There are several different types of management companies and even people who just manage aircraft. Below are some of the different categories of management companies and their typical pluses and minuses.
National Professional Management Brands – Jet Aviation, Gama Aviation, Executive Jet Management, Solaris. These are characterized by large fleets and are geographically diverse, with defined processes and good purchasing power. These operators have a set process of operating and generally rely on the lead pilot for a lot of the owner management. Their pilot standards are generally a little higher than some other operations, and they are very focused on safety. You do lose some operational flexibility with some of these companies, as their processes and procedures may require a higher standard than the regulations require. They often require that you hire a mechanic for your aircraft if they don’t have a local presence, which can increase your costs. This is more significant financially for light and mid-size jets that do not typically operate with a dedicated mechanic and typically have a lower overall operational costs.
National Charter Focused Brands – Examples of these are Jetlinx, XOjet, Fly Exclusive, Wheels Up. These companies look for owners that will give them the most or total control of their aircraft and will put a lot of charter hours on them sometimes as a floating fleet. The key thing to look at with these types of operations is how well do they manage maintenance on the road? On-the-road maintenance is often more expensive. Is the revenue worth it? What is the impact of your aircraft’s value if you fly a high number of hours? If your aircraft is already low time compared to its peers, then this may not be an issue, but high-time aircraft usually sell for a lower price. Understand the revenue amount that you will receive as compared to the cost of operating the aircraft. There should be at least a thousand dollar difference between the DOC, including maintenance, and the amount per hour that you will receive. Some of these companies have very high turnover of customers, especially with new aircraft owners.
Regional Larger Management Companies: These companies have the advantage of decent fleet discounts combined with good local presence. This combination can be very attractive to many, which is why you see the majority of owners going to this size of management company. They can combine good purchasing power on the road with local facilities.
Smaller management companies – 10 or less aircraft. These are generally local or regional management companies that can provide great local touch, but often lack the big company structure that other management companies typically do. For someone who wants a personal touch, this can be a good option. You should make sure that they have a good safety record and the right safety attitude.
Single Pilot or Individual Manager – There are a lot of pilots that manage aircraft ‘on the side’. These operations are often very small, with not a lot of supporting staff. The operations are generally not that complicated, and safety is really only as good as the pilot. I hear a lot of people that say well my airplane is managed by this pilot, and he must be great because he has flown for the airlines for 30 years. Corporate flying and airline flying are totally different. Single pilots or very small management operations are not something I recommend. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good pilots that do this, but you just can’t tell which ones they are.
The corporate flight department is the other option. This can be a good alternative for larger companies, but I do not recommend it for new aircraft owners as generally the flight department resembles just a single pilot managing the operation. In short, the company often does not have the internal systems to verify that the operation is safe and or operating efficiently. I only suggest Flight Departments where private companies have experienced aviation professionals overseeing flight operations. External third parties should also perform safety audits on your department annually, just as aircraft management companies should be audited every year for safety compliance.