Posted 8/27/2012 12:00 am
It was a four-year process to obtain FAA approval, but Viking Aviation of Jonesboro finally got off the ground earlier this year and began offering chartered flights to more than 5,000 airports nationwide.
"I guess it takes so long so they can weed out people who aren't serious," owner George Stem said. "But if you've got a goal, you've got to stick with it."
A general contractor by trade, Stem has been in the cockpit flying privately since 1979 and serves as airport commissioner for the Jonesboro Municipal Airport. But with two other businesses to tend to - Medic One LLC, a ground ambulance service, and Construction Network Inc. of Jonesboro - Stem leaves the chartered flights to Marvin Baird, chief pilot and COO.
Baird received his aviation degree from Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. He has been a pilot and flight instructor since 1999.
Now, he is flying Stem's King Air 200, an eight-passenger plane offering top-notch accommodations, including leather seats, an on-board restroom and multiple TV and DVD systems.
For businesses that need to transport a group, a charter service can be cost effective by saving time and money that would be spent on the road. Viking Aviation can turn a trip that would ordinarily take several days and roll it into one, Stem said. Where commercial airlines fly into only about 500 airports, Viking can fly into several thousand and have passengers in the air five minutes after they arrive, which allows them to attend several meetings in just one day, Stem said.
"If your meeting runs late, we'll run late with you," Stem said. "It's the cheapest way to own your own airplane."
But chartered flights are not just for business; they're for pleasure too. One of the company's recent flights took six golfers on a day trip from Jonesboro to Destin, Fla., for $5,500. In addition to flights out of Jonesboro, Stem said, the company offers competitive rates out of Memphis and Little Rock.
Currently, FAA regulations restrict the company's operation to one plane, but Stem's five-year plan is to have five planes and incorporate an air ambulance service.
For more information or for a quote, call (870) 932-5836 or email MarvinBaird@VikingAviation.org.