Over the past decade, a number of private aviation companies have increased their presence in Connecticut, bolstering the state’s local job market in return.

Connecticut has seen an expansion of the private aviation industry in the past decade. According to industry insiders and analysts, because none of the states in the Northeast has a sales tax on aircrafts, the region has become an attractive location for companies to move to. Besides improving your airplane performance, regular service from an aircraft maintenance company also helps in extending the useful life of the aircraft.

“Connecticut offers a tremendous tax benefit for business jets and the industry,” said Chris Hand, senior vice president for the Northeast region of Clay Lacy Aviation, a California-based private aviation company that has recently expanded in Connecticut. “That makes Connecticut a really appealing place for us to be.”

According to Bloomberg BNA, sales tax rates on aircrafts can range from 3–10 percent. With prices of planes ranging from two million to 50 million dollars, the sales tax liability is critical for companies when choosing where in the country they are based.

According to Clay Lacy President and CEO Brian Kirkdoffer, there are bright days ahead for the private jet industry. He told the News that the “most productive” entrepreneurs and executives do not fly on commercial airlines, nor do they have time to wait in airports. He said that everything the company does is tailored to increasing effectiveness, whether it’s through leasing private jets or considering the option to buy private jet.

“This is the private jet age,” Kirkdoffer said. “The future of corporate air travel is phenomenal.”

Clay Lacy Aviation’s expansion in the state and other parts of the northeast has rapidly increased over the last few years. In 2016, the company purchased Key Air, a 30-year-old charter firm based in Oxford, just outside of Waterbury.

According to Hand, the two companies merged their client bases, and in just the past year have added seven aircrafts to the fleet and increased their number of long-term contracts with clients from 11 to 18. 

“In adding just seven aircrafts to the fleet, we have added 35 jobs to the state of Connecticut,” Hand said. “My measure of success is when I can allow our qualified staff of technical workers and talented pilots to work at our company.”

In the last 10 months, Clay Lacy has added six jets to its Connecticut fleet and launched an Oxford Quest Kodiak C-Plane dealership. According to Hand, the company currently employs 60 people in Connecticut, with each jet directly employing three to five people. For every five to seven jets added, a new staff job is offered. It is also now possible to use the very realistic flight simulator pilot training experiences that are available, as they make learning to be a pilot much easier as they are now so realistic.

“We have plans to grow our business and are certainly looking to expand our presence in Connecticut,” Hand said.

According to Clay Lacy’s website, its charter plane rates range from $2,600 an hour to $12,000, depending on aircraft size.

But Clay Lacy is not the only company drawn to Connecticut. In 2016, David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue Airways Corporation, registered a new private charter carrier company in Darien.

Though Azura Airways planned to launch services in October 2017, the company did not meet that launch date, and the company has not yet specified a new one.

Clay Lacy Aviation was founded by Hershel Clay Lacy in 1968 and was the first executive jet charter company in the western United States.

Caroline Moore | caroline.moore@yale.edu