Aviation Companies Forge Ahead, Despite Economy

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Every crisis is an opportunity for somebody, and as the economic news continues to sour, plenty of aviation entrepreneurs are finding ways to adapt to the new markets. This week, Revolution Air, a charter broker based in New York, said it has seen an increase in corporate charter flights from companies receiving government assistance. "It's no secret that corporate flight departments are currently being regarded as luxury items for businesses, which is rather unfortunate given their necessity in today's worldwide competitive corporate environment," said company President Ron Goldstein. When commercial flights are not an option for time or security reasons, Goldstein's charters offer a cost-effective solution. He added that he is seeing a trend to use charters for business travel only and executives are switching to commercial travel for skiing and golf trips. In Europe, new air-taxi startup Blink, which launched in June 2008 with a fleet of Citation Mustangs, has also seen growth in demand as corporations downsize from larger jets. The company promises the benefits of personal air travel at prices competitive with commercial business class and up to 50 percent cheaper than other corporate jet services.

In Boston, Mass., Eclipse 500 operator Linear Air said revenue in February grew 131 percent over the year before, and it is now adding flights between several East Coast airports and the Bahamas. "While the fractionals, major airlines, and even low-cost airlines reported serious declines in February, demand for our unique low-cost personal air service more than doubled in New England," said CEO Bill Herp. The company also operates a fleet of Cessna Grand Caravans. And Hopscotch Air, an air-taxi service based in New York, is moving forward with plans to launch a fleet of Cirrus SR-22s next month. The company promises airline-competitive prices for personal service to convenient airports.

Other GA companies may not be seeing growth right now, but remain bullish about the near term. Executive AirShare, based in Kansas City, Mo., is moving ahead with its plan to add nine more Embraer Phenom charter jets to its fleet this year, though business lately has been down. "We haven't lowered our goals for 2009," company President Keith Plumb told the Kansas City Star. "We think we can target the customer base from the national fractional programs and grow." ImagineAir, an Atlanta-based operator flying Cirrus SR22s, doubled its business in 2008; click here for that story from Monday's AVwebFlash.