Supplemental Lift provides aircraft owners access to substitute aircraft when their own aircraft is not available. It can fill the gap if an aircraft is undergoing maintenance, or when a need arises for a simultaneous trip, or for flights that may originate or terminate outside a normal range or operating area.
Basically, by putting in place a Supplemental Lift program, you'll be guaranteed access to an aircraft when your own is not available. This avoids having an interruption of travel plans as well as potential negative financial consequences and lost business.
A company that does not utilize supplemental lift, will have to rely on other in-house or commercial travel options for their end users. This will limit the service provided and devalue the benefits of business aviation.
Who needs supplemental lift?
- Those who may need simultaneous aircraft on occasion to best meet mission requirements. You may find that you have multiple requests for the aircraft that overlap. Without supplemental lift you'll have to refuse your client or force them to reschedule.
- If you receive a mission that falls out of the range of capability of your current aircraft, supplemental lift providers have a variety of aircraft available that will allow you to tailor an aircraft that fits an infrequent but important need.
- Major maintenance combined with refurbishment or upgrades, which can be important to continuously meet the needs of customers, can take your aircraft out of service for several months. Supplement lift can meet your short term needs without a commitment beyond hours purchased.
Supplemental Lift Options
Aircraft Charters, also known as on-demand charter, is a common solution. It allows the use of a given plane for a particular journey without any other long term commitment. There are approximately 2,100 air charter companies in the U.S. alone, offering a range of aircraft that includes everything from single engine piston aircraft to light jets and large intercontinental jets, as well as different levels of service.
For those that only fly on private planes occasionally, charters are typically the most economical solution. They can make financial sense when used anywhere from a few hours up to about 100 hours per year. You call, they come, and you pay only for the journey you make. You don't directly pay for fixed costs like registration, insurance, training, storage, inspections and maintenance. The major cost factors are the type and age of the plane as well as the distance traveled.
Jet Cards are simply a form of pre-purchased charter. These programs are frequently aligned with a major fractional company like NetJets or Flight Options, or with a large charter operator or broker. Providers allow you to lock in hourly rates as well as minimum scheduling guarantees in any type of program. Some of the programs are based on a specific type of aircraft, others give you access to a variety of aircraft.
Most offer one-way or round trip pricing. They are sold as prepaid hours of occupied flight time and are an alternate and popular method of experiencing the benefits of private aviation. Members gain access to 5 to 50 hours of flying time, with all providers selling 25 hour options. They make the most financial sense for anywhere from 25 to 100 hours of flight time.
Fractional Jets give you a share of ownership in an aircraft. A fractional share can be the best method for bridging the gap to meet current demand, while growing into enough demand to justify a whole aircraft. You'll pay for part ownership of a plane and are then allocated a specific amount of time with the aircraft which can range anywhere from 50 to 400 hours annually, depending on the size of the share. Owners pay an initial purchase fee, plus monthly fees and pay for flight time.
Most of the companies operating fractional jet programs have whole fleets of aircraft and you'll be unlikely to be using the same plane every time you fly. It makes more financial sense for the operator to bring the closest available aircraft of your type, out to you. When the program's term ends, typically after five years, the owners usually sell their share back to the operating company with price dictated by the current market place.
Leasing of an aircraft can be a good alternative to purchasing outright. It offers the opportunity to try a variety of makes, models, categories or classes in order to make the best decision when ultimately purchasing. It can also make sense for cash flow reasons. You'll receive benefits of the aircraft without the financial requirements of either sole or fractional ownership or the flight time commitments that may be more than you need.
Membership Clubs may be an option for those who have never owned a plane before and can be a more affordable alternative. They typically sit somewhere between fractional ownership and jet cards in terms of pricing and commitment.
Interchange Agreements can be an excellent short and long term solution. Under FAA 91.501 an interchange occurs when "a person leases his airplane to another person in exchange for equal time, when needed, on the other person's airplane, and no charge, assessment or fee is made." As most flight operations almost always have some open flight time due to event, executive or customer schedules, that availability can be utilized. You won't pay anything more than you would by flying your aircraft more hours; however, it's important that the arrangement is a good match. You'll need to partner with someone who is compatible and shares similar operating policies and procedures.
If you're looking to add supplemental lift you'll find most of the major private aviation providers offer comprehensive supplemental lift programs, or you can build your own program by working with local firms and partners.