Best AeroNet launches new business at North Texas field

 - August 11, 2008, 6:19 AM

Jet-fuel discount provider Best AeroNet formally opened its Lake Texoma Jet Center on the Sherman/Denison Grayson County Airport (GYI) last month and announced the formation of two other related businesses.

In addition to the FBO, the former military airport about 40 nm north of metropolitan Dallas and just south of the Texas-Oklahoma state line will also be home to Best AeroNet Maintenance and a shared-ownership management operation.

Best was founded in 1992 by Roger Humiston and his wife, Kate Woolstenhulme, at North Dallas’ Addison Airport (ADS) to provide a nationwide discount fuel program. As that business grew, travel needs dictated the purchase of an airplane, and Humiston, a former 30-year corporate pilot, chose a Learjet 24. He rebuilt and refurbished the 35-year-old jet and found four partners to share costs.

“We call it a ‘shared ownership’ program,” Humiston explained. “That means every partner is basically responsible for his share of the actual cost of the airplane, and each partner also shares its maintenance costs. After a couple of years, the original partners got their own jets, and that brought in more airplanes so we began running out of hangar space at Addison.”

In addition to the lack of facilities, there was the cost of rental property on the high-profile suburban business airport, so Humiston and Woolstenhulme, along with her brother, Steve (a partner in AeroNet), began searching for a more modestly priced location that would best serve Best AeroNet and its maintenance/management businesses.

“We looked at small airports and found plenty of detractors and airport boards that I guess didn’t want to give space to outside people,” Steve Woolstenhulme observed.

A Welcome Reception

But when they got to Denison, they found a community that needed business. The former Perrin Air Force Base, located five miles northeast of Sherman, had been a training facility from World War II until it was deactivated in 1972. The runways were long– originally stressed for heavy bombers–the facilities were sound and, since the Air Force had secured air rights years ago, devoid of noise complaints. A deal was struck, and AeroNet began moving its physical assets to GYI.

“We inherited the FBO part of this,” said Steve Woolstenhulme, “which was great for us because we needed to showcase the AeroNet fuel system, and it would give us a lot of experience and exposure among the thousands of corporate flight departments with which we regularly do business.”

There was only one problem with the facility–it was about one hangar short. “We needed offices for our AeroNet operation,” Humiston said, “so we bought a hangar at the Frisco Airport north of Dallas and a 32-foot trailer. It took one month to dismantle the hangar, and three days to move it. We started in January, had it up by April and finished by October.

“I believe fractional ownership took off like wildfire because everybody had disposable business income and nobody paid attention to whether it was a good deal or not,” Humiston said. “In our shared-ownership plan, we charge a minuscule management fee, we maintain and operate the airplane and provide discounted jet fuel. It’s a value-oriented proposition. I think fractional ownership is greatly inflated in terms of value.”

“We’ve chosen the Learjet 25 and the Falcon 20 as the backbone of our program,” explained Steve Woolstenhulme. “There have never been two better aircraft manufactured, and once they’ve been reconditioned they’re just as fabulous as they ever were, and for a small cost compared to a new aircraft.”

The maintenance operation division at GYI will specialize in Learjet 12-year and de-mate inspections and heavy maintenance.

Humiston believes Lake Texoma Jet Center is perfectly located for mid-continent refueling stops, and not just because it’s in the middle of the country. Denison is outside the Dallas/Fort Worth Class-B airspace, so pilots are free to choose descent and departure paths, usually without delays. Plans are being made for a control tower, and the runway is 9,000 feet long and is strong enough to handle loaded 747 freighters.

Through groundwork laid by the North Texas Industrial Freeport Management Partners, GYI has been declared a foreign trade zone, meaning that foreign parts can be imported for assembly and reshipment without being taxed, making GYI, Dallas/Fort Worth and Alliance the only three FTZ airports in North Texas.

The partners in Best AeroNet know that the gigantic Dallas/Fort Worth “Metroplex” will continue to grow, and it will undoubtedly do so in their direction. The population of southern neighbor Colin County increased by 86 percent in the 1990s. When the new homes and corporate headquarters and business aircraft reach Denison, Best AeroNet will be ready.