Posted by: Jeff Rhodes | January 13, 2010

Are Piston Aircraft Charter Businesses Still Viable?

Oh-yes, but there are ever-present challenges and risks for people in this business. The risk is not necessarily safety or accident related (although there is always room for improvement in that area) as most operations run pretty safely…it is the area of business management.

Small aviation businesses are financially risky. We’ve all heard the best way to make a million dollars in aviation – start with two million! In many cases the people that most often end up running aviation businesses are pilots or mechanics first, a lot of other things second, and good business managers way down the list.

So – is the piston aircraft charter business still viable? Sure. There are countless niches where piston singles and twins are a great way – the best way – to move people and goods from point A to point B. If you dig, you can uncover many great success stories among the rubble of aviation business failure.

You know airplanes. You know how to fly airplanes and you know how to keep airplanes operational. The most important risk management task as a business operator is to learn finance, budgeting, taxes, marketing, sales, and people management skills. Study best practices in the aviation business and in other industries. Put as much – more – time and effort into learning this skill set as you put into learning to fly.

Find an instructor – all community colleges offer business, accounting, and finance courses.
Find a mentor – Seek out successful business owners and managers, no matter the industry, and do what they do, religiously.
Hire a copilot – Figure out what you do well and then find help for the rest. Management of the company’s books might not be very exciting, but it is vital. Find someone that eats and breathes and dreams about numbers, like you do about airplanes. Hint – they are often quiet and reserved. You won’t find them hanging out with pharmaceutical sales people.
Sell, sell, sell – Find a new way to position your product to your ideal client and get it in front of them early and often. Don’t do what isn’t working for everyone else in aviation.
Hint – you won’t find charter customers at the airport – those people already have airplanes – though, you may find them in the TSA line at the big airport across town!

Is your piston charter business viable? What will you do this year to make it succeed? You already know how to fly.

Let me know if I can help.

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