John Owen sees growth ahead for Executive AirShare and, by extension, its Wichita operations.
In Wichita, the company operates its main maintenance base and an Embraer service center from a 27,000-square-foot hangar and 6,000 square feet of offices at Jabara Airport.
On the way to Denver on Wednesday to announce AirShare's first base expansion under Owen's leadership, the 41-year-old chief executive talked with The Eagle about what's ahead for the privately held company based in Lenexa and a relatively new majority owner, Kansas City, Mo.-based Curran Cos.
AirShare, established in 2000, employs 200 people across 12 bases in six states — including 24 in Wichita — and operates a fleet of 30 fractional business jets and turboprops. It also manages a fleet of 20 aircraft for individual owners under Executive Flight Services.
Owen, who has an accounting background, joined the company in fall 2016 as chief financial officer and was promoted to CEO earlier this year.
How does Wichita factor into what AirShare is doing today?
"Wichita is our main maintenance base. It is our Embraer service center. It's where our head of maintenance lies. It's where it all started. It's really what even helped us come out to Denver because of our relationship with (insurance broker) IMA, (chairman and CEO) Rob Cohen. They're our launch customer out in Denver. So (Wichita's) really been at the crux of everything we’ve done."
Why expand to Denver?
"It was in our top five destinations. I think it was actually No. 2 , to where we had a plane out there at least half the days of the year. And with how big that market is growing, it just was a natural fit for us. We fly in and out of the mountains, in and out of Centennial and other airports. It was easily the most natural next fit as far as expansion goes. "
AirShare's base will be at XJet's fixed base operation at Centennial Airport southeast of Denver, and will be staffed by Lee Richards, who will serve new and existing AirShare customers in the Denver area.
Where does the company go from here?
"We just want to take our model that we have now and expand it outside of mostly the central United States and south. We've got Denver and we've got Buffalo (N.Y.) and we think we can connect the dots between those two locations and do the exact same things we're doing in the markets we're in now."
What is the new majority ownership group doing for the company?
"They are very much like the old ownership group in that it’s a family business type atmosphere but with a more private equity type history, to where they very much see the value in it. They were originally share owners and still are share owners, and saw what the business does bring to what they’ve done and what other customers can do. So their thought is, 'Why can't we just do what we do now and do it on a larger scale?'"
How big does AirShare get?
"We think that we can for sure double what we do now over the next few years. And then it becomes how far toward the coasts do you want to go, if that makes sense. We think there’s a lot of under-served markets for what we do, and we can bring a lot of value to some of those businesses and some of those customers that don’t have a service quite like ours."