What Happens When an Aircraft is Down for Maintenance and an Executive NEEDS to Fly?
Most flight departments will use a back-up aircraft from within their own fleet or possibly a friend on the field. But not every flight department has redundant aircraft types and the friend from the flight department across the airport might not have the same aircraft type. Now let's assume that the executive requires a certain number of seats and/or a specific aircraft type. There are still more pieces to this puzzle that need to be checked before you can get your executive safely on their way.
Is "Your Guy" Thoroughly Vetted?
Sure you may see your friend Carl at the airport as your best resource since he also works for a flight department or charter operator on the field. But how much do you know about the operator's safety record? Once those planes leave the hangar you may have little insight as to what they may experience at other airports. Have you reviewed their maintenance log books or seen their pilot training? It may seem like the easy solution since the aircraft may be in the next hangar over, but is it really the best choice for your company and the safety of the executive(s) traveling on board? What would happen if there were an incident or accident, and you were asked about the due diligence used in selecting that carrier? If you are using a Part 91 operator, this can present a host of additional liability and due diligence issues.
Do They Have an Extensive Fleet to Meet Your Needs?
Some executives are more particular than others, but just because there is another jet on the field doesn't always mean that it meets the needs of your company and the executives traveling on it. Let's face it, a Gulfstream is not the same as a Learjet. It's not always a "one-size-fits-all" with private aviation. Especially if people are accustomed to a certain level of comfort and cabin configuration.
Are They Available When You Need Them?
Having a resource so close is great...when it works. What happens if the aircraft isn't available? What if they are flying on the same day or are already away on a trip? If the schedules don't line up, then having a buddy at the airport doesn't really help if they can't get you a plane when you need it.
What Happens When You Have Issues Away From Base?
Your executives could be potentially stranded anywhere in the country, or anywhere in the world depending on their itinerary. In these instances your friend Carl wont be able to help you, even if he could, it would be expensive to re-position for the charter flight. It makes more sense to use an aircraft that is based a lot closer to the location of the mechanical.
In the event that you outsource to a part 135 operator, what do you know about their service history in the air charter market? While they may check out in the critical area of safety, what about customer service? Chartering a private jet for your executive team requires that the same high level of service in your operation will be found in the hired aircraft. Without any history (especially if the charter flight is far away from your base) on that operator, you are flying blind. Working with an air charter broker that knows private jet operators intimately can protect you from selecting a substandard provider.
Who Should I Call?
As tempting as it is to pick up the phone and call your local backup at the airport, it's not always the best solution. Who should you call? Try a charter broker with access to thousands of aircraft all over the country, and one who consistently uses only the operators who hold top safety ratings of Gold or Platinum ARGUS ratings and Wyvern Wingman or foreign equivalent.
Running a flight department is a huge responsibility and you should not be afraid to ask for help when you need it. "Yeah, but using an air charter broker will cost me money." - true, but you are also getting third-party auditing, market knowledge, and expertise on which air charter operators are high quality, as well as which ones should be avoided. This is especially true if you need an aircraft internationally and would be otherwise just guessing. Market knowledge only comes from being in the market every day. You also have the added benefit of the air charter broker being a significant customer to many operators. This means that your air charter flight will be treated as a priority and not just another one-off customer.
You owe it to the company and the executives who you are arranging travel for to do your due diligence and find them a safe suitable aircraft to meet their needs. Look to the professionals who source aircraft on a daily basis to help you in your time of crisis. You (and your company) will thank yourself later.