If you’re familiar with chartering your own aircraft the answer is possibly “No!” and certainly there is no legal or officially technical difference. But wait… actually there are important differences. The expressions as commonly used denote rather different types of aircraft but more importantly, an appreciation or even awareness of what an “Air Taxi” is leads to the realisation that it is a form of transport sensibly available to many who perhaps hadn’t thought private flight was for them.
So, in order, let’s look at how private jets and air taxis differ, what they’re used for and finally, why you don’t need to be Sir Alan Sugar (Simon Cowell, Bon Jovi or David Beckham) to make good use of an air taxi here in the real world! This is the key to the question; it’s one of practical use as much as technical detail.
Private Aircraft, Air Taxi or Jet — the science bit
First off, we’re about chartering here, by definition the commercial hire of an aircraft and crew not running to any schedule – any schedule but yours that is. The term “jet” in this context actually refers to the means of propulsion. Jet engines suck air in the front with a compressor, mix it with kerosene, and ignite it; the high speed hot gas propelled form the rear provides thrust in the same way a released balloon shoots across a room. On the way out the gas passes through a turbine which in turn drives the compressor at the front and hence it is effectively self sustaining all the time fuel is around. The main thing is, there is no propeller. Aircraft so powered are, in simple terms “jets”, private, chartered or otherwise.
By contrast there are also many propeller powered aircraft, falling into two categories; piston engine powered or “turbo-props”. Taxi Haarlem Piston engines in aircraft are in principle the same as a car engine. Turbo-props are actually a development of the jet engine; the turbine of the jet engine described above is connected to the compressor by a shaft and this shaft continues to a gearbox which in turn drives a propeller. (The aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal was actually a turbo-prop of sorts, Olympus gas turbine engines as powered Concorde were connected to shafts and gearboxes driving propellers … but we digress!). Although not a hard and fast rule private aircraft powered by plain old jets are just that, private jets, and those with propellers are commonly referred to as “air taxis”.
Jets and propeller aircraft come as large and small aircraft; the differences are mainly those of speed, range and altitude. Jets are fast, they fly high (in fact the higher the better for efficiency) and they have typically longer ranges that propeller driven aircraft. The air taxis by contrast come into their own on shorter trips where flat out speed, range and altitude are not necessary. Remember, a Ford Focus will get you to the corner shop pretty much as quickly as a Ferrari, door to door, and a lot more cheaply; you need a long autobahn to get the benefit of a sports car.
Private Jet and Air Taxi uses
Let’s continue with the Ford Focus and the Ferrari, it’s really very similar. Long distance, short of time, need a little full on luxury … go with a jet! You’ll fly high, fast and in some cases flash (ahem Simon Cowell). However, if you need to get from A to B safely, comfortably and over a relatively short distance (for aircraft this is 500-800km) then an air taxi is just the ticket. A spade is a spade and there is no point pretending that an air taxi is a private luxury jet because it’s not – there is usually no cabin attendant and meals, though provided and far tastier than airline fare is nevertheless self service. But don’t be put off…
Who uses air taxis and why
Very normal people and companies use air taxis and for a good reason, they get the job done affordably and safely. Prices can start from under a thousand pounds but for that you get every seat on the aircraft. Compare that to a handful of schedule tickets on anything but the likes of … well, I shan’t say the name! Families use air taxis for special occasions, small companies use air taxis to eliminate overnight accommodation on business trips and actually save money overall (add in the reduced “out of office” time). Individuals use air taxis for just about anything.
In conclusion, the difference between a private jet and an air taxi is not a hard and fast one (the new concept of “Very Light Jets” has blurred the boundaries even more!) but an appreciation that private flight is not restricted to the rich and famous but offers the option of an air taxi also is one well worth having. The beauty is that it costs nothing to find out how having the choice might benefit you. Any reputable charter company will provide a quote in a few hours or less for a flight specifically tailored to you.