Owner: Bill Carder
Employees: four pilots, two mechanics
Bill Carder didn’t see himself as a jet-setter.
He owned a trailer manufacturing company in Lamar and sold his products across the country. It took him three hours to drive to Colorado Springs to catch a commercial flight. Typically, he also could count on a long drive when he landed to meet his clients.
“So it made sense to get an airplane to use it as a tool to reduce the windshield time I was putting in behind the steering wheel of an automobile,” he said.
Carder bought an Eclipse 500 — a six-seat business jet that’s fast, flies high and handles like the sportiest of sports cars. He cut his business travel time by days on each trip and felt the value of being home in time for supper.
He wants others to experience that, too.
Carder sold his manufacturing company and opened Eclipse Private Jet in Colorado Springs in 2009 — the only private jet management and charter company in the Springs. He owns two jets, a Cessna 340, manages other aircraft and offers chartered flights to any of the 5,000 general-aviation airports across the country. His pilots also fly into Mexico and Canada.
Eclipse Private Jet is flying about 1,300 hours a year. Carder owns a 5,400-square-foot hangar, off Powers Boulevard near the Colorado Springs Municipal Airport, and is leasing a second hangar. He believes there is a market in the Springs for jet ownership and chartered jet flights, and he’s on a path to prove it.
“Think of the businessman who needs to get to Missoula, Montana. Can you imagine trying to get from here to Missoula?” Carder said. “What if you could leave at 7 a.m. and be back by 5 p.m.? It can be done.”
Carder bought the Eclipse 500 in 2008 — it goes up to 41,000 feet in altitude, cruises at 420 mph and flies in any type of weather. He hired pilot Matthew Haynes and was making business trips all over the country.
But he started getting calls from other jet owners wondering if he could manage their aircraft, said Haynes, also the Eclipse Private Jet manager. That’s how the company was born, Haynes said. Eclipse Private Jet started providing pilots, mechanics, hangars and taking care of the paperwork for other aircraft owners.
“It grew from there, to where we are known now as Eclipse managers,” Haynes said. “I think it’s kind of cool actually that we have been able to bring in airplanes and add value that would normally be based in Denver and now are actually down here.”
But jets aren’t cheap. A new Eclipse 500 will cost a cool $2.5 million. A used one runs about $1.8 million. Carder’s company can match jet-buying partners for travelers who might not need the jet often enough to justify the price tag. A person can buy half a jet for $900,000 or a quarter of a jet for $450,000. And Eclipse Private Jet will manage the aircraft, Haynes says. The company manages three aircraft now including one owned through a shared partnership.
“The market is someone who wants to buy a business aircraft but knows nothing else about it,” Haynes said. “All they want to do is to be able to pick up the telephone and say, ‘I need my aircraft to fly me to San Diego, Sierra Vista or Phoenix,’ and we take care of everything else.”
This month, the company began marketing its chartered jet flights. Typically the flights are booked for business trips. But the company flies people to their vacation destinations or second homes. A 40-minute flight to Scottsdale, Ariz. for example, costs $1,650 in the jet and about $850 in the Cessna.
“It’s going to be challenging to build this business in Colorado Springs,” Carder said. “But, it’s simple … when people know that it’s easy and more affordable than some of the other opportunities they could use, then I think we will be able to build a nice little business.”
Haynes believes chartered jets will allow more access in and out of the Springs, especially for business travelers, entrepreneurs, company scouts and site planners, he said.
“It allows someone that needs to bring someone in — we send one of our aircraft to go pick up someone and they can be home for dinner, which is appealing when bringing someone out for a business meeting,” Haynes said.
Joe Kondrup, Catalyst Strategic Advisors founder and managing partner, has been chartering flights for his business trips for 20 years.
“Sometimes there is just no other way to get to where you need to be — the timeline, or it’s remote,” he said.
In the past, Kondrup chartered the plane out of Denver and paid extra for it to pick him up in the Springs.
“When (Carder) started Eclipse Jet business, I was a ready-made customer,” he said.
Kondrup takes a lot of commercial flights, but some places would require several connecting flights or be a long drive, he said. For example, he has a client in Amarillo, Texas, and must attend regular board meetings there. A day-long meeting would require him to make the six- to seven-hour drive the day before and stay the night after the meeting. That’s too much time, he said.
When he charters an Eclipse Private Jet flight to Amarillo, it takes 40 minutes, and he’s home the same day, he said.
“The beauty of it is I can call them on eight to 10 hours notice,” Kondrup said, “and they can get me anywhere.”