In December, large-cabin charter and management firm Jet Edge International is moving its headquarters into a larger and newer space at Van Nuys Airport (VNY) in California as the company continues on a rapid growth pace that has seen its flight hours jump from about 3,200 annually five years ago to 29,000 now.
“Jet Edge has had a nice run over the last five years,” said Jet Edge CEO Bill Papariella, noting the company has grown 36 percent year-over-year in that time frame.
“Our new corporate headquarters is a reflection of where we, as a company, are headed,” he added, noting that the company has been “bursting at the seams” in its current location, an older hangar also at VNY. The new location, under lease through Signature Flight Support, will provide a modern 45,000-sq-ft Class A hangar that can accommodate a Gulfstream G650 or Bombardier Global Express. The new facilities include a further 20,000 sq feet of maintenance space and 12,000 sq feet dedicated to offices and hospitality.
Another important factor for Papariella is that the new site will offer an upscale location for its owners, increasing its competitiveness. The accommodations will offer a well-appointed lounge and amenities such as a full kitchen for meal service.
Along with the facilities, Papariella said Jet Edge secured another three to four acres of land with future plans to build, noting that the company already will have nearly outgrown the new location as it stands now. The long-term vision is to develop a full campus on the site with multiple facilities, from maintenance to hangars and the lounge for its owners.
This vision comes as Papariella has expanded the company to 175 employees (not including crew) from just six when he bought it in September 2011. Add in crewmembers, that number swells to more than 500. Its all-managed fleet also has grown to more than 50 aircraft, about 85 percent of which are Gulfstreams.
Papariella credits this growth to a strong, experienced team that he has brought in over time. Among them are president and COO Charles Celli, who came to Jet Edge after leading GDC Technics and holding senior roles with Gulfstream and Jet Aviation, and Edward Frank, the chief administrative officer, who formerly headed TWC Aviation and led its acquisition of ACM Aviation.
“The platform we built has become a very significant operating platform,” Papariella said. “We’re hitting our goal of competing at the upper levels of operating platforms.”
Building the Business
Papariella, a former NetJets executive, brought to the business many lessons that he learned at the fractional operator, including safety, quality assurance and high standards. But he primarily credited his team with building a foundation. They were known and trusted professionals who attracted business through previous relationships. From there, he said, the platform has retained that business with very little turnover and is now at the point where its management side is now growing mostly through referrals. “In operating airplanes, to get the best, you have to build a platform that is the best,” he said.
To Papariella that means beginning with a strong safety culture. The company incorporates a safety management program, but also retains the highest level of safety endorsements—Argus Platinum, Wyvern Wingman and IS-BAO Stage 3—and incorporates an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP). Noting the substantial investment the company has made in developing an ASAP, he said Jet Edge is one of about a handful of private aircraft operators that has developed an ASAP and secured the three highest recognitions. The ASAP provides assurances to the pilots that they are being heard, he said. This fosters a positive culture throughout the company, he added.
In addition, he also credited the service for its low-turnover rates with what Papariella called high “touch points” with the customers. Executives constantly engage with owners through updates and personally reaching out to them.
The Gulfstream-centric fleet grew that way because the company’s executives early on had expertise with those models. But Papariella added, “I thought best way to grow responsibly was to focus on commonality of jet types and not add a lot of complexity. This is already a complex business.”
However, as Jet Edge has established its foundation, it is opening up to other types. The company has also managed Dassault Falcon 2000s and has begun approving additions of other Falcons, along with Embraer Legacy 500s, 600s and 650s and some Bombardier jets. He noted this will change the company’s force a little bit, but added the company is now positioned for that growth.