STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald
Travel has become more of a hassle in recent years with the Transportation Security Administration, long lines and overbooked flights. Private jets, once seen as a luxury, have become more common with fractional ownership, and some locals are jumping on board.
One company that offers fractional jet ownership – buying part of an airplane and getting a certain amount of flying hours per year depending on your share of the jet – recently visited Durango to show its jet to two potential buyers.
Avantair has a good customer base in Colorado, but the company doesn’t have any customers in Durango, said Russ Meyer, the firm’s regional sales manager.
One of Avantair’s jets, Piaggio Aero Industries’ P180 Avanti II, enticed two locals to seek out the company and asked it to bring the jet to Durango for a showing. Avantair is based in Clearwater, Fla., and flies the jet to cities all over the country for potential clients to see.
Jonathan Drake is one of those potential clients. Drake wants to bring his family with him when he travels for work, but most jets won’t seat his wife and three children, he said. He travels about 10 times a year.
“I stumbled upon Avantair, which was a great thing,” said Drake, owner and founder of Drake Holdings Inc. “It’s the only company in the country that has fractional ownership with that aircraft. For me, it’s all about the plane.”
The Piaggio Avanti is a light jet that burns about 98 gallons an hour. Avantair also has the Gulfstream 400, a heavy jet that burns about 415 gallons an hour.
Mancos resident Lowell Ulshafer was also impressed with the Piaggio Avanti, particularly given his business. Ulshafer is the founder of Hydrogen 4 Gas, a Mancos-based company that converts internal-combustion vehicles into hybrids. Ulshafer just submitted a patent for the technology.
The company was established to fund Amazing Love ministries, a nonprofit organization run by Ulshafer. The nonprofit has partnered with another nonprofit – Feed the Children – and Ulshafer frequently travels to bring food back to local communities.
“They (the jet) get great gas mileage, which is a good marketing ploy with us,” Ulshafer said.
Fractional ownership comes with a cost, though. A one-sixteenth share of a jet, which gives the owner 50 hours of flying time a year, costs $425,000. There also is an $11,700 monthly management fee, which is used to pay for maintenance, pilots and fuel. Avantair will cover up to $8 per gallon of jet fuel. The national average of fuel is about $7.10 per gallon, Meyer said.
Avantair also offers jet leases, which are similar to fractional ownership. The leases can ultimately cost more. For a lease with 50 hours of flying a year, there is a down payment of $29,000, a monthly lease of $2,900 and a monthly management fee of $11,700. For those not sure if they want to commit to a ownership or lease, the company offers “Edge Cards” where a customer can buy 15, 25 or 50 hours of flying a year.
The company only covers up to $4 per gallon of jet fuel for those with the 15-hour card, which costs $67,500. Fuel up to $8 a gallon is covered with the 25- and 50-hour cards. There is no monthly management fee for the cards.
Ulshafer and Drake said if they use the company, they will probably begin with cards to test it before committing to ownership or lease.