Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Executives open business at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (KBTR) to service private aircraft

Five local executives have launched a new business at the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport that services private aircraft. The Baton Rouge Jet Center, as it is called, is a fixed-base operation, or FBO, that provides fuel for private aircraft as well as amenities for the passengers and crews.

“We definitely think there is demand for the services we are providing,” says David Smitherman, manager of BTR Jet Center. “We have a fair amount of private aircraft traffic that comes through here, not like Houston or Chicago, but a fair amount for a market this size.”

The five owners of BTR Jet Center come from an array of local industry sectors. They include: Richard Lipsey, chairman of Lipsey’s; Laurie Aronson, Richard Lipsey’s daughter, who is president of Lipsey’s and also president of the family-owned clothing manufacturer Haspel’s; personal injury attorney Gordon McKernan, investor and financial advisor David Weinstein; and attorney Brett Furr, a real estate and commercial litigation specialist with Taylor Porter.

Together, the five partners share a private turboprop plane they have jointly owned for the past few years. Baton Rouge Metro Airport currently has two other FBOs that service private aircraft, but Furr says the partners have formed their own company because they believe they can provide better service and fuel at a more competitive price.

BTR Jet Center acquired nearly 22,000 square feet of vacant hangar space at the airport from PAI Arrow, which was looking to sell. The company now owns two hangars, which have been renovated for an undisclosed price. Smitherman says the hangars can accommodate anywhere between eight to 15 business jets, turboprops and piston-powered aircraft each.

So far the company has five full-time employees and is in the process of hiring three more. BTR Jet Center had a soft opening on the weekend of the LSU-Auburn football game in September. This week, it officially opens for business, but based on the response they have seen in the past month, the partners are optimistic.

“So far it looks good,” Furr says. “We’re selling high volumes of jet fuel, which is the goal.”

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