CB SkyShare expands western operations
From its base in Ogden, Utah, the CB Group started life nine years ago, mainly as an aircraft broker.
Its founder, Cory Bengtzen, had previously worked in the automotive and finance industries but always had a passion for aviation. So much so, that he holds fixed-wing and rotary licences.
But coming from Utah, he saw a gap in the market that he thought he could fill.
Although NetJets and Flexjet cover the Western United States, Bengtzen says that the aircraft in their fleets are generally too large for the shorter-range flights that people want to take around Utah and neighbouring states. Becuase of this it would not be financially beneficial for them because of the size of aircraft available.
He spotted an opening for a new fractional operator that had smaller aircraft capable of short hops.
CB SkyShare officially launched in 2017 as a fractional operator with an emphasis on the Western US, initially with a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop.
As a pre-owned aircraft, shares on the PC-12 could be bought for as little as $175,000 for a sixteenth share. But rather than the percentage you buy guaranteeing a certain number of hours, the CB SkyShare program guarantees a certain number of days. During a flight day, there is no minimum or maximum number flight hours, within FAA guidelines.
The lowest rung of membership, currently set at a one-sixteenth share, gives owners access to the aircraft for 20 days in a year. When somebody takes out a membership, they get access at the same dollar amount to the entire CB SkyShare fleet, which as well as the PC-12 also includes the CitationJet 2, and Gulfstream G200. The maximum is ½ share, which gives 160 flying days a year.
“So, any of our customers, they buy in, they sustain their management fees per month, and then the call our dispatch, and they schedule whatever aircraft best fits their next mission. It could be the Gulfstream G200 going to Hawaii, and the day after the return they could be taking the PC-12 to go from San Francisco down to San Diego.” Says Bengtzen.
Bengtzen wanted the programme to be as simple as possible, so the only real difference is the hourly cost of the aircraft used. The company also guarantees availability. If one of the CB SkyShare aircraft is busy when a member requests a flight, the company will go out into the charter market to secure an aircraft that can be used by the member at the same hourly rate used if it were its own aircraft.
“This program is designed for somebody who wants to fly more than 50 hours privately a year, up to around 350 hours a year. If somebody is flying less than 50 hours a year the retail charter market is really a better way to go.” says Bengtzen.
“If they are flying between 50 and 350 hours a year it is really simple. We handle it, we maintain it we oversee all FAA regulations, and the dispatch. They get all the services and experience and convenience of private aviation and they don’t have to worry about any of the stuff that goes along with creating it.”
To build the company successfully, Bengtzen knew that he had to choose the aircraft types carefully to fit most missions that the members would want to fly. The majority of these are currently short- to medium-distance routes, so the company focussed on aircraft capable of flying those routes.
Having started with a single Pilatus PC-12, the company’s fleet now includes a CitationJet 2 and a Gulfstream G200. A second PC-12 is currently under contract and will join the fleet soon. Additionally, the company has made an offer on a second Gulfstream G200.
All of the aircraft are flown under the Coleman Jet AOC. The partnership that CB SkyShare has with Coleman Jet means that its members can get access to the larger aircraft in the Coleman Jet fleet at discounted rates. Currently the Coleman Jet fleet includes three Gulfstream IVs.
As the company has grown quickly, it has also looked to acquire other businesses, including FBOs. The first of these was Marin County Airport, 43 miles north of San Francisco, which serves as a secondary location for the company to base its aircraft.
It is one side of the business that Bengtzen sees expanding quickly, saying that he would like to acquire at least one FBO per year as the company grows. Southern California is next on the hitlist, with the next location being driven more by where its customers are.
Having mini bases around the western US that the company grows not only helps customers and CB SkyShare. The company does not charge positioning fees on the PC-12 and CJ2, so being able to base those aircraft closer to its customers means that they get quicker access to an aircraft, and CB SkyShare won’t have to carry too much cost for repositioning the aircraft.
For now, though, the company is just focussing on getting the west right, before taking its offering eastwards.
“We want to dominate the west first, with lots of aircraft running up and down the west. Of course, we have worldwide operations but right now we are focussing on the west.”