New charter service takes off in CloquetThe distance between Cloquet and the world just got a whole lot shorter. Two weeks ago, a locally-based company known as Venture North Aviation LLC received certification from the Federal Aviation Agency to provide charter passenger and cargo services out of the Cloquet/Carlton County Airport.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The distance between Cloquet and the world just got a whole lot shorter.
Two weeks ago, a locally-based company known as Venture North Aviation LLC received certification from the Federal Aviation Agency to provide charter passenger and cargo services out of the Cloquet/Carlton County Airport.
“We can fly people virtually anywhere in the United States,” said Bill Stone, company president. “All they have to do is pick up the phone and call us, and we can charter them across the country.”
Stone said the charter company hopes to target small to mid-size companies in northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, though private-party charters are welcome as well.
The service will utilize a state-of-the-art Cirrus aircraft – a single-engine, three-passenger airplane highly regarded for its extraordinary safety features such as airbag seat belts and parachutes. Stone said the aircraft is certified for both instrument and visual flight and has Nex-Rad weather radar aboard, as well as ice protection and the latest technology in the cockpit, featuring multi-function display, primary flight display, and dual Garmin 430 GPS devices.
“This airplane is more sophisticated than a Boeing 727 from an avionics standpoint,” attested Stone, “and its positional/situational awareness is huge.”
The new charter service focuses on both cost savings and convenience.
“What’s nice is if you need to get somewhere for a business meeting,” explained Stone, “we can fly you out and back on the same day, and that’s what’s key for a lot of people because time is money.”
He added that flights can also be more cost-effective than commercial flights when divided among two or three passengers.
The Venture North service will also pick up passengers or cargo from other communities and fly them to where they need to go.
Stone pilots the charter flights personally. He has more than 10,000 hours of flying experience, was an airline pilot for both Sun Country and American airlines and, up until last year, worked for Cirrus Aircraft in Duluth as director of flight standards and operations. After he left the company, he started his own flight operation at the Cloquet/Carlton County Airport in November 2009.
“Carlton County has been fantastic to work with,” Stone commented. “I lease the facilities here, and we have hangars as well as offices in the main terminal building.”
Other staff members at Venture North Aviation include office manager Kristi Heikkila, chief pilot Sean Johnson and maintenance director Steve Korhonen.
“We’ve got a good group of people who are helping kick this business off,” said Stone. “So far we’re doing well and we’re a profitable business today. I was a little concerned about starting a new business, especially in this economy, but people still want their services if they’re in aviation. They may not be going out and buying new airplanes, but they may be chartering airplanes to get business done.”
Venture North currently has four aircraft in addition to the Cirrus – four trainer airplanes including one with retractable landing gear that can be used for commercial training.
Some of the other services the company offers at the Cloquet/Carlton County Airport are domestic and international flight training, private instrument ratings, commercial ratings and flight instructor certificates through the professional level. Venture North Aviation also does aircraft maintenance on a variety of different types of airplanes, from single engine all the way up to turbine-type aircraft, and sells airplane and jet fuel as well.
In addition, the staff hosts a class in Fundamental Aviation through Cloquet Community Education.
Stone is a resident of Carlton County, living in Cloquet with his wife, Molly.