percentage of the charter revenue. 

    The charter revenue the owner receives should be more than enough to cover the operating costs, but will not be enough to cover all of the fixed expenses, debt service and depreciation. The charter revenue is shared between the charter operator and aircraft owner. Rarely, however, does a chartering arrangement with a management company produce a profit for the aircraft owner.

    The relationship with the management company is as much a personal relationship as a business relationship. Communication and shared goals are important. If you want control, fly enough hours and accept the responsibility, whole aircraft ownership can be very rewarding.

    This article was originally published in AvBuyer on May 14, 2018.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    The FAA and aircraft ownership - use a trusted, neutral third party to handle transactions. see more

    By Wright Brothers Aircraft Title

     

    Not necessarily. Here’s why.

    Philko Aviation, Inc. v. Shacket

    United States Supreme Court 462 U.S. 406 (1983)

    This is a great example of aircraft ownership and the role of the FAA in sales transactions. In this case, a shady character, Roger Smith, sold an aircraft to the Shackets. Smith provided the aircraft and a photocopy of the bill of sale and told Shacket that he would take care of the paperwork. He never filed the bill of sale with the FAA, so there was no record the transaction ever happened. Shady Smith then resold the same aircraft to Philko Aviation. He told Philko that the plane was in Michigan but provided them with the title documents. Because he provided a bill of sale and there was no record at the FAA of Shacket sale, Philko’s bank closed the deal and filed the bill of sale with the FAA.

    So, both parties paid for the plane, but Shacket had the aircraft and Philko had the title. Who really owned it?

    The Shackets sued in federal court for ownership of the aircraft. Philko claimed that they had the right to the aircraft because the Shackets did not file any title documents with the FAA (as required by § 503(c) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. 49 U.S.C. §§ 1301 et. seq). Obviously, both parties felt they had a right to own the plane. After all, they both paid for it, right?

    The court ruled in favor of the Shackets. The reason? The Shackets had a good title under Illinois’ Uniform Commercial Code, which was NOT preempted by the Federal law § 503(c). The law stated that an oral sale is valid against third parties once the buyer takes possession of the aircraft.

    The FAA and Aircraft Ownership

    What is interesting and notable about this case is the party who held title according to the FAA records was not the party who won the case. In other words, the FAA said that Philko owned the plane, but the courts disagreed and gave the plane to the Shackets because they were in possession of it. Philko Aviation did the right thing by filing with the FAA, but that was not the deciding factor. Possession is 9/10ths of the law, and this case was no different. The party in possession won.

    What can we learn from this? Be careful who you deal with. The global nature of aircraft transactions makes it hard for buyers and sellers to know each other. In a previous blog, Born in a Pool Hall, we outline the origins and reasons for using a trusted escrow agent. In this instance, having used a trusted, neutral third party to handle funds and documents would have saved both parties a lot of time, energy, and heartache.

  • Tracey Cheek posted an article
    Can a prospective aircraft owner benefit from claiming 100 percent "bonus depreciation"? see more

    Can a prospective aircraft owner benefit from claiming 100 percent “bonus depreciation” even though the owner expects to fly the aircraft for personal use? Yes, with limitations and careful structuring under the Internal Revenue Code (IRC). However, in doing so, it is essential to harmonize potentially conflicting rules in the IRC with the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) and state law, including sales/use tax laws.

    The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which became law on December 22, for the first time allows aircraft owners temporarily to take 50 percent or 100 percent bonus depreciation deductions on preowned aircraft. It also doubles the pre-existing 50 percent bonus depreciation to 100 percent of the cost of certain new aircraft.

    A business taxpayer who owns an aircraft can take 100-percent bonus depreciation deductions under the IRC against gross income if it uses the aircraft in its trade or business or for production of income. However, an owner cannot take depreciation deductions for personal use, including entertainment, amusement, or recreation.

    The IRC allows certain owners to deduct depreciation from gross income by two methods. The first is straight-line depreciation created under the Alternative Depreciation System. This allows owners to take equal depreciation deductions each year of the “recovery period”—the years to fully write off aircraft. That is six years for aircraft operated under Part 91 and 12 years for aircraft operating under Part 135.

    Read the full article on AINsight.