For 26 years, Butler Aviation has been a part of the Houma community, offering air taxi services for people who can afford to charter a flight anywhere in the U.S. and the Caribbean.
Bobby Butler started the charter operation in 1992 with one single-engine airplane. It later grew to employ 12 people and four planes, with most of its business flying customers to and from New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette.
Nowadays, the operation is owned by Juan Romero and his wife, Kristel Romero.
“Because of my age, I decided to put the business up for sale,” Butler said. “At the time, Juan had been working for me some number of years, and we worked it out to where he could take over the business. I am still out here most days. I am not on a payroll, but I still fly for him and help him keeping the customer base intact.”
Both graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Butler in 1967 and Romero in 2007. Butler flew as a pilot for the Army Security Agency from 1969 until 1971 in Vietnam and Germany.
Juan Romero said he plans to expand to Panama and Canada and eventually South America and Europe.
“If we are not growing, we are shrinking,” Romero said. “So we will try to keep growing continuously and try to reproduce in other parts of the country so as a company we’ll haveÂ a multitude of aircraft.”
There have been some changes at the operation in the past couple of years, including the addition of more jets and larger airplanes.
“As we continue to grow, I want to get more diverse options toward the local area,” Romero said. “Not so much into Houma but the whole Gulf-South region. Our market, since aircraft are movable, isn’t just Houma.”
The way the air taxi works is simple, convenient and quick. People can call or google for viable options to go from one place to another and get the service the same day. However, there is no base cost, and it can be expensive.
For example, an eight-passenger Beechcraft King Air 200 was listed last week on the company’s website at $1,600 an hour. A smaller King Air C90-1 was listed at $1,200 an hour.
“People can get a quote because all flights are different,” Butler said. “Depending on the plane size, the amount of people and the destination, people can get a per-trip basis.”Â
For many business customers,Â the service’s speed and convenience are the main draws. The charter operation can serve 5,000 or more airports.
“Anywhere that we can get into with the performer characteristics of the aircraft,” Romero said. “We offer a much broader spectrum compared to a commercial aviation. Maybe you want to go to a city that is not serviced by an airline, we can service all of those locations and we can bring the person or item to the most closest convenient location they need to be.”
The operation offers fuel, hangars and other services to planes stopping in Houma. It offers flight instruction as well.
“It’s a little bit of everything,” Butler said. “You need them all to support the charter operation. You can’t have a charter operation unless you have your own fuel, and we can storage about 30,000 gallons of fuel and up to 30 airplanes. We also maintain our own planes.”
For Butler and Romero, it’s more than just business.
“We have a pretty good time out here,” Butler said. “We love aviation.”
— Staff Writer Andrea Mujica can be reached at 857-1148 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @CationM.