That new-airplane smell

Buyers' Guide - China Edition » 2014
Happy Jet Illustration: John Lewis
Illustration: John Lewis
Monday, August 4, 2014 - 11:30am

When you’re buying a jet, months of work culminate the moment you sign the papers. You’re finished with research, analysis, due diligence and inspections. You’ve had the last of your consultations with brokers, attorneys, accountants, pilots and mechanics. The marathon has been run and now you can reap the rewards.

Beau Schweikert, a corporate CFO, has worked for clients on four jet closings—both sales and acquisitions—the latest with Mesinger Jet Sales, a Boulder, Colorado-based brokerage firm. That deal was an odyssey that began with the client seeking to transition from occasional use of jet cards to purchase of a super-midsize bizjet, but then late in the process concluding that only a long-range, large-cabin model would fit the bill. 

“This was their first [ownership aircraft] transaction and they were able to fly transcontinental the very next day,” says Schweikert. “The principals were very pleased.” That’s likely an understatement. 

No matter the size of the airplane, buying your first is one of those sweet life moments to be savored. And the manufacturers and completion centers know it, often reserving luxury offices in their plants for customers to finish the paperwork and then presenting the airplane in a surgically clean acceptance hangar replete with the buyer’s name on a banner, a photographer, champagne and a gourmet buffet or some variation on that theme. 

Once, a brand-new, small two-seat trainer was delivered to me. Knowing my affinity for the Green Bay Packers football team, the ferry pilot and his cohorts did their best to make the moment memorable: they left a pair of foam-rubber cheeseheads, the preferred headgear of diehard Packer-backers, on the pilot seats. (The year before, a couple of Packer fans had crashed their airplane while returning from a game and had credited their survival to donning their cheeseheads prior to impact. This became the subject of considerable  chortling in hangars throughout the United States.) 

I saw the cheeseheads and doubled over in laughter. But after I recovered, I stepped back and admired the airplane: I had selected the options, the color scheme, everything about it. I had personalized it. 

In the months that followed, I would fly the pants off it, visiting wonderful places unknown, meeting fascinating people, doing business deals in a compressed time space impossible with any other kind of vehicle. The airplane opened doors for me, both personally and professionally, and I was treated to some amazing vistas along the way. I was thrilled.

The feeling is the same, whether you are in a small piston airplane or the biggest bizjet, whether you are in the cockpit or enjoying the fruits of your labor in the cabin: the smell of the leather, the feel of the seats, the grain patterns in the veneer, the quality of the cabin-management electronics—all in your favorite colors, fabrics and patterns and with your preferred options. 

Here is the emotional security of having all your favorite stuff on board—food, drink, music and movies; the convenience of no-drama wardrobe changes; and the joy of skipping the drudgery and wasted time that flying the airlines entails. When you land, they roll out the red carpet and the rental car or livery service stands at the ready. 

Nothing else really compares. And when you’re not flying in the airplane, there’s likely a model of it somewhere in your office or a photo of you taking the keys on delivery day. There they are, taunting you, reminding you how much you’d rather be out of that office flying—somewhere, anywhere—in your own aircraft. 

Take a deep breath: it’s that new-airplane smell.

Mark Huber is a private pilot with experience in more than 50 aircraft models.

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Quote/Unquote

“[New billionaires in fast-growing countries] have to buy longer-range airplanes. If you’re flying from Mongolia to Nigeria, it’s either a three-day journey flying commercial or a nine-hour flight on your jet.”

-Steve Varsano