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BAC in Time: The Origin of Air Charter

Most airplane historians know that the first piloted flight was by the Wright brothers in 1903. But do you know when the first chartered flight took place? Here’s a brief history of air chartering—renting entire aircraft as opposed to single seats on a plane.

The origin of the air charter, also known as air taxi or executive charter, goes back to 1945 when World War II ended. A surplus of leftover military aircraft prompted pilots and owners to rent out or "charter" their aircraft to offset the expense of maintaining the plane. This in turn provided individuals and businesses with urgent deadlines and time-sensitive cargo the opportunity to rent out private planes for their purposes.

The introduction of the Learjet 23 in 1963 revolutionized the industry and led to the "golden era" of the private jet charter. The Learjet 23 was the first "corporate jet" and was designed by Hans-Luzius Studer after the Swiss FFA P-16 fighter jet.

Following the success and popularity of the Learjet 23, more luxury jets were manufactured and put into service. But unlike the adapted military aircraft, the new generation of jets was tailor made for air charter, establishing the executive standard for air travel.

A Global Business Model

The Internet changed the world, and the air charter industry was no exception. Prior to the Web, people in search of an air charter mostly relied on word-of-mouth or the good old phone book. In the 1990s, the Internet allowed air charter companies to market their services to a now-global audience, and gave rise to new business models that made both ownership and charter renting more affordable.

Another result of the Internet was the advent of the aviation or airplane broker, who could receive a request for a charter from anywhere in the world, and broker deal an arrangement with the most available and competitively-priced aircraft in the renter's area. The concept of fractional ownership programs also came about, allowing owners to purchase a "fractional interest" or share in an aircraft. This kept the cost of aircraft maintenance and acquisition fees down and allowed more people to "own" an aircraft.

Fractional ownership had its issues, and the solution was on-demand air charter. Now air charter renters could purchase individual flights on a per-trip basis, without having to pay up-front or monthly fees. Like a commercial airline travel agent, air charter agents help consumers find the safest, most luxurious and affordable aircraft for individual charter flights. 

The Future of Air Charter

What direction is the air charter industry flying in? With the economy continuing to struggle, environmental issues with coal, oil and gas are huge concerns, and a "green" mentality spreading the globe, the industry will likely trend toward lighter and more fuel-efficient aircraft. And as the global business becomes more the norm, ever-developing technology will continue to increase the efficiency of flights for both owners and consumers. We've come a long way from those first charters in 1945.

Call BAC for Your Service Needs
Whether your private airplane needs simple maintenance or full-service repair, our service crew will deliver fast, dependable service to get your airplane up and flying safely. Call us today at (203) 748-7000 or visit our services page.

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