New owner at Sonoma Jet Center

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July 01--Sonoma Jet Center, one of two full-service flight bases at Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport, is getting a new owner.

Joshua Hochberg, who heads South River Aviation, a New Jersey-based aviation management firm, will take over the business later this month.

"We're pretty positive about the prospects for growth," said Hochberg, an aviation attorney who has worked for airlines including United and Northwest. "But it's going to take a lot of hard work."

Sonoma Jet Center is one of two "fixed-base operators" at the county-owned airport, providing flight services for general aviation. The other is KaiserAir's Santa Rosa Jet Center.

Sonoma Jet Center operates a private terminal, aircraft fuel stations, air charters, car rentals, a large hangar and maintenance and repair facilities.

Hochberg said he'll retain jet center's 15 employees, including general manager John Bridi. "We think it's a great business," Hochberg said. "They know what they're doing."

He didn't disclose other terms of the sale, which is expected to close on July 13.

Since 2005, Sonoma Jet Center has been owned by Paragon Ranch, a real estate and aviation services company based in Colorado.

The transfer of ownership must be approved by Sonoma County, which leases the 3.5-acre airport property to Sonoma Jet Center.

The aviation industry has been hurt by the recession, but the county airport has been on the upswing since Horizon Air started daily scheduled passenger flights in 2007, Hochberg said. "We love the direction the airport is going," he said. "We think the management is fantastic."

The new ownership plans to increase marketing and expand the aircraft maintenance business, he said.

Hochberg was an executive with United Express, the United subsidiary that operated passenger flights at Sonoma County Airport until 2001.

He has also practiced aviation law and worked for the Federal Aviation Administration.

He and several partners founded South River Aviation in 2002 to acquire airport fixed-base operations. "This is our first," said Hochberg, who also is a commercial pilot and flight instructor. "We've done everything else in aviation except run an FBO."

KaiserAir, which provides ground operations for Horizon Air, bought the airport's other FBO from Apex Aviation in 2008.

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