Monday, June 18 , 2018, 10:09 pm | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 

Business

Advice

Silver Air Aviation Management Company Grows in Santa Barbara

Business moves into larger local headquarters on State Street and adds employees

Silver Air founder and president Jason Middleton says pilots are the most important part of his Santa Barbara-based business, which helps manage private charter service.
Silver Air founder and president Jason Middleton says pilots are the most important part of his Santa Barbara-based business, which helps manage private charter service. (Silver Air photo)

Jason Middleton is in the business of managing airplanes, not owning them.

Private jet owners provide their planes, and Santa Barbara-based Silver Air offers peace of mind by booking customers for private charter flights and managing the operation side of things.

Business for Middleton’s nearly 8-year-old company is good going into 2016, especially heading into the holidays, which are typically a popular time for private aviation.

Silver Air recently moved from a smaller downtown office into a larger suite at 3760 State St., growing its staff, executive team and work space to keep up with demand.

“Our pilots have a lot of ownership,” said Middleton, founder and president. 

He described Silver Air’s role as more advocacy than dollars and cents.

“I think (pilots) are a hugely valuable resource. Our growth is based on fleet size. Our opportunity for growth is a lot greater than some of our competitors.”

Silver Air is working to become a more visible member of the community, including signing on as a title sponsor of the recent Santa Barbara 100 cycling race.

But you won’t find the company’s planes or pilots at Santa Barbara Airport.

Most of Silver Air’s 65 employees are pilots based in cities across the country, predominantly in places including San Jose, New York and more.

Plane owners call on Silver Air as clients (and equity owners) to help with accounting and maintenance control — the company doesn’t provide fuel, hangars, etc. — supporting their efforts, even training pilots who deal directly with consumers.

Silver Air hasn’t been at Santa Barbara Airport since it launched in 2008 with Middleton and his CFO in a storage room of Atlantic Aviation.

A few years after starting a business in an economic recession, the Bakersfield native sold the company’s one plane to focus on serving those who already had their own.

Santa Barbara-based Silver Air helps manage private charter service for flights all over the country. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara-based Silver Air helps manage private charter service for flights all over the country. (Silver Air photo)

A number of clients live in Santa Barbara, situated nicely between Southern California and the Bay Area, where Silver Air is expanding with more managed aircraft, according to Chuck Stumpf, Silver Air’s new executive vice president of business development.

Actor and comedian Craig Ferguson is one of a couple clients who appear in a Silver Air promotional video, touting the company for its eye on safety.

“This allows an increased robust fleet and exponential growth within the West Coast marketplace and abroad,” Stumpf said.

“2016 will be a continuing trend of expansion to our growing fleet while maintaining our mission of client /owner/pilot advocacy and stellar customer service. Silver Air is poised for growth largely because of its ability to combine a smart, young, tech-savvy team with old-fashioned, hands-on customer service values.”

Most of that team is based in Santa Barbara, where employees can coordinate charter flights on a Gulfstream G450, Citation X or a dozen others, with trips from four to 14 hours for a dozen or more passengers.

Nearly 80 percent of flyers travel for business, Middleton said, but he expected a busy leisure travel season from Dec. 26 through Jan. 3.

He doesn’t consider companies like Surf Air — a membership-based charter service out of Santa Barbara Airport — as competition, calling it good for Santa Barbara, since most of those passengers could travel with others for business.

Surf Air owns its planes and had more than 300 Santa Barbara-based members as of last summer.

Middleton moved to Santa Barbara about 11 years ago with his wife, a native to the Central Coast. That and other reasons have convinced him to keep Silver Air based locally for the long haul.

“I believe in our industry it’s more about operations than business,” he said, happy to have come from the airplane operations side instead of business.

“This company is thriving. We’re a very different company now than we will be in five years.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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