Chase Russell, Charlotte County native and owner of Russell Aviation LLC, spent six years in the Air Force as an aircraft mechanic for the MQ-9 Reaper Drone before launching his business shortly before he left active duty. After three overseas tours, Russell was ready to start his entrepreneurial journey.
“When I joined the Air Force, not long after graduating from high school, I didn’t really have any interest in aircraft,” he said. “I eventually became a mechanic and started working on aircraft. The idea for this business came to me while in Kuwait. When I left active duty, I used the Boots To Business program, an entrepreneurial education and training program offered by the SBA, to help launch my business.”
Even though Russell put the wheels in motion in February 2019, he didn’t officially go full-time on his new venture until October. He’s currently raising money through a crowdfunding campaign and through small loans from private individuals. Once he secures enough starting capital, he’ll look towards venture capital or angel investors to raise additional funding.
“There’s a lot that goes into starting an aviation business,” he said. “Between the FAA Certificate and the airplanes, it’s a very capital intensive business. We already have our pilots and once we acquire our airplanes, we’ll fly our first flights in October 2020 to the Florida Keys.”
In terms of marketing the new business, Russell shared that they’re heavily targeting social media and will grow the business through a strategic partnership with the County.
“I’m running for Airport Authority in Charlotte County,” he said. “The plan is that we’ll eventually backfill for Allegiant flights. When the major airlines overbook seats in first class, they need options for those customers. By providing them a seat on our airplanes, it keeps them and the airlines happy. We’ll try to do that with some other airlines as well.”
Even though Russell Aviation is described as a luxury private charter service, offering direct flights to destinations within Florida, as Russell shared, his services are intended for more than just high-profile CEOs and wealthy people.
“Most private charter services are leaving the upper-middle class market untapped,” he said. “We’re targeting that group and offering a cheaper alternative to flights with Allegiant. We’re also targeting the entertainment industry. If a big band out of Nashville, TN, is booked to perform at a beach bar, the owner is going to want to fly them down on a nice private plane.”
Russell continued, “We’ll work with local communities to offer discounted rates and in turn bring tourists to these destinations within Florida. Our pricing is top priority in making sure that our clients get the absolute best luxury experience while also not breaking the bank.”
Looking ahead, Russell, who strives to work hard while chasing his dreams, plans to purchase two Citation II Aircraft and lease hangar space at the Punta Gorda Airport. He plans to hire 10 new employees and base all of his operations out of Punta Gorda, along with an auxiliary location in Key West. He's also currently working towards his Bachelor's in Aviation Business Administration.
What advice does Russell have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “Keep working,” he said. “No matter how long or how hard, just keep going.”