By Matthew Stibbe
November 20, 2011
When most people think of business aircraft, they think of swanky multi-million dollar jets with gold taps. But that’s not the story for John Alston, CEO of IT firm ClubDrive Systems.
He flies a piston-powered Cirrus SR-22 four-seater for work and for fun and he shares the cost with other owners thanks to fractional operator AirShares Elite. (It’s the same type of plane I fly.)
The SR 22 starts at around $449,900 and costs a few hundred dollars an hour to operate. It has a maximum range of just over 800 nautical miles and a cruise speed of around 180 knots.
“It’s a kind of time machine,” says Alston. For example, one recent client visit took 90 minutes each way by Cirrus, flying into a local airport. By car it would have taken four to five hours each way – in other words, the plane turns a tiring two- or three-day trip into a day return.
“My customers are trusting me with their data and applications,” he explains, “They need a face to put to the name. They’re not going to hand over the keys to their business if they don’t know you and trust you.”
The 500-hour pilot also uses the plane to fly mercy missions for Angel Flight, a charity that arranges free air transportation for any legitimate, charitable, medically-related need. Because the Cirrus can use many more airfields than commercial airlines, Alston can be a real help for his sick passengers. For example, flying a sick child from a remote area to a specialist treatment centre.
Ultimately, though, his pilot’s licence and plane is a competitive advantage for his business: “There are other companies that do what I do but without the plane, they can’t do it as quickly and responsively as we can.”