How to Choose the Best Operator

How to Choose the Best Operator

October 25, 2016

The relationship you have with your operator (also called a management company) is probably the most important one in your aircraft ownership. To understand the importance of this role for you, let’s look at what exactly an operator does.

Your operator becomes the functional manager of your aircraft. They are responsible for:

  1. Maintenance and where it goes for maintenance. Each aircraft has specific maintenance schedules they have to maintain as well as unexpected maintenance that has to occur to keep your aircraft safe and airworthy. This gets very complicated and time consuming. Having someone manage this for you makes your ownership easier.
  2. Keeping on top of billing including paying pilots and maintenance bills.
  3. Day to day operations of the aircraft. The operator ensures your aircraft is operating legally and safely wherever it flies. They also flight plan and coordinate pilots for your journey.

Because of the amount of responsibility the management company has, we advise approaching them as the “business manager” of your aircraft. This means that the number one factor in who you choose needs to be trust. They need to be organized and capable enough to manage and oversee millions of dollars of cash flow every year. They need to do an honest job and take care of you and your interests. Secondly, look at the ability of the operating company. The operator needs to be able to operate an aircraft in the size class that you are buying. It may not be prudent to give your Gulfstream V to a company who has only managed King Air 90s in the past. Let an operator’s experience work for you.

An operating company is in the service business. As the client, make sure how they treat your relationship is how you will like to be treated for the next few years. You will most likely be talking and dealing with your operator in some capacity weekly, if not daily. It needs to be a comfortable and productive relationship. Operators have their own style of running their business and you need to make sure that style works for you. We highly advise you meet any operator you are seriously considering in person and ask them all your questions. Some operators get fuel or insurance discounts based on the size of their fleet. Ask questions about these items so you can fully understand the company. A face to face meeting will help you know if you think you could comfortably work with this company for years to come.

Another factor to consider in your search for a management company is whether or not you plan on chartering your aircraft. Some operators are renowned for scheduling and conducting charter flights while some are really strong on the management side. Depending on how you plan on using your aircraft will guide you in which type of operator to consider.

In Europe, your operator can be in any country in the European Union. EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) allows for operators in different EU countries to operate your aircraft. People choose operators in other countries due to a tax benefit or if they really like and trust a certain operator. Europe has so many excellent and capable management companies, so don’t feel the need to limit your search to those closest to you. Choosing an operator in another country can sometimes add some legal and logistical complications, especially if you are choosing to charter your aircraft, so you should speak with your aircraft broker about this to get a good plan for what is best for your situation.

A first time owner should start their search for an operator as early as possible. The sooner the operator is brought in the easier it is for you, because they are the ones responsible for putting your aircraft on a registry, operating it and ensuring its compliance.

The most successful operator relationships are those with a good people match – where you trust and get along well with each other. Interview a few companies before choosing which you want to use for your aircraft. Also, speak with your broker about different management companies. They will have worked with many operators over the years during transactions and can recommend some to you that they have respect for and know will treat you well.

*Note: Part NCC Regulation is making it more cumbersome to own an aircraft in Europe and not have an operator. You can read more about this here: Why You Need to Know About Part NCC or speak with your broker who will know about this as well.


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