Aviation business expands to Marco


Sometimes a plain old whim can set a business plan in action. And, in the case of aircraft charter company owners Dave Abend and Steve Hensel, bring it to fruition.

The part-time Marco residents and long-time friends run Michigan-based Aviation North, a full-service operation supplying service, fuel and charters to and from anywhere in the lower 48 states and also Canada. Recently, they decided to introduce a Marco to Marathon/Key West leg … on that aforementioned whim.

"We sat outside one day, watching airplanes fly over my pool, so I thought why don't we bring part of our operation down here," Hensel said.

Abend more than liked the idea, and he, Hensel and pilot and CEO Chuck Blackaby fleshed out a plan that introduced the Keys flights.

"Steve's passion, my interest in aviation and Chuck's experience make a good team," Abend said. "We all bring something to the equation." Adding to that equation locally is Florida director of operations Tom Conroy.

Company owners Dave Abend, left, and Steve Hensel flank local Florida operations manager Tom Controy in front of one of their fleet planes, a Piper Cherokee 6.

Abend, whose interest in aviation includes running a company that refurbishes aircraft, bought Aviation North with Hensel about 30 months ago. The company had been in business since 1981, and according to Abend boasts an impeccable safety record.

Abend said the attraction for many clients is that there is no fixed schedule, and that the flights can be scheduled to suit them. Thus, they could fly to the Keys and boat back with the Key West Express, for example. If customers want to overnight, that's no problem either. It's all by arrangement.

On the horizon, the two men said, are flights to the Bahamas, and indeed Cuba – following the recently-announced concessions that relax restrictions to that country.

"That would take about 48 minutes," Hensel said.

A further business niche, Abend said, is wooing Key Westers with flights to this area to come shopping, something he and Hensel have already discussed with Key West officials.

At the moment, the fleet consists of a Piper Cherokee 6, a P Baron corporate twin, a Cessna 421 and a KingAir 200 is imminent.

The company plans to offer flights from Marco Island Executive Airport year-round. Marathon/Key West round trip prices are $198 per person (based on 5 passengers).

Call 747-226-KEYS (5397) or e-mail Avnorth14@gmail.com for more information.