On Sunday past, the Augusta, Georgia airports, Bush Regional airport and Daniel Field were inundated with the private jets of the rich and famous which includes several of the participant golfers in the 76th Masters Golf tournament. Even Bubba Watson, the self-proclaimed country hick from the panhandle of Florida, most likely departed on a private jet. I have nostalgic flashbacks to several early Aprils during the mid-70s when I used to fly Jack Nicklaus to the Masters in the Learjet that he chartered from my company. (For more info read The Rogue Aviator (www.therogueaviator.com). Will Bubba Watson now be getting his personal jet? I don’t blame him if he does, because anytime one can avoid the commercial airline environment it greatly enhances quality of life (even if you go by Amtrak). I was fortunate enough to spend eight years of my career flying privately chartered and corporate jets and once you have hung around those people that we now identify as “the one-per-centers” you do not want to be exposed to the angry mob back in the “steerage-section” of the commercial jet.
The growth of the private jet travel is certainly fueled by the increased wealth of those few at the top of the food chain, and the desire to avoid TSA has brought to the private terminals (FBOs) many people who would normally pay the exorbitant first class fares on an airline, but have now decided to dig a little deeper into the trust fund to “just take the jet” (a popular phrase amongst the well-heeled). If you have several people travelling you can “take the jet” for only a few thousand dollars more than what you might spend slumming around the crowded, chaotic world of commercial air travel. As a result, there are now several private jet “airlines” that employ experienced and well-trained pilots to get you to your destination safely. A couple of these are Net Jets and Marquis Jets. If you are in South Florida you can ride on Hop-a-Jet, a fine company that was the legacy of an aviation all-star, Harvey Hop. There are some fly-by-night charter companies (such as the one that golfer Payne Stewart unwisely selected without proper vetting), so, if possible, do some vetting before you get on that chartered jet.
After having been through the “back alleys of aviation” during my 36-year aviation career I can only recommend to the professional pilot seeking a stable career with reasonable work conditions and benefits to consider a career in the world of corporate aviation. The quality of life is infinitely better than that which one experiences with most FAR 121 air carriers. I spent 3 consecutive years wandering around Augusta National golf course as my client, Jack Nicklaus made sure that his pilots had tickets to the tournament. Many people will sell their soul for one of those coveted ducats. Also, hanging around five-star hotels with all expenses paid is always preferable to that Motel 6 next to the railroad tracks for an eight hour layover—minimum rest time for airline pilots.
The small downside is the greatly increased per-capita carbon footprint that results with the fewer people in the airplane. Let us not be concerned about the possibility of global warming devastating planet earth—let the good times roll; we’re taking the jet to St Moritz for the weekend.
This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, the author of The Rogue Aviator:in the Back Alleys of Aviation ( www.therogueaviator.com).