CJP Partner Feature: Desert Jet
Operating in Turbulent Times
Running an on-demand charter company, a top FBO operation and a Part 145 Repair Station during COVID-19.
Nine months ago, I took over the role of Chief Executive Officer of the Desert Jet companies (a Part 135 charter operation specializing in Citations, a mid-tier FBO that was still under construction and a Part 145 repair station) at KTRM in the beautiful Palm Springs area. Like all companies, we had our share of challenges and adversities at the time, but of course, no one could see what was on the horizon.
We all know what has happened since. In the last 90 days, the world has seen an unpreceded impact on our way of life, our ability to travel freely, and worst of all, a threat to our health. Through all of this, it has been amazing to see the perseverance, the commitment, and the adaptability of the aviation community and the Desert Jet team. Watching our team overcome so many of the challenges we’ve seen and to be able to continue to flourish has been inspiring. We’ve had to change many things we do in our businesses to ensure we are providing the safest experience possible. Despite new safety requirements and costs, the industry has seen drops in demand and fuel sales that can be alarming. These are all concerns for a CEO, as you can imagine, but seeing the business and private aviation community’s spirit and desire to keep flying has been inspiring. We are now seeing the reemergence of the business and general aviation world, and with it, hope.
Today, we still all share extraordinary challenges and adversity on a global scale. With the worldwide spread of this Coronavirus, countries have closed their borders or restricted entry, and people are ordered to stay at home. Commercial airline travel is discouraged, while many businesses deemed as nonessential are forced to shut down, causing millions of people to lose their jobs and crippling the economy. Where companies previously focused on growth strategies, many now focus on survival strategies and cost cutting efficiencies. For many aviation companies, this means reducing salaries, furloughing employees, grounding planes, minimizing hours of operations, and halting production to save operational costs on lost business due to the pandemic.
Overnight, the industry’s messaging pivoted from time-saving convenience and luxury for businesses and personal travel to health and safety, first responder, and repatriation. Aviation companies now promote social distancing, wearing masks, and adherence to following CDC protocols, including increased cleanliness and disinfection of touchpoints on aircraft, FBOs, maintenance facilities, and corporate offices.
Through this period, Desert Jet has maintained operations and has quickly adjusted its business to adapt to the current market conditions caused by the crisis. At a time when safety has never been more important, Desert Jet Charter renewed our ARGUS Platinum rating and has been recertified for our Wyvern Wingman status by successfully completing stringent audits. Our cleaning protocols have increased across our fleet and facilities to address and avoid the spread of COVID19. Our charter aircraft continue to fly, though primarily to connect families and assist with essential business travel. Our FBO facility Desert Jet Center now provides complimentary cabin disinfection to aircraft flying into the Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport (KTRM) in Thermal, California. And with more aircraft downtime, our FAA Part 145 repair station remains busy working on inspections, annual maintenance, and other items owners are choosing to do now to take advantage of the lull. In fact, many aircraft owners are contacting us to review their MX history and due lists to ensure their planes are in top condition.
Experts are forecasting a positive outlook for private aviation, but like so much these days, we will need to watch closely and carefully. As people begin to feel comfortable traveling again, business and GA are sure to be the first choices. There is a lot of optimism for new customers choosing to fly privately to avoid the lingering health concerns with traveling on the airlines. Charter operators are already seeing increased interest from companies wanting to fly their employees by business aircraft.
New technologies are helpful for some business tasks, but nothing will ever replace a face to face meeting. Certainly, it will take a long time before we truly know the effects of this unprecedented crisis, but it has forever changed the landscape of business aviation and the companies that conduct business within the industry. More changes are inevitable, but I am happy to have our strong team ready to take on the challenges and the opportunities that come with change.