Petaluma-based Solairus aircraft on growth trajectory

Establishes fleet in Florida, now has 200 employees, planes on both coasts

PETALUMA – Charter aircraft company Solairus Aviation has tripled in size under its new name and continues to expand its offerings and coverage.

The 200-employee company was born out of the closure of Sunset Aviation, a 16-year-old venture that was shut down last year in the wake of its parent company’s bankruptcy. It had emerged from that event with 60 employees.

After one year in business, Solairus has established a fleet in Florida. A  Falcon and Hawker and a new Gulfstream G550 are available to charter customers. The Gulfstream, a large-cabin, ultra-long-range business jet is the newest addition to the 50-plane fleet.

“This is the second Gulfstream G550 to join our charter certificate in the last nine months – I am very proud of our team and everyone who made this happen,” said Solairus VP of Business Development Craig Zirzow. “The East Coast is a major area of focus for us right now. With one G550 based in San Francisco and the other in Florida, we can now offer our clients even more flexibility and convenience when planning their long-range trips.”

It was just a year and a half ago that Sunset Aviation, then under Jet Direct, expanded out of the region and started being a more nationally recognized brand.

[caption id="attachment_22539" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Dan Drohan"][/caption]

But in early 2009, Dan Drohan, founder of Sunset and Solairus chief executive officer, left Jet Direct, which bought Sunset from him in mid-2007.

“We had indications that things were not going well at Jet Direct,” said Mr. Drohan. “The wheels were falling off rapidly.”

Jet Direct filed for bankruptcy in early 2009 and let go of all the employees. Mr. Drohan saw the opportunity to create a new company. On March 2, after Gregory Campbell, chairman of Jet Direct Aviation Holdings LLC, announced all employees of Sunset Aviation Inc. were on furlough, the newly formed company offered all but 10 percent of the employees their jobs back.

Solairus is a full-service private aircraft management and charter company that provides clients with expertise in acquiring and operating a wide range of private aircraft.

Earlier this year, the company received International Standard for Business Operations certification. The International Business Aviation Council introduced this certification in 2002 to “foster standardized, safe and highly professional aircraft operations."

“Since March of 2009 we have grown ... earned our Aviation Research Group/U.S. Platinum rating and obtained international operations approval for large aircraft carrying 10 or more passengers," Mr. Drohan said.

He said the international standards audit ensures that the management and charter clients will have “safe and uninterrupted access to airports the world over.”

The certification required a complete third-party audit. Solairus selected Aviation Research Group/U.S., one of the leaders in aviation safety auditing.

Solairus is one of only 71 Aviation Research Group/U.S. Platinum-rated charter operators in the world and has also received the NBAA Commercial Business Flying Safety Award in recognition of six years and more than 27,000 consecutive flying hours without accident.

Solairus has almost 50 aircraft under management located in 15 states and two countries.

The company focuses on executive jet management. The planes that it services fly between 20 and 700 hours per year, and each plane has its own pilot, flight crew and maintenance supervisor.

"Our growth plan for 2010 is ambitious and aggressive, but we do not want to lose sight of being the best in terms of quality,” Mr. Drohan said.

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