It's the kind of stuff episodes of Robin Leach's "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" are made of - movie stars and Fortune 500 executives trotting the globe in private jets.
If they need to freshen up before landing in London, they can shower en route. If they are entertaining guests, a chef can prepare a gourmet meal in the plane's galley. If they're pressed for time, corporate big wigs can finalize contracts while in the air.Steve Ronniger, president of Corporate Wings Inc., helps box-office stars and corporate executives alike locate and buy the private plane of their dreams - all from his office in downtown Salt Lake City.
His office resembles a military command center, with maps and long lists of available aircraft tacked to every wall. The latest information about jets and other aircraft new to the market is fed to Ronniger's computer via satellite.
"There's over 10,000 aircraft we watch," Ronniger said of the brokerage firm's detailed record-keeping system, which catalogs each airplane by serial number.
Sometimes it pays to keep files on the thousands of aircraft for sale at any given time. "I found one (advertisement) that said `no damage' on it and it had been destroyed in a fire," Ronniger said, remarking he was able to use the information to steer his customers away from what appeared to be a bargain buy.
There are about 200 similar brokerage firms in the U.S., but only the reputable, well-informed brokers last long in the aviation businesses. "Selling aircraft is very much like selling real estate except there's no regulation in aircraft sales. There are no industry standards, but there need to be," he said.
Ronniger has been certified as a commercial pilot for nearly 20 years. Before starting Corporate Wings in 1985, he worked for Beachcraft in aircraft management, sales and as a pilot.
Until recently, Corporate Wings offered chartered flights and pilot service. Some of Ronniger's passengers have included Robert Redford, Harrison Ford, Glenn Close, former Treasury secretary William Simon and Betty Ford.
"I don't bother them. I treat them like any other passenger," Ronniger said of his celebrity clients. "If they want to come up and talk to us, they come up and talk to us. They usually do. They're pretty friendly people."
Most of Ronniger's time now is devoted studying the available aircraft and attempting to match aircraft to people who need their own planes. Brokering is much more profitable than maintaining, insuring, housing and booking aircraft.
"Slowly it evolved to the point I could see that wasn't where the money was," he said.
The aircraft Ronniger sells, most of them jets and turbo-prop corporate airplanes, go for $500,000 to $20 million. Not everyone can afford to play. But for corporate giants, a company jet is nearly as valuable as a FAX machine or cellular telephone. It all comes down to saving time, Ronniger said.
"They buy a busy executive a lot of time. The atmosphere on a company airplane is conducive to doing business."
Since they are spending such large sums of money, most buyers take their time when purchasing an airplane. A sale can take several months to close.
"Ten years ago, they (buyers) weren't very sophisticated, now they're very sophisticated," he said.
For instance, some corporate companies have their own flight departments, which can employ as many as 100 people.
The aircraft vary in price according to their ownership and maintenance histories, age, cosmetics and hours flown. Ronniger travels frequently to personally inspect aircraft that may interest buyers.
All of the aircraft Corporate Wings sells are used, and most of Ronniger's customers live outside Utah.
Last year, Ronniger arranged the sale of eight aircraft. In the first two months of this year, he has five sales in progress, one of which should be completed this week.
"If we can do 12 aircraft a year, that's a tremendous amount of aircraft," he said.