Planes Help Businesses Work
August 18, 2009
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  • By Molly McMillin

    When Derby-based BRG Precision Products added a new line of business selling emergency notification systems, it required a lot more travel to customers around the country.

    And when customers need service, “they need it done now,” said company president John Bode.

    Flying commercial airlines wasn’t practical because on service calls it’s often unclear how long personnel will need to stay.

    The company then began renting planes. Although this was an improvement over the airlines, sometimes a plane large enough to carry the necessary people and equipment wasn’t available, Bode said.

    So the company decided to buy one of its own.

    Like BRG Precision Products, tens of thousands of companies of all sizes in the U.S. depend on aviation, said Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association.

    “It starts when they recognize they can do more and grow better because of business aviation access,” Bolen said.

    For BRG Precision Products, having a plane is a business strategy that puts it ahead of its competitors that do not use one, Bode said.

    “None of them can offer the level of service that we can offer,” Bode said. “If a university in Texas calls up, we can be there the same day or the next morning.

    “It’s a real selling factor of our product.”

    A business tool

    The Berry Cos. in Wichita has used airplanes in its business since the 1950s.

    In 2001, it bought a Socata TBM 700, the company’s 19th airplane. It uses it to travel to the company’s 22 locations around the Midwest, for store visits or for meetings at a plant, said Berry Cos. president Walter Berry.

    The company can fly a group of people to Houston in the morning and be back at the end of the day.

    Last week, two of them flew to Garden City; Montrose, Colo.; Grand Junction; Greeley; Denver; and back to Wichita in three days. During that time, they held nine meetings.

    “You just couldn’t do it on the airline,” Berry said.

    Berry and his father, Fred, are both pilots, and do most of the flying.

    A big undertaking

    When BRG Precision Products decided to buy a plane, it was a big undertaking.

    “Not being a pilot, I really didn’t know the first thing about planes,” Bode said.

    One of the company’s managers flies, he said, but “he hasn’t purchased planes and doesn’t know the ins and outs.’

    So Bode turned to a broker – Dave Dewhirst, president of Sabris Corp. in Wichita.

    “As I found out, there’s a whole lot more about buying and selling an airplane than I ever imagined,” Bode said.

    Each company is unique, said the NBAA’s Bolen. And each must find the best combination of aircraft model and utilization that fits their situation.

    First, Dewhirst asked the company how often and how many personnel need to travel, how far they need to go and how much equipment they must take, Bode said.

    The two discussed costs and training requirements for the manager and pilot, who is gaining the ratings needed to fly the plane they bought.

    In the meantime, one of Dewhirst’s flight instructors is doing the flying and giving the pilot instruction.

    Dewhirst negotiated the price on the plane that the company ultimately bought and got the inspection, title search and paperwork in place, Bode said.

    At first, Bode researched planes on his own over the Internet. He found a six-passenger plane he thought would be perfect.

    But Dewhirst advised against it, Bode said. Dewhirst pointed out that the plane could carry six passengers, but it couldn’t carry that many and have full fuel tanks.

    Dewhirst narrowed the choices to three aircraft. Ultimately, Bode bought a seven-seat, twin-engine Piper Navajo and is having it refurbished to save money.

    Hiring a broker/consultant costs money, Bode said. But “(Dewhirst) saved us more.”

    The process had another unintended benefit: Bode became interested in aviation during the search, and he’s learning to fly.

    Date: 2009-07-30