CEDAR RAPIDS — For many Corridor corporate executives and business owners, time is money and anything that enables them to be more productive is welcome.
With that thought in mind, Jim Kaas launched Jet There LLC, a light jet air taxi service based in the former Cedar Rapids Police Department helicopter hangar and office at The Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids.
“We work on projects that frequently have multiple people involved,” said Kaas, president of Iowa Fluid Power Group in Cedar Rapids. “If we had to think that it will take a day to fly out, a day to do business, and a day to fly back, we might just send one guy or do it by phone.
“If you can fly out there today, stop somewhere going out or on the way back to transact additional business and have the extra seats available, you might take some younger project engineers. It’s hard to put a price tag on the knowledge they gain from having that firsthand experience.”
Kaas, a licensed pilot with airline transport certification and private pilot privileges, has 14 years of experience operating a corporate flight department at Iowa Fluid Power. During that time, he managed three aircraft owned concurrently, five full-time employees who are pilots and numerous contract pilots.
Kaas said repeated requests by fellow Corridor executives for the use of his 2008 Cessna Citation Mustang prompted him to form Jet There, a Federal Aviation Administration certified air carrier.
“We felt there was a need for light jet service,” Kaas said. “There are a lot of people who fly private jets out of Cedar Rapids, but most are corporations who own their aircraft or the big guys. Anyone else has to bring in a charter aircraft, fly commercial or fly turboprop.
“There’s nothing wrong with a turbprop, but we offer a jet alternative at competitive rates per mile with turboprop aircraft.”
Patrick Gordon, chief pilot and director of aviation at Jet There, said the sleek six-seat Cessna Citation Mustang is a cost-effective aircraft to operate.
“As jets go, this is by far the most economical to operate,” Gordon said. “When you compare it with a turboprop, it’s a much shorter flight and because you fly at a higher altitude, it’s a much quieter flight.”
The Cessna Citation Mustang is somewhat unusual for a jet in that it can be flown by a pilot without the requirement of a second officer or co-pilot. Kaas said that reduces the cost of flying the aircraft without sacrificing any safety.
“We will offer another pilot if — for whatever reason — a customer would feel more comfortable with another pilot,” he said.”The economics get better on a longer flight, so it’s more cost effective for someone to fly to somewhere like Sarasota, Fla., or Pittsburgh, Pa.
“You can fly commercial, but usually that means you will not get as much accomplished. If several people are going, you can hold a meeting while you’re in the air and we will be there to fly you back when you’re ready.
“You also save time because you’re not required to go through security. In many cases, you can have a car meet you as you step off the plane at your destination and return you to our aircraft that evening.”
While there are national jet charter services that will provide a plane at your destination for the return flight, they schedule jets for specific times with little margin for meetings that last longer than expected. Kaas said Jet There will wait for the customer to arrive, letting them set the departure time.
Kaas said Jet There’s target customer is a company located east of the Rocky Mountains with one to four people who need to fly somewhere for a day-long meeting. He said travel brokers book the flights as well as individual company executives and representatives.
Jet There, in documents provided to the Cedar Rapids Airport Commission, projects first-year sales of $153,6000, second-year sales of $268,800 and sales of $480,000 for each of years three through five.
Gordon said ultimately Jet There wants to establish long term relationships with Corridor businesses and corporate executives.
“We also would like to be a second or third aircraft for corporations that have their own jets,” he said. “We want to fill a niche in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Waterloo Corridor for those customers who fly occasionally, but not enough to justify buying their own aircraft.”
Kaas said the Cessna Citation Mustang will be maintained with safety standards that exceed those required by the Federal Aviation Administration.
“If there’s a scratch on that aircraft, it will be repaired promptly,” he said. “We have already operated as a corporate flight department with high standards and we are willing to do whatever is required to meet or exceed FAA requirements.”
Gordon previously served as a pilot for Virgin America and Frontier Airlines flying Airbus aircraft, and Pinnacle Airlines (Northwest Airlink and Express 1 Airlines) flying Canadair Regional Jets.