Take Flight with the 90/10 Rule: How to Select the Best Aircraft for Your Mission


By Michael Kolman, KCAC Regional Director of Pilatus Aircraft Sales

Being in aviation for more than 30 years, I’ve worked with a wide range of clients, helping them select an aircraft that will serve as a key business tool for their company. Along the way, I’ve seen purchases soar or crumble. What I’ve learned is that selecting the best aircraft for your typical mission is paramount to a successful business aviation purchase. If you buy based on your mission profile, and not just on emotion alone, you will not be disappointed in your aircraft. I refer to it as the 90/10 rule, and it’s a powerful formula for selecting the best aircraft for your mission.

Determining Your Mission Profile

Everyone’s mission profile is unique. It all depends on what is important to you. I advise clients to begin by making a list of all the ways you plan to use your aircraft 90 percent of the time.

  • Where do you fly most often? Do you fly locally, regionally, nationally or internationally?
  • How often do you fly to these locations?
  • How many people typically travel with you at one time?
  • What needs to travel on your aircraft? I’ve had customers needing to transport large pets, exhibit gear, parts and more. These are all factors you must consider.
  • Do you want to pilot the aircraft, or will you hire a corporate pilot?
  • Will this list change within the next three years (the typical length of plane ownership)? If so, how?

Once you narrow down how you will use your aircraft 90 percent of the time, it’s important to think about that extra 10 percent. Other than the main locations you highlighted in the 90 percent section, is there anywhere else you travel? Do you ever need to carry additional passengers or gear?
If the answer to one or more of these questions is yes, consider how often this occurs. Are you willing to stop for fuel on a longer trip, or fly commercial when needing to carry additional people? For example, I worked with a client who spent the majority of his time flying on a regional basis, but twice a year he went overseas. Instead of selecting an aircraft that could accommodate for the 10 percent (those two trips a year when he went to Europe), he bought a more cost-effective aircraft that covered his needs 90 percent of the time, and flew business class to Europe when needed.

With a clear understanding of your mission you can begin to hone in on other important factors, such as:

  • What is your budget? Think not only about acquisition costs, but also about direct operating costs, hangar fees, etc.
  • Do you need to offset the price of acquisition costs?
  • How long will you keep the aircraft? If this is a short-term purchase, perhaps a fractional sale or charter flight is a better option.
  • How important are residual values? Some aircraft retain value better than others. It’s important to know what you’re looking for when it comes time to sell, even when you are looking to buy.

Applying the 90/10 Rule

With the answers to these questions in hand you can put the 90/10 rule to work. I recommend finding a trusted advisor who knows the ins and outs of the aviation industry and can help you narrow your aircraft options down to those that fit your mission profile.

Purchasing an aircraft can be an emotional buy. It’s important not to let emotions get in the way of following the 90/10 rule or you risk disappointment and frustration. A trusted advisor can help steer you back to your mission if you start to get off track. He or she can also help set expectations.

You may not be able to get exactly what you want today. Based on your mission profile you may need to build flight experience in one aircraft prior to upgrading to your desired aircraft. A trusted advisor can help you put together a roadmap to get the hours, licenses and experience you need to feel comfortable piloting your dream aircraft.

In the end, you won’t be disappointed if you do your homework and understand your mission, have patience in the process, and rely on a trusted advisor to guide you to the best aircraft for your mission. Follow the 90/10 rule and enjoy the many benefits of private business aviation.

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