NAFA Administrator posted an articleChoosing Your Aircraft Management Company: Five Keys to Successful Due Diligence see more
NAFA member, Joe Barber, VP Fleet Development, CAM with Clay Lacy Aviation shares five keys to successful due diligence when choosing your aircraft management company.
In a perfect world, the due diligence process to select the right aircraft management company would be straightforward and objective. Competing proformas would be formatted identically with the same terms for every line item. There would be no hedging or ambiguity. No hollow promises or questionable guarantees. No missing budget variables that appear as unpleasant surprises on the first invoice. Clients could easily compare and contrast, and make better informed decisions.
Instead, welcome to the real world, where proposals to manage business jet aircraft vary widely in organization and terminology, where the emphasis is often on salesmanship and showmanship, looking good rather than being thorough and transparent, and where the lowest estimate might end up costing you tens of thousands more in unexpected fees.
This should not be a beauty contest—but it often is.
Charles Porteus, president and founder of Seefeld Group, a leading business aviation marketing and research firm, notes that client surveys often show aircraft management is viewed as a “commodity.” For clients, there is little—or at least difficult to discern—differentiation among competing companies. The result is more like a beauty contest than the meticulous presentation and review of high-end business services to manage, operate and maintain a multi-million-dollar capital asset.
There’s a reason they call it due diligence.
The dictionary defines diligence as “persistent work and effort.” That sums up the challenge for business jet owners and their advisors as they seek to find not only the answers to questions, but to ensure that the right questions are being asked in the first place. Here are five guidelines that together are the key to finding the ideal aircraft management company for your specific needs.
1. Focus on objective metrics—yours as well as theirs.
You begin with the basics, of course. How many years has the company been in operation? How many aircraft do they manage? Part 91 vs. Part 135? Locations? Pilots? Management fees? Insurance? And so forth. Then dig deeper. Create constants for your comparison so you are comparing apples to apples. Fundamentally, you are conducting a gap analysis so you can more thoroughly understand what is being offered, what is different and what is missing.
Each company should be able to demonstrate objectively why they are a better choice than their competitors—although beware if they seem to be “tearing down” other companies in order to build themselves up. Turn the tables and ask what competitors might say about them.
2. Listen to what they are asking you.
At the same time, play close attention to the questions they are asking you. They should be probing to fully understand your unique requirements, mission profile, where you travel, how often and who goes with you. Your expectations of a management company, needs and preferences for meals and amenities, international issues, and other key details and concerns. If they are not asking these questions, you have to wonder if they are truly focused on your best interests.
3. Seek expert insights.
There are numerous professionals within the business aviation industry: the list includes aviation attorneys, CPAs and other financial advisors, aircraft brokers, insurance providers. Their knowledge of the industry and the major players, as well as their specific expertise, can be a valuable resource for you as you narrow your choices. Poll their opinions, while keeping an eye out for any possible conflicts of interest.
4. Challenge any “guarantees.”
The only thing that can be guaranteed is that nothing can be guaranteed. Not only is aircraft ownership inherently complex, our world is filled with variables. Who, for example, could have anticipated COVID-19? So it is wise to challenge any guarantees from a prospective management company.
Guaranteed charter revenue. How can they promise that? Instead, ask the company to demonstrate how they will work to generate charter revenue to meet your agreed-upon goals.
Guaranteed maintenance costs. Really? Ask them to show how will they work to minimize your maintenance costs without sacrificing quality or safety.
5. Watch out for what might be missing.
If a proposal is dramatically lower than others, it could be a sign that one or more variable budget items has been omitted or significantly underestimated. For example, international handing and other fees related to foreign travel. Or warranty and subscription costs. There are any number of candidates that can fluctuate wildly based on a number of variables specific to your use of the plane. This is the time to ask questions and demand answers. Otherwise you might find that the lowest bid was ultimately the most costly choice—a fact you might not discover until you see your first invoice.
Otherwise you might find that the lowest bid was ultimately the most costly choice—a fact you might not discover until you see your first invoice.
The bottom line is that this due diligence is worth it. With the right aircraft management company you will have an invaluable partner. Working closely with you, they can lower your ownership costs, add value, maximize efficiencies and ensure your asset is operated and maintained to the highest standards—so you can experience all the benefits and enjoyment of business jet ownership.
This article was originally published by Clay Lacy Aviation on July 9, 2020.
Tracey Cheek posted an articleWho’s Onboard? Onboarding Your Managed Aircraft see more
NAFA member, Joe Barber, CAM, Vice President Fleet Development with Clay Lacy Aviation, discusses onboarding your managed aircraft.
You’ve bought a new aircraft, or are happy with your current one. In considering many factors, including the frequency of your travel, your need for a “turnkey” operation, and maybe your desire for some charter revenue, you’ve decided to enlist the services of a professional aircraft management company. You’ve done your research (See “Choosing a Management Company,” BAA July/August 2015), made your selection, and are ready to sign.
Similar to any new service you enlist, there is a start-up phase, referred to as “onboarding.” Onboarding is simply the steps that the company will take to properly prepare itself, the aircraft, and the crew, and to satisfy the FAA and DOT to conduct flight operations in an efficient, cost-effective, safe, and legal manner.
The onboarding process begins once your decision is made, even before the contract is signed. It begins with a meeting including you and any of your representatives who will be involved with the aircraft, such as your CFO, executive assistant, or risk manager. The management company team typically includes an onboarding specialist and designated aircraft manager, plus representatives from maintenance, accounting, charter, and human resources. They follow a comprehensive checklist to streamline and expedite the process. Communication is key. The team will meet frequently to review the status of your aircraft transition, and will provide you with weekly updates.
Certain basic processes – and regulations – must be covered for every aircraft, in addition to designing others to meet your own specific requirements. The best management companies use a recognized project management system together with a system for continual improvement. Developed by Toyota engineers, Kanban and Kaizen focus on achieving high-quality results. Other companies use the Six Sigma method and its focus on Total Quality Management. The basic organizing principle is to start with the end in mind: “What will a successful aircraft ownership experience look like for you?” and then use “reverse engineering” to get there.
In the “honeymoon period,” usually the first six months, there is a high level of activity and some topics will require your input. There are more than 180 tasks required to operate safely and meet your individual requirements, which can be grouped into 65 categories, in three main areas:
- Aircraft Management: Flight operations, accounting, vendor negotiations (e.g. fuel discounts), subscriptions, and insurance.
- Flight Operations: scheduling (dispatch), ground transportation, record keeping, installation and oversight of a Safety Management System, crew training and schedules, and issuance of flight manuals.
- Maintenance: inspections, repairs, records and manuals, warranties, equipment compliance, training mechanics, and FAA interface.
Here are some of the questions you may be asked:
- If your aircraft is coming from another management company, would you like to keep the same crew members? For example, if you’re moving to a larger or newer aircraft, is your current crew capable of or interested in operating the replacement aircraft?
- If the management company finds that your crew member does not meet the proper operating standards (identified during transition training), how will this be handled?
- If the aircraft is on a charter certificate, what are your charter requirements (e.g. annual billable hours/revenue)? Do you want the ability to approve every trip, every time? A good management company will track every opportunity and be able to share how many trips were presented, and how many you accepted or declined with the associated revenue per hour.
The onboarding process traditionally takes 60-90 days, but may be extended if the FAA is delayed in conducting your certificate acceptance flight or additional crew training is required. Once complete, you will have one individual assigned to you, often referred to as a “Client Advisor” or “Aircraft Manager” who will serve as your primary point of contact with the management company to ensure that you have a positive experience.
This article was originally published by Business Aviation Advisor on September 1, 2019.
Tracey Cheek posted an article5 Ways Aircraft Management Saves a Private Jet Owner Money see more
NAFA member Clay Lacy Aviation, discusses ways aircraft management can save you money.
Through pooled purchasing and thoughtful decision making, an aircraft management company can save a private jet owner 25-30% in annual operating expenses over a single aircraft flight department; while also improving safety and service. Here is an overview of the five areas that aircraft owners will save when choosing to partner with a reputable aircraft management company.
Fuel is the largest variable cost that private jet owners incur; accounting for about 38% of variable expenses and 19% of annual operating expenses. A management company reduces this cost through large fleet fuel purchase programs. “The more diversified a private jet operator is, the more savings that can be passed along to an aircraft owner directly,” says Daniel Murphy, Senior Fleet Analyst at Clay Lacy Aviation. “We can pass along savings to aircraft owners by driving down purchase costs. Aircraft owners essentially save by leveraging our large fleet’s buying power,” Daniel continues.
Crew Training, Retention, & Utilization
Pilot and cabin attendant training is a necessary and recurring component to owning and operating a private jet. Pilots are required to attend training, multiple times throughout a year to remain proficient on aircraft systems and emergency procedures. “We can achieve discounts on crew training in the range of thousands of dollars for each training event,” estimates Daniel. “Over time, these savings add up and make a difference for our clients,” Daniel continues.
Crew retention is also an area that a management company helps aircraft owner’s save. Clay Lacy carefully vets pilots and cabin attendants; meticulously choosing only the best and most well suited to be part of an aircraft owner’s in-flight team.
In Clay Lacy’s fifty-year history, pilots often stay ten, twenty, and even thirty years with the company. This incredible level of retention offers a consistency, efficiency, and savings often unachievable with other private jet management companies.
When management companies have multiple air-frames of the same type within their fleet, lateral use of flight crews is also possible. For example, if a private jet management company operates three Gulfstream G550s, there is the option to rotate the flight crews between the aircraft if necessary. This helps to eliminate the need for outside contract pilots in the instances when full-time crew members are unavailable.
Considering aircraft insurance, both the opportunity for cost-savings and ‘lifestyle savings’ should be noted. When working with a large aircraft management company, aircraft owners will see significant savings being incurred on both a quantitative and qualitative basis. “The real value in a quality insurance program lies in replacement aircraft programs and other benefits,” says Daniel.
“Clay Lacy’s policies include an aircraft replacement option that allows for individuals to utilize other jets in the fleet when their aircraft is down for maintenance or experience another issue or service update,” continues Daniel. When an aircraft management company maintains a large fleet, the temporary replacement option provides clients with peace of mind and ultimate convenience. “With over one-hundred aircraft in Clay Lacy’s managed fleet, and over 50 percent large-cabin jets, it’s advantageous for aircraft owners’ to join our insurance programs,” says Daniel.
In-flight WiFi is a necessary amenity in this era of private jet travel. However, there is a significant cost to installing the equipment and sizable ongoing monthly service fees. Aircraft management companies are able to develop ongoing relationships with companies like Honeywell, Gogo Inflight or Smart Sky, and in turn, leverage the multiple jet subscription discounts to help reduce costs for each individual aircraft owner. “Once again, we see savings for a private jet owner based on an ability to individually serve one client while maximizing the benefits that a large fleet yields,” reiterates Daniel. In addition to WiFi, there are five to ten other subscription based services that aircraft owners save on, including items like aeronautical charts, flight planning services, satellite weather, parts and avionics warranties, and much more.
One of the most significant expenses that occur regularly are those related to a flight. Examples of trip expenses include ground transportation, catering, landing fees, aircraft parking, international permits, FBO services, crew hotels and crew transportation. “Aircraft management companies maintain relationships between various vendors and can achieve discounts that a one or two aircraft flight department cannot achieve,” says Daniel.
The Individualized Approach To Savings
In addition to the five areas mentioned above, an aircraft management company can significantly lower maintenance costs while continuing to maximize an owner’s use of the aircraft. “An aircraft management company that offers in-house maintenance will be able to save a jet owner over the long-term by decreasing the number of cycles imposed on an aircraft and increasing efficiency,” says Daniel.
Daniel’s role at Clay Lacy looks at both qualitative and quantitative data regarding each aircraft in the managed fleet. Subsequently, the information gathered is used to choose the best course of action for projected long-term savings, as well as operational goal achievement. “Some owner’s raise concerns over being part of a large managed fleet but at Clay Lacy, we can achieve both the cost-savings benefits of a large organization with the familiarity and comfort exhibited by a small management firm,” says Joe Barber, Director of Aircraft Management at Clay Lacy Aviation. “This ability to translate what seems to be two opposing entities is possible through the system of support we employ for each aircraft. Every aircraft owner has a professional and specialized team, available at any time; day or night. “We have the resources and relationships available to give our owner’s the ownership experience that they deserve and desire.”
Would you like to know how you can save more money as a private jet owner? Contact an aircraft manager today!