It’s about time we came back for a talk to the president and CEO, co-founder of Silver Air, Mr Jason Middleton. His company is almost redefining owner advocacy in private aviation management, having a totally new approach on working with jets with highly educated and motivated people utilising new technology and financial modelling to develop management plans that garner the best returns for owners.
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How is your sector doing now compared to how things were a few years ago?
The private jet management and charter business is having a bit of an identity crisis right now. On one hand, you have the traditional management companies that now own fuelling operations, hangers and maintenance businesses, and then on the other end, you have a new start-up seemingly every other day that promises to “Uberize” the industry. We don’t think either of these will last. Eventually, jet owners will realise those old management models are full of conflicts — owners are getting up-sold at every corner by the same company that should be advocating for them. And jets just can’t be “Ubered”. They are too specialised and they travel too far and on short notice.
At Silver Air specifically, we continue to see growth: our fleet has grown and we’ve expanded with new operations throughout Southern California, The Bay Area and most recently in Dallas, Texas. We think that’s because we’re combining smart new thinking and technology with old-fashioned customer service. It’s a high-touch business, and we make sure every touch is right.
Have you noticed any new trends, tendencies of clients?
We’re seeing pre-owned jet prices dropping as inventory has increased, and this is starting to hit a level where new jet owners can get into the market. Clients who previously may have only chartered are now looking at buying a jet, and then chartering out that jet to off-set their costs.
This has put us in a unique position. Silver Air’s management clients are seeing the value in our pure management model. We don’t have the conflicts of traditional companies, because we’re not up-selling fuel, or hangers, or maintenance. We purely manage those services, so owners know they get the best, most cost-effective service.
So we can look at helping someone get into a pre-owned jet for the first time, keep costs down through our pure management model, and help that owner fly private while recovering a significant amount of their costs through charter when they aren’t using the jet.
In terms of technology, what is there to look forward to in the coming years for private aviation?
Silver Air was one of the first operators to tap a new cloud-based software provider FlightPro 135. This is an all-new way to manage all of our flight operations tasks in the cloud with real-time FAA monitoring capabilities. Cloud-based technologies like this will continue to improve the efficiency of our business. For our clients, in-flight Wi-Fi is probably the number one technology that matters. Their ability to stay connected – whether for business or entertainment – is critical today.
Formula 1 teams should look at the cost-benefit of owning versus charting when it comes to their travel schedules.
Is the business relationship between Formula 1 and private aviation also changing? How could it be improved?
Formula 1 teams should look at the cost-benefit of owning versus charting when it comes to their travel schedules. Private management companies like Silver Air can help them make that decision based on pre-defined business goals and needs. I still think transparency and advocacy are the top elements that Formula 1 teams should look for when working with a private jet management company or charter provider, that’s going to improve the overall business relationship.
How do you see the Formula 1 industry today, business-wise?
I think it’s bigger than ever with a huge global reach. A growing fan base, new technology, new promotional opportunities at new locations. It’s such an exciting sport and it has that aspirational aspect (like private aviation) that attracts people.
What are your own personal hopes for private aviation’s near future?
I still believe the transparency needs to be improved between management companies and jet owners. The old management and reporting processes are creating conflicts of interest all over the place, and only transparency is going to allow owners to know if they are really getting the best service and the best deal. Silver Air is working on it to make that change, to make sure our service and reporting are consistent and transparent, and I think more owners will start to demand this level of service moving forward.