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Aviation Beyond Airlines – June 29, 2012

“Robert Novell’s Third Dimension Blog”

Good Morning and Happy Friday,

I hope that your week was productive and you are ready for a little time off. If you are working, or flying, this weekend try to enjoy a little time with friends and rest up for the challenge of next week.

“Aviation Beyond Airlines” is a phrase I began using in 2009, when I began this blog, and the purpose was to remind everyone that there is life before, and after, the airline dream. I know that most people are focused on flying heavy metal, and being a part of the commercial air transportation system but maybe it won’t happen. Then what do you do? Think, “Aviation Beyond Airlines” and have a plan. 
I first began my carreer flying freight in a Cherokee Six, as a contractor to Emery Air Freight, before moving on to commuter operations, corporate flying, government contract flying, airline flying and then back to government contract flying. During this time it has always been my dream to own and operate a seaplane and my dream is still alive.

One of the major problems with my plans was the million dollars in start up capital but the choice of an airplane was also a problem. I first wanted to use a PBY but avgas is expensive, 115/145 is unavailable, and maintenance would be a challenge. The next airplane on my list was the Grumman Mallard, like Chalk used out of Miami, but I wanted the Pratt and Whitney conversion which were in short supply and over priced; however, now that the FAA has reduced the gross weight, as a result of Chalks snapping a wing in 2005, my only viable option is the Mallard Goose that is being remanufactured in NC. The website for what they call the “Super Goose” can be found HERE and it is a very interesting that they decided to bring this airplane back just for me so that I could live my dream. I hope they are successful and I will end up being a client as I prepare for my retirement. I will know in about a year.

What do you do if you don’t fly for American or Delta? What do you do if you don’t want to be a freight dog, or a regional airline pilot, all of your life? Maybe there are other options out there that should be considered. I would like to talk  about you now,about you and your partners at school, about your friends in aviation, or anyone who is interested in supporting you with that entrepenurial spirit that we are all born with. 

I talked briefly about my owning/leasing a Cherokee Six and flying freight. This option is available with other air freight companies and could be considered. Charter operations are always an option if you can lease an airplane and put it on your certificate but what about hot air ballons? Not the same as airplanes but a means to an end if you want to grow into something bigger. The license is not expensive but ballons can be; however, the revenue to be generated, based on how you market the product, could be substantial. Happy Birthday rides, Happy Anniversary rides, Moonlight Champaign rides, and of course Ballon Rides for the fun of it.

There are other considerations. The truck, the equipment to service the ballon, the liability insurance, and employees to help make it all work. The area where you live is a factor in marketing, the number of good friends that could partner with and eliminate the need for employees, the ability to have the weekends available to operate your business, and of course a little cash to make it all happen.

What about the license you say. Click HERE for some basic info and pricing. The cost for a Commercial Certificate is about $3000.00. What about a ballon you say. Click HERE for an example. The cost for this ballon was $26,000.00 which included the enclosed trailer. What about a vehicle you say. OK, this is a problem you can resolve pretty easily.   

OK, for about $40,000.00 you can train three friends as pilots, buy a ballon, and have a few friends help you out on the weekends. If we look at a three year recovery plan then your cost, at 9% interest on your money, is about $1200.00 per month. Divide this by three and each will pay $400.00 a month plus expenses. The average revenue per flight is hard to determine but let’s say we fly four times a day on Saturday and twice in Sunday. Each flight has four people at 100.00 each so this is $1600.00 for Saturday and $800.00 for Sunday. Should this be a constant revenue stream for each month then you will generate $28,800.00 per year for your work on the weekend. Your cost on the equipment is $14,500.00 the first year plus operating expenses.

This example is a very simple presentation because I don’t talk about the cost of insurance, tow vehicles, sales and marketing, and salaries, but you can see where I am going with the concept and what the possibilities could be. If you are successful with this then a charter operation with fixed wing airplanes is possible as well as the sale of ballons, airplanes, and other related enterprises.

“Aviation Beyond Airlines”………………………………………..………..Think about it.

I hope to see you back next week when we continue our story on the "Pilot Shortage." Until then, take care, enjoy time with family and friends, and fly safe/be safe.


Robert Novell

June 29, 2012