Two Hartford businessmen want to fly you to your next weekend getaway
June 09, 2009
Come July 1, Arian Prevalla and Tony Cresswell of the Connecticut Flight Academy at Brainard Airport want you to think of their Piper Arrow 4-seater airplane as a taxi cab, ready to whisk you off to Block Island or New York in a flash. Block Island, for example, is about 30 minutes away by air taxi.
"We fly at your schedule," says Prevalla, a native of Albania. "From the moment you park your car it will take one to five minutes [to get airborne]. Pop right in, the airplane door will be open, door closes, engine starts."
It will cost roughly $200 per hour for the time you're flying, and you'll be paying for a round trip, whether or not you're on the flight back. A group of three friends could fly to Block Island and back for about $200. Every hour the pilot waits for you on the island will cost you about $60 additional.
Connecticut Air Taxi, as the business will be known, makes particular sense for business travelers, says Prevalla, who may only need to stay at their destination for an hour or so to sign papers or give a deposition.
"These people have needs that don't always work out well with commercial carriers," he says. "We can find an airport as close to your final destination as we can and get in and out very easily. Businessmen can take day trips instead of staying over."
Prevalla and Cresswell met at a flight school in Meriden where Cresswell was an instructor. Prevalla, 36, had been in the travel industry all of his life, chartering jets both in Europe and the United States, but didn't know how to fly himself and yearned to learn.
Cresswell, 52, spent 26 years at Sikorsky as an inspector and airplane mechanic before being downsized. He already had a commercial pilot's license with instrument training when Sikorsky let him go in 2004, and decided he wanted to become a professional pilot and flight instructor.
"It was time for a life change, for quality of life instead of the rat race," says Cresswell.
Spending time together in the cockpit, the two realized they shared the same dream.
"As I learned how to fly, me and Tony sat down and said, 'Let's do this for a living, let's build something for ourselves,'" Prevalla says.
After getting started in Meriden, the pair made the move to Hartford a year and a half ago, renting space at Brainard and building their fleet of airplanes to five. Connecticut Flight Academy has seven instructors altogether, including the co-owners, and a flight mechanic for a total staff of eight. Cresswell is the chief flight instructor.
The FAA-certified flight school includes the only flight simulator for small aircraft in the state, according to Prevalla, which allows half the required training to take place on the ground.
Also, if a student is having a hard time learning a procedure, the simulator can be put on pause while student and instructor discuss the problem.
"You can't pause an airplane," says Prevalla.
When it launches this summer, the partners hope Connecticut Air Taxi will help diversify their young business, adding to the income from the flight school. They hope to expand to other small Connecticut airports in the future.
"I'm real excited about being here," says Cresswell. "The adage 'if you love what you do it's not work' definitely holds true for me."