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Aspenites are ready to land charter air business in Rifle

Donna Daniels

Three Aspen men are hoping to soon operate a charter jet service in Garfield County.

Sam Houston, Frank Goldsmith and Andrew Doremus are currently in negotiations with the county over leasing land at the airport where they can build a 200- by 150-foot hangar.

They are hoping to meet a November start date for the business, called Aspen Jet Services, by breaking ground July 1. But before the county agrees to entering a lease with the Aspenites, the commissioners said an updated land-use plan for the airport must be completed.

Aspen Jet Services will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with four to five planes available for charter initially, Houston said. The company will also manage aircraft for share owners, chartering those planes to third parties.

The company already has a number of planes and potential clients lined up. “Time is of the essence in this operation,” Houston added.

A land-use plan could be in hand before the July 1 trigger date, the commissioners were told recently. And Assistant County Administrator Allen Sartin gave his blessing to the move.

Commissioner Larry McCown did a little negotiating of his own, asking Doremus, Houston and Goldsmith if they would be willing to pay for an upgrade of the taxi apron around the hangars. Houston hemmed and hawed for a moment. “We could probably do a small addition to the ramp,” he finally allowed.

McCown also wanted to know how many jobs the business would create. Doremus said three to four new jobs would be created initially with a total of about a dozen when the business is up and running in a few months.

And those jobs will go to locals, Doremus said. Pilots, dispatchers and mechanics who live in the midvalley and commute to the Aspen airport for work “would love to live and work in Garfield County,” he explained.

Houston and Goldsmith, who are real estate agents in Aspen, partnered with Doremus in setting up the business. Doremus has many years of experience in the aircraft industry.

For the three, choosing Rifle made good sense.

“We chose Rifle for our own reasons. The weather is better here, the costs are lower here. There are a lot of really good pilots who would love to work out of here,” Houston said.

“We will see a lot more jet traffic in Rifle,” he added.

The commissioners gave their blessing to the lease negotiations, directing county attorney Carolyn Dahlgren to work out the details with Aspen Jet Services, and to get the ball rolling on the airport land-use plan.

Houston was pleased with the outcome of their meeting with the commissioners Monday morning. “We’re perfectly on track. I think we can count on being open and running this summer,” he said.

Location of the hangar is part of the negotiation discussions. Houston said they would like to see the hangar built on what is called Parcel C, between the existing hangars and the heliport. Parcel C is under lease to Corporate Aircraft Services, the fixed base operator, or manager, of the airport.

CAS has said it has no objections to locating the Aspen Jet Services hangar on its leased property, despite the fact that the company would become direct competition. CAS also operates a charter service, manages privately owned planes, and provides fuel and tie down services to planes that land at the airport.

“We’d be adding to their business today,” Houston said, since he would be buying fuel from CAS and contracting with it for mechanical and other services. “They’re happy because we would add to their critical mass.”


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