For frequent flyers, the ease and convenience of utilizing private aircraft can add so much time into your schedule. Multiple cities in one day? No problem, even in a smaller single engine aircraft. Meeting in Boston in the morning, and LA in the afternoon? No problem for a midsize or larger business jet. How about a rooftop pickup in Manhattan for connection to that commercial flight at JFK? No problem for executive helicopters.
Modern aircraft are extremely reliable and one of the most effective business travel tools available. It is easy to get used to the “time machine” factor of private flying. Whether your company owns and operates its own aircraft or you charter through the one of the popular methods, be sure to take one important thing into account before packing your schedule too tightly – the unexpected!
Three factors that can adversely affect your perfectly planned schedule are weather, mechanical issues, and human factors. As long as I have been in the aviation community, I’ve learned that these things always rear their ugly heads at the worse or most unexpected time. I believe they call it “Murphy’s Law!”
Mother nature has more control over air travel than any other factor. Think of the recent volcano eruption that unexpectedly grounded almost all of Europe’s air traffic, stranding tens of thousands of people for days. Winter weather, including blizzards, ice storms and heavy snowfall, are another good example.
In once recent case, snowfall didn’t stop air traffic, but the roof of a hangar collapsed under the heavy weight of the snow, crushing the business jets inside. Talk about an unexpected delay! The good thing about weather is in most cases there is some form of advance warning. Though you’ll leave the details to your pilots, take a look at the weather forecast the night before your flight. If it looks like the weather will be severe at your departure point or destination, formulate a weather delay backup plan.
Mechanical issues are a reality for any type of equipment. Whether a factory machine, your new car, or one of the industry’s finest business jets, there are going to be times where mechanical issues adversely affect your itinerary. Modern aircraft, though reliable, are incredibly complex machines. From time to time, they do break unexpectedly, or need to be serviced unexpectedly to ensure safe operation. It happens at the airlines and it happens in private aviation as well. We almost don’t think twice when we are loaded onto a commercial jet, and the crew announces a delay or cancellation due to a mechanical issue. When it happens on a private jet, however, it is usually met with surprise, followed by extreme anger and frustration. Perhaps this is due to the cost of flying privately – a valid reason. If you’ve thought about a contingency in advance, it should have less impact and you won’t be caught off guard.
Human factors. Oh, boy, his one is difficult. Sometimes people make mistakes despite their best ability to do otherwise. Behind the scenes, there is an army of people that are involved in your flight planning; your charter representative, the dispatchers, maintenance personnel, aircraft fuel delivery people, FBO personnel, caterers, security professionals, customs officers if an international flight, air traffic controllers and of course, pilots. All of these professionals are dedicated to your safety and to getting you there on time. Any one of these people, however, can make a simple error or mistake resulting in delay.
I’ve seen pilots accidentally taxi to the wrong FBO, dispatchers release the wrong aircraft, and charter brokers book the flight to the wrong airport. The list can go on and on. Most often these types of simple mistakes get worked out long before you arrive at the airport. Sometimes, however, it can adversely impact your perfectly planned schedule. This is the most frustrating delay of all as they are avoidable. Most often, it won’t have any impact on your travel itinerary, but know that even on a perfect day, with no mechanical issues, a flight can be delayed due to human factors.
I recently helped a charter client after a weather delay, subsequent mechanical failure, and then the human error of a dispatcher who sent his recovery aircraft to a different airport. All three factors on one flight! This is rare, and as you can imagine, the client was extremely frustrated. Even I was frustrated on this one!
The point of all this is to be aware that there are many things have the potential to delay your flight. Give yourself just a little room in your schedule and plan a “what if” scenario in case you are delayed or your flight is cancelled. If you are a charter operator or broker, advise your clients when you see they are planning a very tight itinerary. Help them devise a backup plan in case of delay or cancellation.
With the reliability of modern aviation equipment and the dedication of aviation professionals to their industry, as a private aircraft passenger, you can go years without any type delay. If you fly long enough though, it is bound to happen. Just don’t fall into that trap of not having a contingency plan!