New EJM boss has vision to double charter fleet size
Benjamin Murray has a vision for the future of Executive Jet Management (Booth No. 1023). As the newly appointed president and CEO, he would like to see the fleet size double to more than 200 airplanes over the next two years and expand the company to include a high-end boutique Part 91 aircraft management business.
His vision might seem a little aggressive for a new CEO, but Murray is no stranger to EJM or to the charter industry. Before his most recent appointment as vice president for new business development at NetJets, the parent company of EJM, Murray served for four years as regional vice president, then vice president of sales at EJM. He also owned an aircraft management and charter company, based in Chicago, before joining EJM, which is based in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Although aircraft sales, specifically, are “near and dear” to his heart, his aviation experience is diverse. He entered the industry 11 years ago at the bottom, fueling airplanes and training for his private pilot license. He hasn’t flown in many years, but over the years he gained experience in operations, maintenance and the management of corporate flight departments. “I haven’t flown since 1994 or 1995. It’s been a long time,” Murray said. “[But] to be honest, I never had the patience. I was always thinking of the business aspect rather than the flying.”
And it’s clear that he’s still thinking about the business. “There’s just so much adrenaline and excitement in our industry and our company,” he said. “And I’m anxious to get back to the nuts and bolts of corporate aviation.”
His first goal is to launch a “very aggressive” 24-month growth plan. “Our vision is to double our fleet size, and at the end of 2009 be a 200-plus aircraft management company,” he said. EJM has traditionally had about 100 aircraft in the fleet at any one time, but due to “strategic decisions that were made to get a little bit leaner, a little bit meaner in our organization,” the company now has fewer than 100 airplanes, most of them large-cabin aircraft. “We’ll look at everything from light jets to large-cabin airplanes, but we’ll continue being the largest large-cabin operator in the industry, which is what we are today.”
Murray believes the company is in a good position to increase its fleet. “It’s a very healthy economy right now, which bodes well for the charter industry,” he said. “I just see great gains, and we’re going to do it based on the solid business fundamentals of trust-based relationships, open communication and a grassroots effort to make sure we sell the value of what EJM has to offer people who own airplanes.” He added the growth of the business benefits potential customers as well. “We can provide as much income as needed to offset some of the operational costs that the aircraft owners incur on an annual basis.”
EJM currently provides two types of management plans: a turnkey program and a charter management program. As part of the former, the customer transfers the responsibilities and risks of aircraft ownership to EJM. “They really hand over the keys to the bus and the business,” he explained, adding that customers “make sure we have the right pilots and maintenance pedigree, the right hangar accommodations and lease situations.” Under the charter management program, customers operate under EJM’s operational control but maintain their own identity for their Part 91 operations. EJM offers them “a la carte” services, Murray said.
Murray also plans to build a private Part 91 managed fleet. “We feel we have the infrastructure to do that,” he explained, “and it makes sense for people who don’t necessarily need the revenue to offset the expense of owning the airplane.”
In addition to the infrastructure and finances necessary to make these changes and additions to the business, Murray believes the company has the right people to support the business plan. “We operate to the highest standards. We look for the best individuals–pilots, mechanics, all the people who support this infrastructure–to come and work for us,” he said. He added that EJM employees have done an “amazing job” on the front end of the business. “We roll our sleeves up and get a lot of work done.”
He added that EJM is also a 13-time FAA Diamond Maintenance Award winner. “We do a tremendous job training our mechanics,” he said. “There’s nobody in the industry who spends more time and resources to help the people in our industry through education. We really feel very strongly about that.”
All these factors combined lead Murray to believe that the time is right to expand the business. “There are a lot of airplanes out there, a lot of first-time aircraft owners coming into our industry, and I would think that when you make that kind of acquisition and you pay that much for an airplane, you’re going to want to justify it by parking it with the very best in the business. That’s EJM.”