After being furloughed from her job as a commercial airline pilot following 9/11, Denise Wilson took a gig flying a private jet for a wealthy client. That got her thinking, and in 2007, she launched Desert Jet, a private jet charter service. Despite the shaky economy, business (ahem) took off. Last year, the Thermal, California-based company had sales of $2.1 million, earning it the No. 296 spot on the 2011 Inc. 5000. As told to Darren Dahl.
I used to be a professional oboist playing in various orchestras, but I got into flying as a hobby. After three years of flying lessons, I decided to make a career switch to be a pilot. I flew for Aloha Airlines and American Eagle for four years.
There is significant demand for private jet travel; it's just that nobody wants to own planes anymore-especially after the dustup when the Big Three automakers flew their jets to D.C. in 2008.
February was our best month ever. Each of our five planes flew 60 hours, which is a lot in the private aviation industry.
We are seeing a huge uptick in private travel, especially among businesses engaged in acquisitions and IPOs. It's a great sign that the economy is picking up.
We plan on adding a plane or two a year. We could easily take on more planes and flights, but we're actually trying to temper our growth. We want to make sure our quality of service isn't affected.
I am still one of the pilots for the company. Being a corporate pilot is much more fulfilling than being a commercial pilot. I get to choose my own schedule, which is every pilot's dream.