Up, Up and Away

Private aviation remains strong, but some locals say 'not here.'

Lead Photo: Courtesy of FlexJet

 

Despite the recent period of turbulence, corporate jet-setting is still popular. New business jet deliveries were up at the end of last year, according to Honeywell’s Global Business Aviation Outlook released in October. The company put its delivery numbers at 690 in 2019, a 9% rise from 2018’s 633.

One reason behind the surge? Innovation. To- day’s corporate jets can fly faster, longer and on less fuel than the private aircraft available even a decade ago. One of the hot new models is the Gulfstream G600, which began deliveries last year; it can hold up to 19 passengers and fly from New York to Tokyo. The Global 7500 from Bombardier began deliveries in late 2018, and has become one of the most lauded corporate jets on the market.

Other reasons include tax cuts in the last five years that have benefited private jet owners, plus increasingly available ownership options that make private jets more affordable, such as fractional-ownership plans and a larger supply of used aircraft on the market.

 

PREPARE FOR TAKEOFF

Rob Mark, a commercial pilot and publisher of the aviation website jetwhine.com, said private jets just make sense for some businesses. He gives an example: Say a company is based up the road in Venice, and some of their employees need to get to Tulsa for a business meeting and then on to Rapid City. By commercial airline, that’s a very long trip. Add in driving time to and from major airports, and it means a week out of the office. A private jet, however, can cut travel time in half. “If you can knock a four-day trip down to two, that means a lot,” Mark says. “Not to mention, these are pretty comfortable planes to fly in.”

The private jet market cooled after the falloff in the economy during the recession of the mid-aughts, but as the world market rebounded, the rich and famous (or just the rich) once again turned to private aircraft.

With the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, aviation experts were worried about a possible downturn in private flying. The Naples Airport experienced a steep decline in fuel sales in March, which is an indicator of the number of private aircraft taking off and landing at the airport—March is typically one of the airport’s busiest months.

But Andrew Collins, president and CEO of private aviation company Sentient Jet, says business is up nearly 300%, as of press time. “We went from having a couple of hundred flights on the books in April to pushing toward 1,500 in May. June looks even more robust,” he says.

As travelers try to reduce their exposure to crowds, Collins says private aviation is becoming more of a utility than a luxury. With hourly rates starting around $5,000 and going to $11,000, it nevertheless remains a luxury for many.

 

POSSIBLE TURBULENCE

The friendly skies over Naples may not be as friendly for long. Some residents have complained about the noise from the Naples Airport, where private planes fly in. All those private jets, apparently, are a pain in the eardrum.

In response to complaints from nearby residents, the Naples Airport Authority launched a Part 150 Noise Study earlier this year, a voluntary assessment of its noise compatibility planning. The last FAA-approved noise study was completed in 1997. The airport held two community meetings in February so residents could learn about the study and voice their concerns.

The airport already has taken noise abatement measures, including bans on Stage 1 and Stage 2 jet aircraft—the big- gest noisemakers in the aviation industry. The airport directs pilots to flight paths away from more populated areas, and a voluntary curfew is in effect between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Only about 2% of its flights happen during curfew hours.

If private aviation continues its uptick, the airport may face more complaints in the future. But for now, Naples has managed to balance its jet-setters with community needs, laying the framework for more private aviation in the future.