Undefeated Seasons

New Heights

Fallout from the terrorist attacks has indeed been far-reaching. Some businesses had clients in affected areas; others suffered as customers cut spending due to economic uncertainty.

Charter airlines and flight schools were among those hardest hit in the early days after the attacks. According to a study released on September 27, 2001, by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), charter airlines, flight schools and other aviation-related businesses lost $300 million to $400 million and had to furlough thousands of employees during those first weeks. Since that time, however, many have seen gradual increases--and even spikes--in business.

"People are even more frustrated with the airlines because of the delays," says Clif Stroud of the NATA. "That's a big advantage of charter. There's also the security advantage of knowing with whom you're traveling and what is being brought on board."

Michael and Maureen Tarascio's charter business and flight school came to a screeching halt when the Federal Aviation Administration shut down Republic Airport in Farmingdale, New York, where Air East Airways Inc. and Air East Management Ltd. are located. Because of the airport's proximity to Ground Zero, it remained closed for almost a month after September 11 and then under restrictions until December 31.


"Charter airlines, flight schools and other aviation-related businesses lost $300 million to $400 million during those first few weeks. Since that time, however, many have seen gradual increases--and even spikes--in business."

"It was hard," says Maureen, co-owner and operations manager. "We had 19 aircraft to consider and notes that still had to be paid."

Maureen, 44, estimates the $3.5 million company lost $2,000 to $4,000 per day. Since then, they've made up those losses in a big way as charter business has jumped more than 50 percent in the past year. In an uncomfortable twist, the attacks have been a boon to Air East's business. "We took on a new jet," Maureen admits. "We saw the increase in business, and we saw that there was a need for a third jet."

Clyde O'Connor has experienced a similar boost at Execstar Aviation, his $4 million private charter company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. After the first two weeks--when he considered closing up shop--O'Connor saw a "huge increase" in business at the 22-employee operation. He brought home regular customers stranded by groundings and delivered safety-conscious tourists to their destinations.

The tourist side has become a new line for Execstar, and O'Connor admits: "If business stays the way it is, I would say we are better off than we were [before] September 11.

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This article was originally published in the September 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Undefeated Seasons.

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