Piaggio P.180, Dynamic Turboprop, Added to Fleet

Elite Air has made a unique new addition to its fleet of charter aircraft—the rear-accelerated turbroprop Piaggio P.180 Avanti. The striking Piaggio will join Elite Air’s King Air 200 and Piper Malibu to bring its propeller-plane portfolio to three aircraft.

The Piaggio, however, brings performance that is truly in a class by itself, according to Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs.

“The unique design of the Piaggio gives it jet-like performance in almost every way,” Gibbs said. “It can fly higher, faster and farther than anything in its class. We’ve had our eye on these aircraft for some time, so we couldn’t be more excited to finally have one on our certificate.”

Elite Air’s Piaggio P.180 will be based at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE) and will be available for charter in the next several weeks. The aircraft can travel nearly 1,500 nautical miles at 41,000 feet and more than 450 miles per hour, making it comparable in range to most light to midsize jets, while being more fuel efficient and affordable.

“The Piaggio we’re now lucky enough to manage is immaculately maintained,” said AJ Becker, Elite Air’s marketing and sales director. “Passengers in this aircraft aren’t likely to recognize they aren’t traveling in a jet.”

Elite Air’s Piaggio will be flown in the more reliable two-pilot configuration—First Officer Scott Rydman will be joined in the cockpit by a captain to be named—and can seat up to eight. The fully pressurized cabin features articulating leather seating, a working galley and extensive entertainment options.

Hundreds of corporations around the country—and globe—have over the years adopted the Italian-designed Piaggio, which was first offered to the Italian armed forces.

“We can’t wait to hear customers’ reactions to this aircraft,” Becker said. “It’s been turning heads all over the world since the late 90s, and we’re sure folks will love it.”

Business Aviation Posts Monster Year

The worldwide fleet of Challenger 300s, including the one on Elite Air’s 135 certificate based in Boca Raton, Fla., flew 90,054 flights in 2016, more than any other super-midsize aircraft.

The worldwide fleet of Challenger 300s, including the one on Elite Air’s 135 certificate based in Boca Raton, Fla., flew 90,054 flights in 2016, more than any other super-midsize aircraft.

Business aviation recorded one of its best years in history in 2016, according to Argus International’s Business Aviation 2016 Review.

The industry analyst and auditor reported that growth continued in every major aircraft and operational category in 2016. In 11 of the 12 calendar months, the industry saw gains. Only April experienced a slight year-over-year decline of 0.6%.

According to Argus, 2016 flight activity was up 3.2% and flight hours were up 3.8% when compared to 2015. That represented three straight years of growth in business aviation from 2014-2016.

Argus indicated flight activity stayed fairly consistent throughout the year. The second half, from July to December, was up 3.3% compared to the same period in 2015, while the first half was up 3.1%. The first quarter of 2016 experienced the strongest year-over-year rise in flight activity, up 4.2% from Q1 2015, helped along by the extra day in February. The second, third and fourth quarters saw increases of 1.9%, 3.3% and 3.2%.

The Part 135 industry continued to lead business aviation’s overall industry growth. The segment saw yearly gains in 11 of the 12 months in 2016, including 10.1% growth in November. Part 135 on-demand charter flights and flight hours grew 5.6% and 5.8% in the past 12 months when compared to 2015. Part 135 operators flew 1,413,870 hours last year, an increase of 77,336 hours over 2015.

Breaking it down by aircraft, large cabin Part 135 flight hours grew 10.1% in 2016. Midsize Part 135 flight hours grew at a rate of 3%, and small cabin aircraft flights grew 1.8%. Turboprop flight hours increased 9.4% during 2016.

Part 91 flights and flight hours likewise increased, at 2% and 2.9%, over the past 12 months compared to 2015. Part 91 operators flew 2,234,979 hours in 2016, an upsurge of 63,159 hours from the previous year.

The fractional industry, which posted yearly declines during 10 of the 12 months in 2015, posted yearly gains during 9 of the 12 months last year.

Following the robust 2016, Argus analysts estimate the positive trend will continue well into 2017. Flight activity in January, February and March rose several percentage points over the same period in 2016.

An Unexpected Bird Encounter


Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs and Pilot Drew Spiros were fortunate enough to catch an Air Force Thunderbirds flyover while on assignment in Daytona Beach, Fla. Gibbs and Spiros watched the flyover on Feb. 26 at Daytona Beach International Airport, where they had delivered passengers for the Daytona 500.

The Thunderbirds, led by Lieutenant Colonel Jason Heard, flew over the Daytona International Speedway just as the national anthem ended on race day. The Air Force demonstration team flies over the Daytona 500, along with a host of other high-profile events, every year.

For a full video of the Air Force Thunderbirds flyover, visit Elite Air on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Elite-Air-139090768823.

Experienced Dispatcher Jamie Condo Joins Team

Condo brings experience from Flexjet, the U.S. Navy, and the yachting and fire rescue industries to Elite Air.

Condo brings experience from Flexjet, the U.S. Navy, and the yachting and fire rescue industries to Elite Air.

Jamie Condo, a veteran aircraft dispatcher with nearly 20 years experience, joined the Elite Air team in late 2016.

Condo comes to Elite Air from Flexjet and has worked in flight sales and operations since 1998, when she completed her service with the U.S. Navy. She served as an air traffic control specialist for nine years while enlisted.

“I was fortunate enough to be one of the first females stationed on an aircraft carrier on the West Coast,” she said of her time in the Navy.

Condo’s educational background is in business administration; she earned her bachelor’s degree from Columbia Southern University. In addition to aviation, she has worked in sales and dispatch in the yachting and fire rescue industries.

Condo primarily covers weekends for Elite Air, an arrangement she says suits her schedule. “I love it because of the flexibility of it,” she said. “I have two teenage daughters, and I love being available to them.”

Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs said he’s known Condo for more than 15 years through her work in the industry.

“Jamie has worked with some of the best in the business, and we knew she would fit right in with the Elite Air team,” he said. “She’s been tasked with a difficult job taking on weekends, but she’s excelled at it immediately."


The newest Hawker 800A with the XPR upgrade on the Elite Air charter certificate gives customers another midsize option for trips from coast to coast.

The newest Hawker 800A with the XPR upgrade on the Elite Air charter certificate gives customers another midsize option for trips from coast to coast.

Elite Air has added a second workhorse Hawker 800 to its charter certificate, giving passengers another affordable option in the midsize jet class out of the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport (PIE).

“The Hawker is one of our most popular charter aircraft,” Elite Air Marketing and Sales Director AJ Becker said. “Now, when one of our Hawkers is on the road or in the air—which is often—we’ll be able to offer customers a second option.”

The Hawker 800A with the XPR upgrade seats up to eight passengers and has a range of 2,900 miles. The XPR upgrade offers increased stability and more efficient operations compared to its predecessor. The aircraft is capable of 447 knots at 37,000 feet of altitude. For long-range flights, it operates best at 400 knots at 39,000 feet.

“This aircraft gives our customers a second, nearly identical midsize that falls neatly between our extensive light options and our super midsize jets,” Becker said.

Crewed by a team that includes Tom Rissmiller, Drew Spiros, Bruce Bartling and Doug Downer, the Elite Air-managed Hawkers are “stable and comfortable,” according to Rissmiller. “And its range is good for that size airplane,” he said.

The 800XPR is capable of coast-to-coast flights at industry-leading values. Rissmiller, who has more than 15,000 total hours and more than 5,000 hours in Hawkers, said the team of first officers is “the best in the business.”

According to Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs, the company’s familiarity with the Hawker 800 and how to operate it make the new airframe a perfect addition to the charter certificate.

“We’ve been flying Hawkers for more than a decade,” he said. “This is a platform that we know how to crew, maintain, stock and market. We expect it to be another strong contributor in our fleet of charter jets.”

Will UPS Contribute to Drone Traffic?

As hobby and public safety unmanned aircraft systems continue to fill the sky, commercial operators like Amazon and UPS are considering their application as well.

As hobby and public safety unmanned aircraft systems continue to fill the sky, commercial operators like Amazon and UPS are considering their application as well.

With unmanned aircraft traffic in the National Airspace already increasing, UPS has become the latest company to consider the commercial use of drones. The company announced earlier this month it is following in Amazon’s footsteps and has begun testing drones to make package deliveries to remote or difficult-to-access locations.

Working with drone-maker CyPhy Works, UPS staged a mock medicine delivery from Beverly, Mass., to Children’s Island, about three miles off the Atlantic coast.

“Our focus is on real-world applications that benefit our customers,” said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president of global engineering and sustainability. “We think drones offer a great solution to deliver to hard-to-reach locations in urgent situations where other modes of transportation are not readily available.”

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration issued new rules that expanded the uses of drones in multiple applications. Operators must adhere to important safety regulations, and UPS believes the new rules are just what are needed to eventually get its own unmanned aircraft in the sky.

Elite Air Website Gets Facelift, Reorganization

If you find yourself here, you've likely already noticed a few changes to www.eliteair.com. The homepage now features a carousel of images that will be updated as new aircraft are added to the Elite Air charter certificate.

The site also features a newly organized news section, an updated “about” page and a password-protected page for Elite Air’s dispatchers. The dispatcher page will make Elite Air’s on-call dispatch team more capable than ever.

“We want our website to be an information engine for both our customers and our internal staff,” Elite Air Communications Coordinator Shea Gibbs said. “Not only should people be able to go to www.eliteair.com to do business with us, they should come away having learned something.”

Several more changes are on the horizon, Gibbs said. The news section is being organized into categories and will be searchable to make it more useful for those looking to learn more about Elite Air. And the company’s growing charter fleet soon will be organized by aircraft type to make it easier than ever to find a preferred jet or turboprop.

“As our company grows, it’s important that existing and prospective charter customers can quickly find the aircraft they’re looking for and book it immediately,” Gibbs said.

Changes Coming to Required Equipment Lists

As FAA prepares for changes in the National Airspace via its NextGen long-term plan, general aviation aircraft operators will be forced to implement new equipment and avionics technology before the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has promised the administration will incentivize early adopters of new tech, starting with the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) rebate, which went into effect on Sept. 19. ADS-B is a foundational NextGen technology that transforms aircraft surveillance using satellite-based positioning.

Via a website, general aviation aircraft owners are now able to apply for a $500 rebate to help offset ADS-B costs if they equip eligible aircraft in a timely manner rather than waiting to meet the mandatory deadline.

“NextGen has played an important role in ensuring our airspace is safe...and we are focused on achieving its full potential,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “This incentive program is an innovative solution that addresses stakeholder concerns about meeting the 2020 deadline and will make a huge difference.”

Lear 40 Owner Upgrades to Lear 75

Bombardier’s Learjet 75 offers nearly as much range as a midsize jet at light jet pricing.

Bombardier’s Learjet 75 offers nearly as much range as a midsize jet at light jet pricing.

One of Elite Air’s longest running owners has upgraded from a Learjet 40 to a Learjet 75, a revolutionary small midsize jet that can travel farther nonstop than any competitor.

“I might be biased since Lears were the first jets I flew back in the 90s, but this aircraft is truly remarkable,” Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs said. “Its range, speed and overall performance are in a class we never thought we’d see in a light jet.”

The eight passenger jet, with a range of nearly 2,500 miles, is available for charter immediately out of Tampa International Airport.

“This is the type of aircraft I see customers looking for all the time,” Sales Director AJ Becker said. “People always want to fly nonstop, and this allows them to do so to more locations without jumping up to full midsize jet pricing.”

The Lear 75, which Bombardier launched in late 2013, is certified for operation at up to 51,000 feet and cruises at nearly 550 miles per hour. The aircraft broke a speed record in its class traveling round trip from New York to Los Angeles last year. By almost any measure, it is faster and has more range than any aircraft currently produced in its category.

The Lear 75’s Vision flight deck advanced navigation and communications capabilities have also made it one of the safest jets ever produced in the category, as the system decreases pilot workload and increases situational awareness. The jet offers best-in-class fuel efficiency and the first and only forward pocket door in the category. Finally, the Learjet 75’s carbon brakes allow access to shorter runways than ever before.

“We’re very excited to make this aircraft available to our charter customers,” Gibbs said. “Where the comfort and luxury of a heavy jet offers what a luxury sedan might, this is a high performance sports car.”

Elite Air Adds Five More Aicraft to Fleet


Two Challengers, a 350 and a 300, a Citation X and a Learjet 45 highlight the latest additions to Elite Air Inc.’s growing 135 charter fleet. The industry leading aircraft management and charter company has also added a Piper Malibu propeller plane to its portfolio, giving it another ideal option for short hops around its St. Petersburg-Clearwater base of operations.

“Elite Air has always prided itself on providing that personal touch when it comes to each and every one of its aircraft,” company CEO Gray Gibbs said. “And while that commitment to customer service will never change, we are delighted our reputation as a fair, 100% above-board operator has continued to allow us to bring on new clients.”

The Challenger 350, Bombardier’s new game changing super midsize business jet, is the second Elite Air has had the opportunity to manage. The new aircraft is based at Orlando Executive Airport (ORL). The original C350 on the certificate, the first in the world made available for charter, is based at Orlando International Airport (MCO).

The Bombardier Challenger 350 offers unparalleled performance in a super midsize aircraft, as well as unmatched comfort and amenities, including free wireless internet access, large TV monitors forward and aft capable of playing different media on each screen from multiple sources (iPad, DVD, Blu-ray, storage devices, internet streaming), satellite radio, and noise cancelling Bose headsets at each seat.

One of the most charter friendly aircraft in the world, the 350 can be configured to hold as many as 10 passengers and travel at nearly 600 mph.

The addition of a Boca Raton based Challenger 300, the immediate predecessor to the 350, gives Elite Air a super midsize option in the greater Miami area for the first time.

The newest Citation X to the Elite Air fleet is also based at ORL and is under charter friendly ownership. The aircraft is known for its speed and is often called the world’s fastest business jet. The super-midsize cruises at up to 700 mph (Mach 0.92) and offers a nonstop range of 3,750 miles at 51,000 feet max cruising altitude, a 30 x 5.5 x 6-foot cabin and 82 cubic feet of pressurized baggage space.

The Learjet 45, based at Elite Air’s St. Petersburg-Clearwater headquarters, offers all the speed and luxury of the smaller Lears on the certificate while seating eight and traveling nearly 2,500 miles nonstop.

“All of these aircraft fit perfectly into Elite Air’s expertise and mission,” Gibbs said. “Even the Malibu, an aircraft I owned as a private pilot, is a best-in-class option. We look forward to sharing these planes with our customers.”