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Et tu, WSJ? WSJ Releases Years of Private Flight Data

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Mark Cuban, w/ his Gulfstream (Time Magazine)

Mark Cuban, not feeling bad about owning and using a plane. (Time Magazine)

“Those with access to private jets fly around the globe on a whim, their flight paths generally hidden. But the WSJ has penetrated this world and, as the FAA considers publishing data on private-aircraft flights, the Journal unveils its own database.”

That’s the breathless intro the WSJ’s new “expose” of private air travel. They’ve used a Freedom of Information Act request to get access to all the private flight data from the last 3 years. They’ve put the database online and made an interactive tool to search through it.

The article itself seems pretty pointless. It mostly just enumerates the many nice places rich people go to in their private jets. For a conservative, business oriented paper, most of whose readers are either a) wealthy already , or b) trying to become wealthy through business, this makes little sense. This seems more like an article from Mother Jones, where righteous indignation at the ways of the wealthy seems to be a pastime of the readership.

My opinion of the article is summed up well by Mark Cuban, quoted in the article: “I have a plane. I bought it so I could use it. Shocking, isn’t it?”   If they wanted to have an actual discussion of whether or not private jet travel represents and excessive perk for corporate big-wigs, or perhaps whether or not companies are spending more money on private travel for their execs than is warranted by time and security concerns, that would make sense for the WSJ.  Just to point out how rich people often fly to nice places seems shallow to me and, frankly, not the type of article that would have been worthy of publication in the pre-Murdoch paper.

WSJ: For the Highest Flyers, New Scrutiny

As for the interactive tool, it seems to be under pretty heavy load at the moment as it is quite slow.  It allows you to enter some search criteria and drill down on a flight by flight basis, including tail number, length of trip and projected operating cost.

I’m also not entirely sure of the accuracy, either, as one of my searches turned up  a 10.5 hour NetJets originating and ending at Teterboro.   First of all, that’s an odd and unusual flight to take.  Secondly, they estimate the operating cost at $42k — which may be accurate w/ regard to the direct costs to NetJets of operating that flight, but would dramatically understate the cost to the NetJets owner who took the flight (in a Gulfstream G-IV) once you include all the costs of ownership.


Written by mojofinance

May 21, 2011 at 4:24 pm