A recent New York Times story, “Air Travel Economics Make Midsize Hubs Unprofitable”, explained why airline travel today often demands long drives to the nearest major airline hub. This withdrawal of service from outlying communities and hubs makes perfect profit-and-loss sense for the airlines, and it poses an antipodal crisis for the companies whose employees must travel on business, who used to be, it seems, a highly desirable airline customer.
This situation should be fertile ground for the creation of a company flight department, a step many companies of a certain size took long ago. But I wonder if now might be the time for a different kind of flight department, where the employees needing transportation fly themselves in a Cirrus or Cessna. If the employee had the desire, why shouldn’t the company provide his or her training? Wouldn’t this be a win-win for both parties?
Safety would and should be the primary concern and it could be easily managed, I think. Instead of chauffeuring employees, the fly-yourself flight department pilots would provide the initial and recurrent training to the employees who fly themselves. (Naturally, companies that fly jets and other complex airplanes would employ pilot whose job is to fly them.)
The flight department would also handle the traditional duties as well, including dispatch, maintenance, and record keeping. And one of the flight department pilots would always be available by phone for a decision-making discussion with an employee pilot facing possibly perilous situations defined by the company flight operations manual.
Beside saving time wasted driving to some distant airline hub, the fly-yourself flight department might also be an excellent perk that would help a company recruit new talent. And it would help that talent decide between two offers. And the the company should be able to take advantage of depreciation on the fly-yourself fleet and other possible deductions.
This is not a transportation panacea for all companies, but it would be a small contribution to the survival of general aviation and the infrastructure that supports it. But the era of mass market fixes for big problems is long gone. In the today’s realm of niche marketing, it will take a number of small fixes, like fly-yourself flight departments, to address bigger problems. – Scott Spangler, Editor