Cirrus operator OpenAir enjoys double-digit growth

Washington DC
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OpenAir, a US regional Cirrus SR22 operator, says it is experiencing 30% revenue growth year-over-year despite the downturn.

The Maryland-based Part 135 operator credits the expansion in large part to the service vacuum left when Greenville, South Carolina-based SR22 operator SATSair went out of business in October 2009.

"We've been a bright spot," says company president Michael Klein. "We're still profitable. We're smart. We've been very, very slow in our growth, but steady."

Klein says OpenAir has 11 SR22s on its Part 135 certificate, only two of which are owned by the company. The aircraft are based in six cities across the USA. Traverse City in Michigan is the latest location.

Average flight time for the fleet is 200h a month, says Klein, noting that aircraft in Texas and Louisiana are slowest on hours while the SATSair territory is the highest growth area. "SATSair going out of business was huge for us," says Klein. "Our name is getting out there as well. People have begun to trust us."

OpenAir has recently tripled the size of its headquarters at Montgomery County Airpark in Maryland, with the opening of a new 186m2 (2,000ft2) office, the first new construction at the airport in 30 years, says Klein.

Aiding growth in flight hours and capabilities is flight into known icing (FIKI) capability, which it has on one aircraft and will soon have on a second. "It allows us to do a lot of winter missions we were not able to do before," says Klein, adding that the company plans for the entire fleet to be FIKI capable.

OpenAir is also supplementing its air taxi business as a carrier for medical organs and hazardous medical materials such as cancer medications that must be transported quickly.

Klein says he would like to have three to five FIKI SR22s in the air taxi fleet within a year and envisages the company "going national" in five years with the SR22 as the baseline aircraft. "If we go into something else, we will be no different from other companies," he says.

Funding such growth is a challenge. Klein says finding private equity would allow OpenAir to launch a national marketing programme with perhaps an "ex-airline chief executive type" running the operation, "someone with a lot of experience to help us grow in a different direction", he says.