How a female aviator shook up the industry by founding her own aircraft charter company
Desert Jet, founded by Denise Wilson, has 600 clients and counting.
As applications for the 2011 Inc. 500 | 5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, go to http://www.inc.com/inc5000apply/2011/index.html). One that caught our eye was Desert Jet, an aircraft charter and management company based in Thermal, California, near Palm Springs.
Denise Wilson is an anomaly in the flying community. She is one of the nearly 38,000 active female pilots in the United States, just six percent of all active pilots in the country, according to the Federal Aviation Administration. She's been flying for the past 15 years including stints working for Aloha Airlines and other major airlines. What makes her even more rare is that she's also the founder and president of an aviation company, Desert Jet, which she launched in 2007.
The company acts as brokers for corporations who own their own planes, thereby affording companies who own private aircrafts the opportunity to offset their expenses by chartering out their planes when they are not in use. This arrangement allows Desert Jet to have full operation of the aircraft without the debt and liabilities associated with actual ownership.
The company warehouses and leases out the aircraft on a per-flight basis to the general public for prices that range from $1,500 to $3,500 per hour. "Our clients will call us and tell us where they want to go and what time they want to go. We provide them not only with the aircraft, but also with ground transportation, catering on the flight, and any other special requests," says Wilson.
Desert Jet employs eight pilots in addition to ground support, charter schedulers, and dispatchers in their two offices. They currently warehouse and operate four aircrafts, including a nine-seater, non-stop coast-to-coast Hawker and a seven-seater King Air turboprop for regional flights. Desert Jet is certificated by the Federal Aviation Administration as an air carrier and operates out of the Bermuda Dunes, Thermal, and Palm Springs airports in the Palm Springs, California area.
"I'd say really the only obstacles we had when we first began was the concept of a woman owning an aviation business. That was a little foreign to some people," says Williams, who now has annual revenues of $2.1 million representing 1,300 percent growth over the past three years. "But now that our clients have flown with us and they know us, they know our emphasis on safety and quality, I really have had very few obstacles."