Richard Hodkinson of Clay Lacy Aviation talks about aircraft acquisition and the best new aircraft coming to market.
Richard Hodkinson brings thirty-four years of aviation experience to Clay Lacy Aviation where he is vice president of aircraft sales and acquisitions.
From assisting an individual in the selection and delivery of their first aircraft to developing a comprehensive multi-year fleet plan for a corporate flight department. Richard has accumulated more than 15,000 hours of accident/incident free flying and has been awarded Safe Flying awards from the National Business Aviation Association.
Q. How did you begin working in business aviation?
I started washing single engine aircraft at a flight school in Burbank California when I was 14. I didn’t get paid but traded that labour for flight training. After seeing I was serious my parents kicked in and supported my quest as well. Later I worked in the office of the flight school as well. That wasn’t business aviation but it was business, education and fun for me. During my senior year in High School I interned at Hop A Jet, a charter company in Ft Lauderdale. That was my first real exposure to corporate or business aviation as well as the Learjet. They operated a Lear 25D at the time. The company was owned by Harvey Hop who at the time had more hours in a Learjet than anyone else in the world, some 17,000 plus. Not a bad person to have teach you how to fly a Learjet and the do’s and don’ts of business aviation and customer service.
Q. What do you currently do?
Aircraft Sales & Acquisitions for Clay Lacy Aviation out of their headquarters at the Van Nuys Airport in California. Harvey Hop introduced me to Clay back in 1981. I’ve had the pleasure of flying with Clay numerous times in the Learjet and other aircraft. Clay is the highest time pilot in the world and was the first person to do charter with a Learjet and, had the first Learjet on the West coast. He was friends with Bill Lear. It’s been an honour to fly with two legends like Hop and Lacy.
Q. What are the main considerations when advising individuals on their selection of aircraft?
I always try and find out what they need as opposed to what they want or think they want. After they have the plane for a year or so and are seeing the real costs to operate the plane and its real capabilities or lack thereof you don’t want them coming back and saying how come you didn’t tell me this or that? it’s important long-term that they are in the right aircraft for both their mission and budget as well as a long-term business relationship.
Q. How does it differ to advising corporations?
The process of looking for the plane and overseeing the purchase or marketing a plane and overseeing the sale is the same on my side. Of course the communication with the customer is different. Dealing with a large corporation as opposed to an individual requires more documentation and communication because more people are involved. The CEO may drive the type of aircraft wanted and maybe the mission requirements but then the financial division of the company will have their own input and in fact often make decisions that guide the process to a significant extent. Many big companies that travel globally also have security concerns that need to be addressed.
Q. The market can be affected by a wide range of factors, how challenging is it to develop a multi-year fleet plan in this environment?
Well, you have to make decisions based on good information available at the time as well as use your experience to guide a client. This means sometimes you have to tell clients things they may not want to hear. The biggest challenge is estimating what the residual value will be in five to seven years. I advise all clients who are financing a purchase to structure the payments so they don’t end up with negative equity in the plane. Over the last 8 years as residual plane values have dropped drastically I have seen several aircraft owners so upside down they couldn’t afford to keep the plane or sell it. Not a nice place to be.
Q. As a pilot yourself, what is your favourite jet to fly?
It really depends on the trip but I’ve always been partial to the Learjet. It’s hard to beat a Learjet 24 or 25 for fun, It’s like a Harley. You can get a lot more modern aircraft (and certainly Learjet makes modern aircraft) but an old Lear 20 series can’t be beaten for hands-on flying fun and performance.
Q. Is there an aircraft you are particularly excited to see come to market?
With respect to large cabin aircraft I think the G650 and Falcon 5X are real game changers. The G650’s speed and range are unequaled in that category plane while the 5X cabin width height and comfort combined with its operating capabilities and economics set a new standard. I’m also excited about the new G500 and 600 aircraft. The fly-by-wire system they have seems superior to anything else out there so far and it’s great to see Gulfstream build a clean sheet aircraft. In the mid-size category Embraer’s 450 and 500 will be game changers as well. Embraer has come a long way in both product support and development which has resulted in them gaining significant market share. I think this will continue. There are a lot of exciting new aircraft coming to market in the next few years.
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