Not all jets are cre­ated equal: To get the most out of yours, you need to know what you’re us­ing it for

There are many ques­tions to ask when buy­ing a jet, the most im­por­tant of which is, “What is your mis­sion?”, says an ex­pert.

Jetgala - - CONTENTS -

While jets are cer­tainly an ex­pen­sive ac­qui­si­tion, so too are other as­sets like land, build­ings, and even com­pa­nies. But for each of these pur­chases, “What’s your mis­sion?” is not of­ten asked so di­rectly. It’s a ques­tion that catches prospective jet buy­ers by sur­prise when asked by a bro­ker.

So we talked to Ng Yeow Meng, founder and manag­ing direc­tor of WingsOverAsia (WOA), at the com­pany’s head­quar­ters at Sele­tar Air­port, Sin­ga­pore, to get his take on the process of choos­ing the right plane for the right mis­sion.

WOA is like a Sin­ga­pore coun­try club ori­ented around avi­a­tion, with ev­ery­thing from restau­rants to hangars to mem­ber events like group ex­cur­sions to dif­fer­ent places. The or­gan­i­sa­tion also helps mem­bers with the sale or pur­chase of an air­craft; func­tions as an FBO with ground hand­ing ser­vices; and serves as a thriv­ing club for avi­a­tion en­thu­si­asts in Sin­ga­pore.

When some­one ap­proaches you to seek help with the pur­chase of a jet, what are the ques­tions you typ­i­cally ask and why?

The first ques­tion I ask is about their mis­sion as in, “Will this pri­mar­ily be for per­sonal or busi­ness use?”

If some­one an­swers “for fun” then I know that the prospective buyer will use the jet fre­quently with fam­ily and friends. I of­ten see these types of jet buy­ers seek­ing trans­porta­tion to is­lands for sports re­cre­ation such as golf and div­ing. Oth­ers seek trans­porta­tion to big cities for shop­ping.

What do you ask if the prospective buyer in­di­cates that the ac­qui­si­tion would be for busi­ness use?

When some­one in­di­cates that the jet would be used pri­mar­ily for busi­ness then I fol­low up, re­spect­fully, with “Where do you plan to go?” be­cause they will par­tic­u­larly value the abil­ity to reach their des­ti­na­tion non-stop.

It sounds like you are ref­er­enc­ing the ex­pres­sion, “Jets are time ma­chines” for the time that they can save.

Ex­actly. Users of jets for leisure are not as time sen­si­tive. For them, it’s more about get­ting to places that they want to en­joy. In fact, some peo­ple who think that they would ben­e­fit from a pri­vate jet are sur­prised to learn that a jet is not al­ways the best or even the most ca­pa­ble mode of trans­porta­tion.

There are some places that jets can­not get into such as Redang, Tioman Is­land, Pangkor Laut, etc. A lot of peo­ple want to visit Sa­bang for div­ing or go to Thai­land for golf. Of­ten­times, these peo­ple would ben­e­fit most from a tur­bo­prop. A tur­bo­prop can be as fast as a jet nowa­days. Good op­tions in­clude a TBM 700, Piper M600 or Pi­la­tus PC-12 as they are fast enough and yet they can land at more re­mote is­land des­ti­na­tions.

Of course, there is an­other set of peo­ple who want to use a jet for per­sonal and busi­ness use. Iron­i­cally, these peo­ple would of­ten be best off with two air­craft. One air­craft would al­low them to travel long dis­tances non-stop for busi­ness while the other would al­low them to get into nearby des­ti­na­tions with a short run­way.

The very light jet or VLJ seg­ment of the mar­ket is also the most af­ford­able. Do you see this seg­ment tak­ing off in South­east Asia with re­cent en­trants like the Honda Jet?

Many peo­ple are sur­prised to learn that VLJs are not the right jet for some­one based in Sin­ga­pore who wants to travel around the re­gion. Take Bali, for in­stance.You prob­a­bly have about 800 nm of plan­ning range plus re­serve – a light jet might not cut it. How­ever, a VLJ would be fine if one’s pri­mary des­ti­na­tions are Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, or Jakarta.

Do first-time prospective jet buy­ers al­ready have a clear un­der­stand­ing of the costs in­volved?

Asia-based prospective jet own­ers have some idea of the real num­bers (of jet own­er­ship) when you con­sider the cost of pilots, pi­lot train­ing, in­sur­ance, main­te­nance, han­gar, and flight sup­port lo­gis­tics. There is also the down time for main­te­nance, which re­quires the sourc­ing of a re­place­ment jet. Also, you have to have a big crew if you want to be able to travel on a mo­ment’s no­tice since crew have their own lives and sched­ules.

I would also posit that Asia still has a bit of red tape com­pared to Aus­tralia, the EU, or the US where it is easy to cross geo­graphic bor­ders. In Asia, you need the as­sis­tance of a team that can help get you the per­mits. There is a cost as­so­ci­ated with that, of course.

Ear­lier, you men­tioned that busi­ness peo­ple put a pre­mium on non­stop flights. How does that af­fect their choice of jet?

I of­ten hear, “I want to be able to go to Hong Kong non­stop.” They soon learn that the VLJs that they hear ad­ver­tised for as lit­tle as $2 mil­lion to $5 mil­lion won’t be suf­fi­cient. The prospective buy­ers will need to step up one level for a jet that costs in the $5 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion range such as an Embraer Phenom 300.

I then ask, “Does that in­cre­men­tal cost jus­tify your need to go to Hong Kong once or twice per year, non­stop?”

For prospective busi­ness jet buy­ers, I also need to learn what the fre­quency of travel will be along with the des­ti­na­tion. For in­stance, will the jet be used to fly to the same place ev­ery week such as vis­it­ing a com­pany’s branch of­fices?

In some cases, I rec­om­mend against buy­ing a jet. In­stead, I rec­om­mend the use of char­ter ser­vices, which can pre­cisely match the right jet for each par­tic­u­lar mis­sion or flight.

Do you of­ten meet prospective jet buy­ers who plan to pi­lot their jets them­selves?

Ah, yes! There are two cat­e­gories of own­ers. One I call the “owner-pi­lot suc­cess­ful en­tre­pre­neur.” The other is the “guy who wants to sit in the back.”

The guy who wants to sit in the back typ­i­cally wants the jet pri­mar­ily for busi­ness and his time is valu­able so a jet that can fly non­stop is key.

The guy who wants to fly his own jet con­sid­ers the jour­ney to be just as im­por­tant as the des­ti­na­tion – ac­tu­ally more im­por­tant in some cases. For these guys, a VLJ is not as much of an is­sue be­cause they don’t mind stop­ping en route for fuel.

Which VLJs are the most pop­u­lar these days?

You have the Cir­rus with a sin­gle jet en­gine, then there are the Eclipse, Mus­tang and the Honda Jet. Each is nice in its own way in terms of eco­nom­ics, com­fort, in­no­va­tions of sys­tems, etc. For in­stance, the Cir­rus Vi­sion Jet is the only jet with a built-in para­chute. The Honda Jet is get­ting a lot of “buzz.” The Honda Jet is unique for its class be­cause it has a “real” bath­room and now has an ex­tended range. A lot of prospective VLJ buy­ers are sur­prised to learn that the small­est jets have no bath­room or if they do, they have a, how should I say it? A “potty.”

Ng Yeow Meng, pos­ing be­side his plane

ABOVE AND BE­LOW: A view of the WOA head­quar­ters near Sele­tar Air­port; night-time view of the build­ingRIGHT: WOA’s han­gar with its com­pe­tent crew

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