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Will Business Jets Fly High Again?

Phil Scott
From the Print Edition:
Jim Nantz, May/June 2011

(continued from page 2)

Only bizjet owners get to trick out their rides, though. If you’re dying for yellow carpet, leather seats, gold fittings and turquoise marble counters, you’re going to have to buy the jet and outfit it yourself.

When there’s downtime for a corporate business jet, executives can donate its services to organizations like Angel Flight, which flies people in need of medical treatment all across the nation. It’s also tax deductible. But, come on: Realistically, owning a jet is not all efficiency and philanthropy. It’s about having the bucks to buy one, fly in high style and skip the whole trauma and chaos of flying the airlines. “If I’m the CEO of a major corporation, I’m flying my own plane,” says Lamonica, the FlightSafety attorney. “That’s just part of doing business.”

Lamonica isn’t a CEO, but he does get to fly his client’s aircraft, and on the Friday afternoon when he was interviewed Lamonica was ready to head out to nearby Wilmington airport for a flight to Morristown, New Jersey. The trip would take a whole 18 minutes. He could have driven up the Jersey Turnpike, in rush hour traffic, which would have stretched to at least four hours. “If you got a choice, it can cost a lot of fuel or I can sit on the turnpike on a Friday for hours and hours and hours,” he explains. “If I don’t have to deal with it I’m not going to do it. I don’t care if I’m the only one on the plane.” He admits he could take the airlines, but since there’s no airline service to Wilmington, he’d have to drive to Philadelphia, and arrive at one of the three New York City airports four or five hours later, or spend as much time being held on the ground. Oh, and he’d have to submit to Transportation Security Agency’s probing. Yes, before boarding a bizjet executives can keep their shoes on, and they don’t have to remove their watch or the change in their pockets.

During this Age of Terrorism, no shoe- or underwear-bombers have ever brought down a bizjet. Ever. According to Lamonica, for aircraft weighing above12,500 pounds max on takeoff a security screening is required. There’s not much more guidance than that. In some places the pilot does the screening before passengers board, but “You think I’m going to ask the CEO of a major corporation if they have a gun in their bag?” he asks. “It’s humorous. Whatever he’s going to carry on, I don’t care.” In short, yes, they’re supposed to go through security; in reality, no, they don’t. Imagine all the makeshift weaponry on a bizjet anyway: glass bottles of fine wine, silverware, crystal wine glasses. “You got a $45-million plane, you’re not worrying about plastic knives,” he scoffs. “To the TSA it’s ridiculous stuff that they have to go through—even they know it. It’s the show they go through.”

Oh, and one more thing: Along with drinking from crystal glasses and dining on fine china with silverware, “In a business jet you can puff on that stogie,” Brian Foley says. “It’s your airplane. They’ve got the galley stocked with cool snacks and whatever cigars you smoke. You’re able to get what you want; the caterers don’t just load the galley with bologna and cheese sandwiches. And they don’t charge you for pillows and blankets.” v

Phil Scott is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.

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