In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, a voice urges farmer Ray Kinsella to take a swath of his precious corn field and turn it into a baseball diamond, telling him, “If you build it, he will come.” He was Kinsella’s late father who brought along with him the 1919 Chicago White Sox baseball team. It was a high-risk strategy, but the baseball ghosts turned the failing farm into a goldmine as tourists also arrived. Since then, the phrase has been adapted to the world of business. “If you build it, they will come” has led countless entrepreneurs to roll the dice, launching new products and services they believed were wanted but not being offered.

For Mente Group Founder and CEO Brian Proctor, his Field of Dreams moment came in 2021 when he contributed his established aircraft brokerage and consultancy into a 50/50 partnership with private equity firm City+Ventures. They formed Aquila Aviation Ventures, the foundation for a new company called Four Corners Aviation.

The “if you build it” product is something called Freedom by Four Corners.

Proctor is selling it as the industry’s biggest leap forward since the invention of fractional ownership by NetJets in the 1980s and jet cards by Sentient Jet back in 1999.

The concept copies the software as a services model. It targets companies and UHNWs who have flight departments and own and operate their private jets. The focus is super midsize, large cabin and ultra-long-haul types. The prospects don’t see fractional ownership, jet cards or on-demand charter as a viable alternative. They want to fly in a jet they have configured and furnished to their specifications. They want their own dedicated pilots and cabin crew. They want their own hangar and whatever facilities they currently have.

As Proctor puts it, “They want to reach for the draw under their seat with their own personalized stationery.”

The voice that led Proctor to expand beyond his aircraft sales and consulting business into something more didn’t come from a ghost. It came from a customer, the CEO of a large multinational company.

Proctor recalls, “In 2012, I was in New York. We had just done a fleet plan for a client with a G5, and they were considering upgrading. The CEO was sitting there, and I was sitting in the chair next to him. I had just finished the presentation. He folded it up, and took a deep breath, and said, ‘I absolutely agree we need to upgrade, and I think everything you have in here is right.’”

After stopping and spending what seemed like an eternity, the client continued, “Brian, right now, the last thing on the planet I want to buy is another airplane.”

It was not what an aircraft broker wants to hear. While part of Mente’s model is to offer consulting services to would-be buyers, something it charges for and acts as a pipeline of clients who then use the group to help it acquire their next airplane, the larger part of profits is via fees that come from transactions.

Proctor says, “Sometimes, as an industry, we are selling products our customers don’t want to buy, even when it’s exactly what they need. The conversation haunted me, and it kept resonating.”

The more he thought about it, the more he saw an opportunity. “Customers want to buy safe, reliable, and customized transportation,” he says, quickly adding, “You can get safe everywhere. We have a very safe industry. Reliability fluctuates, but there are reliable solutions. Customization of the flight experience is hard to get unless you buy your own airplane.”

Beyond personalized stationery, interiors, and the same pilots and crews, Proctor believes his services concept speaks to another concern of private jet owners, the increasing price of buying a new airplane. He says in the mid-1970s, a then top-of-the-line Gulfstream G2 cost $2 million to purchase and $500,000-to-$750,000 per year to operate. Today, a G700 runs $78 million to buy and $4.5 million to operate. In other words, the cost to buy has jumped nearly 40-fold compared to operating costs, which are up only six-to-nine times.

“We came up with this idea of the corporate jet as a service, which is Freedom. For the client, it fixes the cost, so it looks a lot like a fractional contract. It eliminates the capital component, so it de-risks the residual and the balance sheet. It improves the optics for the client because now they are now flying privately as a service instead of having this asset that is tied back to their company,” Proctor says.

It also makes everything easier. Owning a jet means dozens of contracts from engine and maintenance programs to insurance, fuel purchasing, catering, and complicated accounting. That all is handled by Four Corners. Customers pay a monthly access fee, hourly fee, fuel adjustments, plus incidentals.

Of course, setting up Freedom wasn’t as easy as doing some market research and putting together a presentation.

Freedom envisions not only buying the aircraft from clients, who then sign a five-year services agreement. It also means taking over the entire flight department, from pilots and cabin crew to facilities, such as hangar leases, all to ensure the experience for the customer remains unchanged from their ownership days.

Proctor recalls, “In 2012, I was in New York. We had just done a fleet plan for a client with a G5, and they were considering upgrading. The CEO was sitting there, and I was sitting in the chair next to him. I had just finished the presentation. He folded it up, and took a deep breath, and said, ‘I absolutely agree we need to upgrade, and I think everything you have in here is right.’”

After stopping and spending what seemed like an eternity, the client continued, “Brian, right now, the last thing on the planet I want to buy is another airplane.”

It was not what an aircraft broker wants to hear. While part of Mente’s model is to offer consulting services to would-be buyers, something it charges for and acts as a pipeline of clients who then use the group to help it acquire their next airplane, the larger part of profits is via fees that come from transactions.

Proctor says, “Sometimes, as an industry, we are selling products our customers don’t want to buy, even when it’s exactly what they need. The conversation haunted me, and it kept resonating.”

The more he thought about it, the more he saw an opportunity. “Customers want to buy safe, reliable, and customized transportation,” he says, quickly adding, “You can get safe everywhere. We have a very safe industry. Reliability fluctuates, but there are reliable solutions. Customization of the flight experience is hard to get unless you buy your own airplane.”

Beyond personalized stationery, interiors, and the same pilots and crews, Proctor believes his services concept speaks to another concern of private jet owners, the increasing price of buying a new airplane. He says in the mid-1970s, a then top-of-the-line Gulfstream G2 cost $2 million to purchase and $500,000-to-$750,000 per year to operate. Today, a G700 runs $78 million to buy and $4.5 million to operate. In other words, the cost to buy has jumped nearly 40-fold compared to operating costs, which are up only six-to-nine times.

“We came up with this idea of the corporate jet as a service, which is Freedom. For the client, it fixes the cost, so it looks a lot like a fractional contract. It eliminates the capital component, so it de-risks the residual and the balance sheet. It improves the optics for the client because now they are now flying privately as a service instead of having this asset that is tied back to their company,” Proctor says.

It also makes everything easier. Owning a jet means dozens of contracts from engine and maintenance programs to insurance, fuel purchasing, catering, and complicated accounting. That all is handled by Four Corners. Customers pay a monthly access fee, hourly fee, fuel adjustments, plus incidentals.

Of course, setting up Freedom wasn’t as easy as doing some market research and putting together a presentation.

Freedom envisions not only buying the aircraft from clients, who then sign a five-year services agreement. It also means taking over the entire flight department, from pilots and cabin crew to facilities, such as hangar leases, all to ensure the experience for the customer remains unchanged from their ownership days.

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