Rapid Air Has New Owner

October 30, 2006
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GRAND RAPIDS — Private aircraft charter company KEM Aviation LLC of Grand Rapids has purchased the assets of Rapid Air Service from Sparta Aviation Service Inc. and intends to invest upwards of $1.2 million to rebuild and refurbish Rapid Air’s facilities at Ford International Airport.

Rapid Air is a full-service, fixed-base operator that provides passenger charter air service, private jet sales and services related to operations and management of private aircraft. The Kent County Aeronautics Board approved Wednesday the transfer of Rapid Air Service’s fixed-based operator lease agreement and Ramp 5 lease agreement with the airport to KEM Aviation. The lease agreement is for a term of 25 years and will become effective Jan. 1, 2007

Joel Burgess, the airport’s properties administrator, said land rental on the lease will be stepped up from its current rate to market value over the next four years and adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index for urban consumers. Building rental for the portion of the building owned by KentCounty will be set at market value based on an appraisal and will be adjusted annually by the CPI, as well, he said.

The Rapid Air name will remain unchanged, and Rapid Air’s current staff will remain on the job. Rapid Air was founded in 1942 and has operated at Ford International since 1988. The company flies customers and cargo to more than 15,000 locations in the United States and Canada

KEM Aviation plans to renovate Rapid Air’s facilities to include “first-rate” conference centers with wired and wireless network ports, a deluxe pilot lounge with sleeping quarters and a weather room. Other new amenities include a crew car, bag storage, guest drop-off areas and additional concierge services. KEM Executive Assistant Lena Stob said the company hopes to begin renovations next week and have them completed sometime next year.

Rapids Air has two Cessna 310Q aircraft, a Cessna 402B and a Cessna 414A available for charter. The company plans to add a Piaggio aircraft to its fleet this fall and has two “microjets” — “very light jets” — on order for delivery in 2007.

“The new Rapid Air will become the hub for the hands-on business operator who needs the flexibility of an aircraft to be competitive in today’s global market,” stated Paulus Heule, managing member of KEM.

Heule said new aviation technology, along with post-9/11 security protocols, is making private air travel more affordable and attractive to business executives today.

The Federal Aviation Administration predicts that the use of private business jets will triple over the next decade because microjets have made private charter travel and air taxi services more affordable.    

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