“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Getting from here to there

My previous post dealt with business jets. It was discouraging in that for a lot of money, you purchase the opportunity to use a lot of fuel on very expensive trips. I didn't get into so-called "direct operating costs" which include such items as engine inspection/overhaul reserve, maintenance, pilot costs (for a professional), etc. not to mention hangaring, insurance, and more, but suffice it to say that these aren't trivial for a "bizjet."

So who flies on a bizjet and why? And, for the matter of that, how should I decide how to get from here to there? I determined to apply logic and spreadsheets to the questions. I decided that the relevant factors are: speed; convenience; cost; and fuel (carbon). I subdivided convenience into: location near departure point and destination; security check hassles; schedule convenience; schedule reliability; and baggage limitations. I rated five methods of getting from here to there: airlines; my Land Rover LR3 HSE; the Phenom 100 of the previous post; my Saratoga; and an intercity bus. Sadly, having investigated intercity rail for a couple of trips, for most purposes that mode is completely impractical. There are exceptions of course, for example, downtown Los Angeles to downtown San Diego.

For each analyzed mode I used various numbers - some objective (e.g., speed, fuel economy) and some subjective (e.g., convenience) and scaled the rating for each transportation method in each category with the best rated in the category as "1." Then I assigned weights to each factor and summed them to determine a "merit index" for each mode of transport. I then played with the weights to see what considerations would result in which mode being the preferred choice.

For me, on an intermediate length business trip (say, Long Beach to Salt Lake City), I figured the weighting factors to be: speed - 0.4; convenience - 0.25; cost - 0.25; fuel burn (carbon emitted) - 0.1. Using these, the airline trip has the highest merit index, followed by the LR3, the Phenom 100, the bus, and finally the Saratoga. This is most interesting, in that I made just such a trip a few weeks ago and took the Saratoga.

So what weights result in choosing the Saratoga? If the biggest factor is convenience followed by speed as about half as important, cost of little importance and fuel of trivial importance, the Saratoga wins. Similarly, if speed and convenience are the only factors and speed is half again as important as convenience, the Phenom 100 is the way to go. Note that this literally means "money and fuel are no object, get me there fast and easily."

Looking for a combination resulting in driving being the choice, convenience dominates with everything else relatively minor. I'm in no hurry, not too concerned about cost and fuel. Finally, what would motivate me to take the bus? If my main concern is fuel burn and minimizing carbon footprint, with convenience and speed not among my considerations (not to mention how I smell when I arrive) then the bus is my choice.

It's clear that this analysis is of limited practical applicability - I certainly wouldn't take a bus or drive to New York City, nor take my Saratoga to Glendale, CA. And to call the methodology simplistic would be an insult to simpletons. Furthermore, it leaves out the "because I wanted to" factor that motivates the Saratoga trips. I'm suspicious that such a factor may also be operative in many bizjet flights. It's built around a typical business trip for my company, say, to Phoenix, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, etc. But even at that, it provides a valid comparison for bizjet vs. airline to New York or Saratoga vs. driving to Las Vegas.

The biggest revelation coming from this exercise is the wide range of considerations that lead to the airline being the preferred choice. Obviously nothing earth shattering, but it has helped me to crystallize my thoughts and to understand how I'd have to rationalize... er... justify... ummm that is, what considerations would have to be most important for me to make the purchase of a bizjet something I "couldn't afford not to do."

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