Deer Park Airport growth soaring; Region's small airports each have success story

For years it seemed like Deer Park Airport's biggest draw was gravity. It was simply impossible for cross-country pilots to make it over the Rockies en route to the coast without landing to refuel and use the bathroom. There, pilots found a...

In Coeur d'Alene, the new trend is private jets, and many of those are also timeshare, says Greg Delavan, airport manager Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field.

"There's so many jets we hardly notice them anymore," says Delavan, "Sometimes I look up, but we've become so accustomed to them."

Delavan pegs the annual landings and takeoffs for all aircraft at his airport at 337 daily, a number that has been fairly stable since it was reported in 2004 by airport tracker Private jet traffic, on the other hand, has been rising, though hard numbers to that effect are nonexistent.

Unlike larger airports with control towers that monitor the comings and goings of every plane, community airports lacking towers aren't required to record their activity. There are roughly a dozen locally owned corporate jets, like the one owned by Stimson Lumber Co., which flies in and out of Coeur d'Alene regularly, Delavan says. But a growing contributor to jet traffic is relatively new to aviation, jets that are fractionally owned, or "interval ownership" jets, as Delavan calls the craft.

"It's like timeshare for corporate jets," Delavan says. "Used to be it cost $5 million to $50 million to get into corporate jet travel. Now you buy a share. They're professionally operated aircraft. It's a little more affordable at $500,000."

Four different companies offer jet timeshares.

NetJets, owned by Omaha billionaire Warren E. Buffett, is the largest and one of the companies seen taking off and landing at Coeur d'Alene Airport. Bombardier, manufacturer of Challenger and Learjets, offers fractional ownership as small as a sixteenth share and lands in Coeur d'Alene, as well.

The other two companies on the national scene are Citation Shares and Flight Options; the latter is owned by defense contractor Raytheon.

Delavan says he knows of a local physician's wife who calls often on the couple's timeshare jet, though he won't blow her cover. The jets aren't based in Coeur d'Alene.

Rather, they fly in to pick up customers and take them wherever they want. A one-sixteenth ownership gives a person roughly 50 hours of fly time, which does not include fly costs, which run more than $1,500 an hour.

There also are monthly fees that cost $6,000 or more.

If a $500,000 buy in is too pricey, there are also "flight cards," good for fixed amounts of time in the sky. This year, NetJet offered flight cards for as little as $115,990.

Nationally, timeshare jet ownership began growing by about a thousand shares a year in 2001, according to the National Business Aviation Association. A decade earlier, there were only 71 shares in the industry.

Long security lines and ever-increasing flight delays after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made timeshare jets attractive to people who could afford it.

"9/11 really seemed to kick them into high gear," says Larry Booher, of Southfield Aviation. Southfield is one of two companies Coeur d'Alene Airport fueling small jets.

There's some local timeshare ownership, as well as jet owners with second or third homes on Lake Coeur d'Alene, that contribute to increased jet traffic, Booher says.

"We had a load of guys in a Gulfstream. All they do is go to various golf courses," Booher says. "We see some of that."

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