In his career, Steve Bodner looks for efficiency. In the cockpit, he wants comfort and class.
"When you have your wife or business clients onboard, you want luxury," said Bodner, a pilot and owner of SC Bodner, an Indianapolis-based development and construction company that has used aviation to spur growth.
A few weeks ago, Bodner put in an order for a Phenom 100, a $ 2.98 million four-seat luxury jet made by Embraer Aircraft Holding.
On Thursday, he and 10-year-old son Austin were among a group of 220 people looking over other sophisticated small aircraft on display at Eagle Creek Airpark. The invitation-only soiree was sponsored by the airport.
Eagle Creek Aviation Services, working with Ice Miller and Monroe Bank, held the event in hopes of capturing people like Bodner, who represents a growing market of chief executives in search of specialty aircraft, said Eagle Creek Aviation CEO Matt Hagans.
People who attended the Thursday event sipped champagne and ate shrimp among Bentleys and motor coaches and looked at planes whose interiors resemble what you´d see in a limo.
"We´re obviously targeting high-net-worth folks," said John Skelton, a vice president and team leader for Monroe Bank in Avon.
Industry experts say the high-end private aircraft market is expanding. "Companies make a little more money these days, and they can afford them because of fuel costs," said Steven Landry, an assistant professor and aviation expert at Purdue University. "And the difference between (owning) a time-share plane and buying a business-class ticket is probably less than it was."
Bart Giesler, executive director of the Indianapolis-based Aviation Association of Indiana, said the state´s 102 public-use airports give businesspeople a range of travel options that beat flying on larger commercial carriers that travel to fewer destinations.
"You can get closer to your end destination," Giesler said. The cost of new jets is dropping substantially as well, he said.
He said he knows an executive in Madison, Ind., who can fly an engineer across the country in the morning for work and get him back home by the end of that day so he can coach a kids´ soccer game. There´s not the productivity loss that might come with getting to an airport two hours in advance of flight time for a security check-in.
Montgomery Aviation, an operator with Indianapolis Executive Airport near Zionsville, also recently collaborated with Cirrus Corp., in a showcase of aircraft for sale.
"It will continue to expand," said Carl Winkler, vice president and business manager for Montgomery. "And not just with the super-rich. The surprising thing is there are a lot more people with money out there" getting involved in purchasing aircraft.