Nicholas Air: Beyond the left seat — private aviation due diligence

May 28, 2016 09:00 AM

The appeal of private aviation is similar to private investments — just swap “exceptional experience” for “exceptional returns.” But like hedge fund investing, good research and due diligence is required when considering private aviation providers. Our hunt for exceptional returns may have come up short in our evaluation of the Brazilian Receivables Financing Fund profiled in Beyond the tear sheet (page 22), but discriminating travelers seeking an exceptional private aviation experience should take a good look at Nicholas Air.

We credit the pedigree of CEO Nicholas John (NJ) Correnti for the difference. Correnti founded the company in 1997 while his late father, steel executive John Correnti, was CEO of Nucor. This background has made NJ familiar with the concierge demands and desires of C-suite private air travelers. “My father taught me what hard work and dedication meant and how to interact with individuals,” says Correnti. “The first time people met my father, they felt like they were life-long friends.”

This understanding of executive treatment is apparent the first time you fly with Nicholas Air. It is a private jet travel experience that’s similar to having your own personal airborne limousine.

“Aviation is a very tough industry, but if you’re efficient and pay attention to every detail, you can be very successful,” says Correnti. “The number one priority in our business is our customers’ safety. Number two is providing a service that we are continuously improving upon and ensuring the customer is always happy. These are the key fundamentals, and we take a lot of pride in providing an experience no one else can.” 

But much more distinguishes Nicholas Air from the pack.

The company is not a typical corporate air service. They don’t broker or charter aircraft. Instead, Nicholas Air owns all of its planes, none of which are more than five years old, and the entire fleet is piloted and operated by the company. “We have a new fleet, so mechanical problems are minimized,” Correnti says. “The average charter airplane is 20-years-old. To my knowledge, there’s no one else out there who insists on a five-year renewal. Plus, we’re the owner, the operator and the maintainer; which gives us tremendous reliability and efficiency.”

The company’s current fleet of aircraft servicing the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, Central and South America, includes different planes for different missions and customer needs. It boasts the safest turboprop in the air, the extraordinary Pilatus PC-12 turboprop, as well as the light and economical Phenom 100 and 300 series corporate jets, as well as, their newest addition, the luxurious Citation Latitude. Currently, no other private aviation provider offers the Citation Latitude in a Jet Card membership program.

The fleet is always in motion and is able to serve more than 9,000 airports across the country vs. the approximately 500 readily accessible by commercial aviation, or even the 5,500 routinely served by typical corporate jets. Clients of Nicholas Air arrive much closer to their actual destination. They guarantee 355 days a year of availability, and have never left a client without an aircraft. 

Risk managers, meanwhile, will appreciate Nicholas’s track record — accident-free since day one and no violations. All pilots are employees of the company and have an average of 7,500 flight hours, and Nicholas Air is registered with the three leading independent aviation safety audit organizations.

There is another similarity between Nicholas Air and the private investment world. Not unlike the most desirable private investment funds, Nicholas Air access requires issuer approval for participation. The company’s flexible Jet Card, Jet Lease and Jet Share (fractional jet ownership) travel programs are only available through referrals from existing members or through a small number of memberships obtained through their Club Committee by submitting a short biography. 

About the Author

Garrett Baldwin is the Managing Editor of the Alpha Pages and the Features Editor of Modern Trader. An author and Baltimore native, he earned a BS in journalism from the Medill School at Northwestern University, an MA in Economic Policy (Security Studies) from The Johns Hopkins University, an MS in Agricultural Economics from Purdue University.