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Published December 13, 2013, 08:00 PM

Fargo Jet Center plans to break ground on new hangar facility as aircraft use soars across ND

FARGO - Private and business aircraft use has taken off across the state of North Dakota. The number of private and business aircrafts registered in the state has increased almost 20 percent since 2008, said Kyle Wanner, an airport planner with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

By: Angie Wieck, INFORUM

FARGO - Private and business aircraft use has taken off across the state of North Dakota.

The number of private and business aircrafts registered in the state has increased almost 20 percent since 2008, said Kyle Wanner, an airport planner with the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission.

As a result, hangar expansions are planned at several fixed-base operations across the state, including at the Fargo Jet Center.

About 84 planes are based at the Jet Center, which has been at capacity for nearly a year. The company maintains a waiting list for clients and has plans to break ground on a new hangar facility next year.

“We’ll work through this winter to develop our plans for the construction of a new facility that will help accommodate the needs we have today and those in the future as we continue to grow as a company,” said Darren Hall, vice president of marketing.

Hall said all company divisions – maintenance and avionics, aircraft ground and fueling services, charter flights, aircraft sales and a flight school – have experienced recent growth.

‘An upward trend’

While North Dakota has often seemed somewhat insulated, Hall said business at the Jet Center suffered during the recent economic slump.

The Jet Center’s revenue does not depend solely on Fargo-based airplanes. As a service company, it also gets business from planes that pass through en route to other locations.

Fargo’s geographic location puts it along many cross-country flight plans such as New York to Seattle. It also sits along many routes between the U.S. and Europe, making it a popular customs and refueling point.

“There was a period when people were selling their planes or not flying them because their businesses were struggling,” Hall said. “Now we’re seeing an upward trend as the economy is recovering and people are flying again.”

Hall also credits a portion of the Jet Center’s growth to flights to and from the western North Dakota’s Oil Patch.

In 2008, just five planes flew from the Fargo Jet Center to Williston in July, typically the center’s busiest month of the year. This year, 22 planes made the trip in July.

Williston is one of many airports used by private aircraft in the Oil Patch, Hall said. Business is also booming at airports in Watford City and Tioga, which are also planning hangar expansions.

“What we are seeing more and more is that people are seeing the work in western North Dakota as something long term and people are investing in it,” Hall said.

That includes executives of the Fargo Jet Center. After spending several years monitoring Williston’s growth, they formed a partnership with Overland Aviation of Williston and Ross Aviation of Denver to purchase the existing aviation service company.

In addition to partial ownership, the Fargo Jet Center entered into an agreement to manage the facility.

Benefits of air travel

Hall uses the Williston commute as an example of the benefits of business aviation.

Take a group of Fargo engineers who need to work eight hours on a project in Williston. Traveling the seven hours one way by car turns the project into a two-day event, whereas a flight can have those engineers home for dinner the same day.

In its 2014 Business Aviation Fact Book, the National Business Aviation Association states that air transportation can improve the overall efficiency and financial performance of a business.

Among the benefits it lists are:

  • Saving employee time.

  • Increasing traveler productivity. Travelers have the ability to meet, plan and work en route to and from their destination.

  • Accessing communities with little or no airline service. Business aviation serves 10 times the number of U.S. airports (more than 5,000) served by commercial airports (about 500).

  • Scheduling predictability. About 3 percent of all commercial flights are canceled, but nearly one quarter more are delayed. Some companies are also located in towns with low frequencies of airline flights, leaving travelers with few or no alternatives if a flight is cancelled.

Ownership options

Private and business air travel is expected to continue to grow as long as affordable options exist to own an airplane.

Those hoping to purchase a plane who do not have the money to own and operate it on their own can enter a leaseback agreement or fractional ownership.

Under a leaseback agreement, owners who fly their plane only a few hundred hours a year can offset the high cost of maintaining and operating a plane by leasing it back to a charter operator such as the Fargo Jet Center. The charter operator will then operate the plane like it’s a member of its fleet.

Hall said many charter operators do not own their own planes. They lease them back and manage them for clients, generating revenue for both parties.

Fractional ownership is when two or more companies or private parties share plane ownership.

Hall said the most common arrangement is two parties because the more involved, the more difficult it is for them to use the plane when they need it.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Angie Wieck at (701) 241-5501

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