Women in power: tips on taking the leap to private aviation

Women make up 20 percent of those with net worth more than $300 million, and female CEO numbers continue to grow annually. Yet, less than two percent of aircraft owners are female and only four percent of women in the U.S. and Europe hold a high-level position in the aviation industry. Among them is Rene Banglesdorf—the CEO of Charlie Bravo Aviation in Georgetown, Texas—who offers the following tips to aid female fliers in making an informed decision when taking the leap into private aviation. 

Charlie Bravo Aviation CEO Rene Banglesdorf writes: 

Private vs. Commercial- Flying privately versus flying commercial is like the difference between taking the subway or a cab. Commercial planes and the metro operate on a schedule, only stop at specific locations and run even if you had an awful morning and were a few minutes late because of a busted hair dryer. While on the other hand, private planes can land in the U.S. at any of the 5,000 or so smaller airports (compared to 500 for commercial service). Private planes leave on your schedule, when you are ready or if you stopped on the way to get another cappuccino and are a few minutes late. As President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) said on “The West Wing,” being able to request Air Force One to take off as soon as he boarded is the best part about being President! 

Plane options- There are a wide variety of aircrafts that serve different functions- some can go halfway around the globe while there are smaller ones that only seat a few passengers and don’t offer a lavatory. Be sure and be specific about exactly what you need, as the prices can vary greatly, you want to be sure you are paying for the services you need and not getting the full kitchen 20-seater for a quick daytrip from NYC to Boston for you and your assistant. 

Cost- Renting a private plane can range from $1,100 to $8,000 an hour. The biggest price differentiator is size and amenities. One of the major factors for the higher cost to fly privately is that the flying costs incurred are shared by passengers on a commercial flights; passengers are chartering the entire aircraft and crew for their exclusive use on private planes.

How to book- When you are ready to book you can either go through the operator directly or work with a charter broker- the expert advisor with all the inside scoop on each plane and company. It probably makes sense to work with a broker for your first few flights until you get comfortable with the steps. 

*When you are ready to take the next step and purchase a plane, I do highly recommend working with a broker. Finding one you trust makes all the difference in the world. (I know of one A-lister who ended up paying $5M over price for her plane.) 

Questions to ask- For nervous flyers, statistically flying is much safer the driving; the reason that plane crashes make the news is because they are so rare.  But, it’s always best to be a well-informed and prepared flyer so don’t hesitate to ask a few questions before taking off on your private plane:

o  Does the aircraft have a charter certificate? There are more standards regarding safety and pilot training with this type of certification.

o  How many hours does the pilot have overall—and how many in this type of aircraft? (if the answers are 500 and 5 respectively, I’d suggest requesting an alternate or second pilot)

o  Does the operator (the company that maintains, insures and flies the aircraft) have any independent safety audit ratings? The common ones are AR/GUS and Wyvern.

Asking questions is my biggest piece of advice, and make sure you are asking them of more than one source. Find someone to help who knows what they are talking about and is more interested in establishing a relationship than making a quick buck.

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