Don Kaplan, regional manager for Galaxy Avation and pictured with his dog Tsar, says his operations have seen an  increase in the number of jets flying in and out of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Photo by John F. Russell

Don Kaplan, regional manager for Galaxy Avation and pictured with his dog Tsar, says his operations have seen an increase in the number of jets flying in and out of the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.

Galaxy Aviation sees increase in jet traffic at Yampa Valley Regional Airport

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Steamboat Springs Airport sees aircraft transition

While Galaxy Aviation’s clientele and jet traffic has been on the rise, the effect of the most recent recession has been different for Steamboat Springs Airport.

Airport Manager Mel Baker said that there’s been an increase in Jet A fuel sales but that it’s likely explained by some tenants transitioning away from piston engines and avgas to single-engine turbines.

“The industry as a whole has been hit pretty hard,” Baker said about personal aviation. “You have to have a really good reason to go from a smaller aircraft to a larger aircraft.”

But what’s available as far as new aircraft, he said, has been smaller, turbine-powered planes.

“If anything, it’s been a decrease because of the economy,” Baker said about overall jet traffic.

— While the crowds this weekend at Steamboat Springs Airport will be examining the planes of yesteryear excitedly and maybe even taking a ride in a vintage aircraft, a group will be disembarking from a sleek jet at Yampa Valley Regional Airport in Hayden and immediately scanning the field for a large Anatolian shepherd.

Tsar is a favorite of the clients whom Galaxy Aviation serves as the fixed-base operator at YVRA, and Don Kaplan, the regional manager in charge of the Hayden operation, said clients often greet Tsar before they greet him.

Kaplan — dressed in cowboy boots, a leather blazer and a Western belt buckle — brings Tsar out on a leash to the plane’s door to welcome passengers to the Yampa Valley.

Kaplan said he knows pretty much everyone who’s flying private planes into YVRA. Customer service is the top priority for Galaxy Aviation, he said, and the clients who use its services get the best treatment possible.

The car rental company preferred by a client flying in Friday morning didn’t have the right type of SUV, so Kaplan made sure there was a choice of cars outside the plane when it landed.

The ease of driving up to the plane, hopping in and knowing your luggage is headed to the right place makes commercial service at YVRA an ideal way to fly if you can afford it.

And it looks like more are able to afford to fly private jets into the Hayden airport.

“We have had an uptick in jet traffic,” Kaplan said. “It’s a different kind of jet traffic today.”

The jets are getting bigger.

“The economy of people of means is getting much better,” Kaplan said.

And that translates into more business for Galaxy. More planes in and out of the airport means more hangar fees and Jet A fuel sold. The price of flying into Hayden is a little higher than some other private operations, Kaplan said, and although a few people will complain, the airport is more remote, it costs more to supply fuel and the business has to make it through slow shoulder seasons.

In addition to the Routt County residents who fly using Galaxy, Kaplan said, maybe 10 or 15 percent of people who come through are shopping for real estate in the area.

The Dassault Falcon 2000EX that sat on the runway Friday was part of the NetJets fleet, which makes up a large part of Galaxy’s business.

NetJets offers fractional ownership, leases and a program based on flight hours for those who want access to a jet. Even for wealthy individuals, NetJets can make flights on an aircraft like the Falcon 2000EX, which could cost more than $25 million new, more affordable.

Kaplan said the increase in jet traffic is across the board at its other locations, which are in Florida, as well.

Walking the field in front of Galaxy’s building, Kaplan names aircraft models with facts about their origin and build with some anecdotes about performance thrown in: the Swiss turboprop that can take off quickly, the curving Italian jet with a canard wing on the front and the French trijet with the telltale wing structure that gives away its manufacturer.

When Kaplan was a trial lawyer in the Northeast and flying solo, he said, he didn’t know as much about aviation. He got into consulting through a contact, and once a health problem lead him to reconsider the stress of litigation, he turned to aviation.

He has been in Hayden since Galaxy became the fixed-based operator in 2008 and wanted to be more hands-on with day-to-day activities.

“Aviation is a relationship business,” Kaplan said. “You have to spend time.”

To reach Michael Schrantz, call 970-871-4206 or email mschrantz@SteamboatToday.com

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