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FBS’s Use of General Aviation

Oct 30, 2007 Michael Wurzer

This is my first post to the FBS blog and my name is Steve Schlangen. I’m an 11-year employee of FBS and am an account representative and trainer. I find myself on business travel quite a bit and typically average 70 days per year on the road or “in the air”.

I am also trained as a professional pilot and have flown 4900 hours in the General Aviation arena including flight instruction, on-demand charter, air freight, air ambulance and corporate aviation. As well as flying on the airlines to support FBS’s sales and training activities, I occasionally enjoy one of my favorite activities which is to be the pilot-in-command of FBS’s Cessna 340A. The 340A is a twin, piston engine aircraft with a pressurized cabin that has seating for six people and cruises at 190 knots (220 mph) at altitudes as high as 25,000 feet. Here’s a photo of the aircraft which is registered with the FAA as N340WJ (“November 3, 4, 0, Whiskey, Juliet” in aviation-speak).

plane

FBS owns the plane with another Fargo company with each company having a 50% share. Fixed costs (P&I payments, hangar expense, insurance and recurrent pilot training fees) are split 50-50 by the partnership. Direct operating costs (fuel and maintenance) are covered by each company proportionally to the number of hours flown each month.

FBS uses the Cessna 340A in two primary roles. The first is when there is a customer or prospective client meeting within three hours flying time of Fargo. The 3-hour rule of thumb allows for FBS employee-owners to fly to the destination, drive to the meeting place, conduct the business at hand, drive back to the airport and fly home in time to sleep in our own beds that night.

The second typical use of the aircraft is to support travel within a region of the country where FBS intends to saturate its efforts for a few consecutive days. In this way, it is possible to provide followup training classes for existing MLS customers in multiple locations and to provide one or more flexmls system demonstrations to prospective MLS customers in that same region. One exceptionally productive trip had myself and two other employee-owners traveling to Texas in N340WJ with stops in Iowa and South Dakota on the way home to Fargo. We left on Monday morning and returned home Thursday evening after having conducted six product demonstrations and four recurrent flexmls training classes.

FBS’s use of General Aviation aircraft provides the following operational advantages:

  • Cost is the same whether planned two months or two hours in advance. Cost is also virtually the same regardless of whether I am alone on the airplane or there are five employee-owners on board. Contrast this with the airlines which charge “per seat” and which impose hefty penalties for last minute ticket reservations.
  • There is no security consideration as with the airlines. I know everyone on the airplane and they know me. None of us must undergo a baggage inspection or a search of our physical person.
  • There is no doubt that our luggage is going to arrive with us at our destination or on the return flight home.
  • Even though N340WJ only flies at 45% the speed of airline jets, the travel time to most of FBS’s business destinations is rarely longer than by airline. In many cases, N340WJ’s travel time is quite a bit shorter in spite of its speed disadvantage. With a General Aviation aircraft, there is no need to arrive at the airport 90 minutes prior to departure time, there are no 60-90 minute connections to make at hub airports and there is no 30 minute wait for luggage retrieval at the destination airport. This graphic depicts flight time from Fargo to U.S. destinations.
  • CE-340A flight time graphic
  • FBS is able to fly directly into the airports of small to medium size communities that are not served by the airlines. This type of community represents a large cross section of FBS’s prospective client and existing customer base. Virtually every such community has a General Aviation airport with at least 4000 feet of runway that is suitable for aircraft like the Cessna 340A. This capability reduces the number of road miles that must be driven in the field and dramatically improves travel time efficiencies.

N340WJ is a very good business tool for FBS. It provides our company with an alternative to airline travel when cost or travel time benefits favor its use. I enjoy the challenge and adventure that comes with flying N340WJ for FBS and I’ll share some of those adventures in future posts!