Elite Jets has welcomed seven new aviation professionals to its growing team, including three pilots with experience flying private jets, cargo planes and commercial airliners.
Elite Jets, which has a private terminal and three hangars at the Naples Airport, has faced a surge in demand since the pandemic began that’s required the 5-year-old company to add team members.
“For affluent travelers, the choice about how to fly – first-class commercially or privately – once was a financial decision,” said Stephen Myers, Elite Jets’ executive vice president. “Now it’s a health and safety decision. Passengers feel more comfortable knowing it’s just their traveling party and flight crew on board, and that’s fueled a surge in interest for charter flights.”
Convenience also factors into the industry’s growth, Myers said, since Elite Jets can fly into smaller regional airports and passengers only need to arrive minutes before a flight’s scheduled departure, not hours.
Elite Jets’ fleet includes four Embraer Phenom 300 jets, one Embraer Legacy 500 jet and a Bell 407 helicopter. The company also manages a Hawker 850XP jet. On-board amenities include high-speed Wi-Fi, personalized temperature controls, recliner-like leather massaging seats and a digital entertainment system to watch movies, TV shows and news. Personal cabin attendants also are available. Elite Jets’ White Diamond Concierge Services include a door-to-door chauffer, Tesla charging station and car detailing services.
New team members include:
Jhon Arias, Phenom 300 first officer: Arias is an FAA-certified pilot who recently served as pilot-on-call for business executives in Naples. He also has experience as a mission pilot, maintenance officer and IT officer for the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary, as well as roles as an electromechanical assembler and IT professional. Arias completed his studies at Cendi College in Colombia and is fluent in English and Spanish.
Rick Castellon, Phenom 300 first officer: Castellon is a former commercial and cargo pilot with experience flying an Airbus A320, Boeing 727-200 and Cargo Boeing 727-200, as well as a Piaggio P.180 Avanti turboprop aircraft and Citation II corporate jet. A U.S. Navy veteran, Castellon served during the Persian Gulf War in 1991.
David Shnipes, Legacy 500 and Hawker 850XP captain: Shnipes is an experienced pilot with more than 8,000 hours of total flying time. He most recently served as a captain for a Florida-based private aviation company, and has experience as a chief pilot, director of operations and director of safety. Shnipes earned a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Teresa Parry, manager of client services: Parry manages trip confirmation details for clients to ensure a positive, memorable customer service experience. Prior to joining Elite Jets, Parry was the corporate and leisure air specialist for a Naples-based travel company following a 25-year career at Procter & Gamble, where her roles included global operations administrator for travel services, innovation consultant and corporate travel reservationist.
Dave Smith, director of quality assurance: Smith promotes a quality culture within Elite Jets that is focused on improving processes and procedures. He maintains a Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS) that evaluates and analyzes performance of Elite Jets’ inspection and maintenance programs. Smith, who serves as a liaison with the FAA, previously was general manager for a company specializing in helicopter and engine parts.
John Westbrook, executive charter consultant: Westbrook works with Elite Jets’ operations team and assists passengers with trip planning, scheduling and logistics. Previously, Westbrook worked in sales of charter flights for wholesale and retail clients, and he has 20 years of private aviation experience in sales, operations, owner services and client services. He is an FAA-licensed dispatcher.
Chad Yarnell, line crew technician: Yarnell performs aircraft maintenance in compliance with all FAA regulations and safety standards, prioritizing passenger health and safety at Elite Jets. A former lead mechanic at a flight school, Yarnell graduated from Barron Collier High School in Naples and completed the airframe and powerplant (A&P) aviation mechanics licensure program at Lorenzo Walker Technical College.