SKYSHARE | FEATURE STORY
Celebrating 14 years
of success in the skies
on a hot, June summer day in 2009, I turned the key to my new, one-room office at the Ogden Airport, 30 miles north of Salt Lake City, Utah. It was the start of something completely new and thrilling. In the 14 years since, each and every single day, I’ve been in-love with aviation, in-love with flying and being a pilot, and thrilled to share my passion with anyone that asks.
But I’m not going to lie to you — aviation is a tough nut to crack. As “The Oracle of Omaha” Warren Buffet himself commented just last month,
(A competitor has) 12,600 people who have given them over a billion dollars on prepaid cards… and I think there’s a good chance some people are going to be disappointed later on.
“(A competitor has) 12,600 people who have given them over a billion dollars on prepaid cards…and I think there’s a good chance some people are going to be disappointed later on.”
Ours is a brutal business of $100k cracked windshields, pilot hiring carrousels, and ups and downs that sometimes feel like a rollercoaster. I’m still amazed to see how quickly our industry can change and how we seldom learn from one another’s mistakes.
Given the current state of the aviation business, I realize SkyShare’s clients, employees, and prospects are keeping a close watch on the news. One of our main competitors closed their doors on both their employees and owners last week, letting go of all staff in an email and
leaving their fractional owners AOG in the dark. Further, the competitor Mr. Buffet referred to earlier had their CEO resign less than a month ago, joining a long list of their fleeing leadership. Their stock, which IPO’d at $10.00 per share and rose to as high as $12.00 per share, is hovering at ~$0.27 as of today.
Back in 2017, when our fractional program was still in the research and development stage, I interviewed everyone I could find with experience in this sector and asked questions until they told me to shut up. I flew-in former executives from highly successful companies like Airshare (then still “Executive Airshare”) and notorious flame-outs like Avantair. What did they do right? What would they change if they could travel back in time? Most importantly, what were the crucial things they felt we should learn in order that SkyShare could find and sustain success?
Due in large part to how we’ve structured our company, while we are witnessing a slowdown in requests and demand, I want to reassure you that SkyShare stands in a solid place, healthy and thriving as a company. Instead of furloughing pilots or planning layoffs, we are actively hiring more pilots. I am also excited to announce that we have a new G200 under contract, which the company will own and utilize for charter and to support the fractional demand.
I felt it was important to help our owners and potential owners understand why we’re able to grow profitably in spite of the current climate. Here are some key factors:
- In-house maintenance
By performing a majority of our maintenance internally, we’ve reduced operating costs through self-reliance versus always being in the corner pocket with third-party facilities.
- Proactive charter team
The diligent efforts of our Charter Team to sell empty legs and charters while fleet aircraft sit idle set us apart from many other operators. Many other fractional companies do not do this at all or as diligently.
- Fuel cost reduction
In 2015, we acquired our first FBO in Ogden, UT. In 2017, our second in Marin Co., CA. The combination of SkyShare FBOs and a large fleet enables us to purchase fuel in bulk, further lowering our operating costs.
- Aircraft brokerage
When we started our journey 14 years ago, our identity was as an aircraft broker. The SkyShare Brokerage continues to generate significant revenue for us. Moreover, this means our overall revenue is diversified, allowing SkyShare to benefit regardless of the “hot” product.
- Fractional focus
The major note we heard time and again by trusted voices when creating our fractional program was to grow organically in terms of geography. By focusing only on clients who live here in the West, we’ve minimized repositioning (the #1 expense of any fractional operator). This approach sets us apart from companies that expand too rapidly, resulting in excessive deadheading or chartering aircraft for long owner flights.
- Old fashioned economics
As both the founder and majority owner of SkyShare, I can confirm we have never taken any PE (private equity) or VC (venture capital) funds. This allows our highly experienced leadership team to run our company with all our employee’s best interests at heart, and with the goal of learning from our mistakes to create sustained growth over many years.
SkyShare chooses to operate in the private flight space because we do not see aviation as a commodity. However, we exist downmarket from Warren’s company because one of SkyShare’s value propositions is to provide 90% of the big boys’ offerings at 45% of the cost.
In closing, SkyShare’s growth and stability amid industry challenges is a testament to our talented employees’ efforts, our effective business strategies, and the unique advantages that define us. Let’s continue to grow and Love Our Journey together!