California-based aircraft charter and management firm Schubach Aviation has added a new hangar and office space and expects to enlarge its managed fleet to 20 by the end of the year as it rides the wave of demand experienced by Part 135 operators across the country.
Based at McClellan-Palomar Airport (KCRQ) in San Diego County, the 45-employee company has seen a 30 percent increase in demand and revenue in the past year, owner and CEO Kimberly Herrell told AIN. At the same time the company has added a second 23,000-sq-ft hangar at KCRQ and built out offices from its existing space there that Herrell said is aimed at creating “somewhere people want to work, that just feels modern” and “to attract new talent.”
Of the 20 jets it plans to have in the managed fleet by year-end, 12 will be available for charter, according to Herrell. On the charter side of the business, Schubach focuses primarily on retail clients, with supplemental lift being just a fraction of its business.
Herrell, who’s been with the company for 16 years starting in charter sales, acquired the operator from founder Henry Schubach in January 2020. She noted the acquisition was “just before Covid was a thing,” further acknowledging it was “a little touch and go for being a brand-new business owner. It was interesting timing, but it ended up being a good thing. As we all know, Covid really brought so much awareness to our industry and appreciation of what we offer and what we do.”
One of Schubach’s challenges, like other Part 135 operators, is the pilot shortage. Schubach has countered that with “pretty decent raises” and extra days off, Herrell said. The company also has tapped into another resource: recently retired airline and cargo pilots. “It’s a part-time program,” she explained. “They fly about eight to 10 days a month. They love it. We love it. I know we’ve got them for two or three years so that’s been really successful.”
With pay on the increase for Part 135 pilots, Herrell noted that “we’re seeing a few pilots who have gone to other careers returning to piloting. Now they’re seeing that it can be a career that’s lucrative. And I’m talking guys with 5,000, 6,000 hours. It’s not like they are novices.”
As the company grows, Herrell said it’s important that Schubach redouble its customer service efforts.
“With all the big consolidation going on we really want to make sure we stay service-focused,” she said. “I think it’s easy to lose a customer when you get to some of these huge scales we’ve seen. That’s kind of the feedback that we’re getting from clients as well. So we’re trying to stay focused on that even in the midst of all this interest and more customers than airplanes.”