H. Lee Rohde III

Founder, Essex Aviation Group, Inc.

As noted, private aviation is an easy target for the federal and state governments to tax, because most people perceive it as a luxury. Many of those who fly privately—and the board members who advise them, including Aviation Management Systems president Lee Rohde—would disagree, noting that private-aviation clients’ circumstances and the state of commercial air travel make flying privately a near necessity.

A lot of people don’t want to stop flying fractional or charter, but they’re asking the question: Is what I’m doing the right thing to do? Or they know their plans are going to change and they want to know if what they’re doing now is right for that change.

Some of our corporate clients have the perception that there is one thing that can meet all of their needs. That’s usually not the case. It’s like a three-legged stool. You might own a plane to fly your top executives, but you might also have a fractional share or use charter to support the rest of your management team. You don’t want to buy a plane big enough to accommodate your entire management team if they’re not always going to be flying together. It’s not economically feasible to do so.

Corporations and businesses are being more responsible now. There’s more strategy involved and more process. It’s going back to the way it used to be when people had an aviation plan.

I’d like to believe the Big Three automakers learned something from their trip to Capitol Hill [in 2008, when the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler each flew to Washington, D.C., in the companies’ private jets to ask Congress for a taxpayer-funded bailout]. From a public-relations standpoint, when people ask about private aircraft, you want to be prepared to answer effectively. If you go through the process of evaluating your needs and discussing the costs and benefits, you’ll be prepared to answer those questions.