Encinitas Advocate News

Latitude 33 Aviation expands charter jet fleet

Locally-owned Latitude 33 Aviation is working to elevate the private charter jet experience.

Owned by Encinitas residents Casey Miller and Solomon Short, Latitude 33 started in 2006 with just one Cessna Citation jet and the company now manages over 30 client-owned private business jets based locally at McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad. Over the last year they have added new planes and have expanded to manage one of the newest and largest fleets of light, mid-size and super mid-size aircraft in the country.

In addition to professional jet management and sales services, Latitude 33 offers comfortable and convenient charter business travel as well as luxury travel experiences such as one-day ski excursions or a three-day wine tasting trip to Napa. Flights can be customized with amenities such as beds for overnight flights to catering from Seaside Market.

“I’m proud that we’re the largest charter in San Diego and we haven’t been around as long as some of the others,” said Short, who joined the company as a co-owner in 2011. “It’s a testament to how we’ve grown our company in the right way for our clients.”

The take-off

Aviation was in Miller’s blood—his parents met at Palomar Airport when his father was working as a flight instructor and his mom was the receptionist at the flight school (she also had her own pilot’s license).His father became a pilot for PSA Airlines based in San Diego and from an early age Miller was on planes, sitting in his father’s lap and enjoying family vacations, flying off to destinations on small propeller planes.

“I saw how cool aviation could be and how many doors it could open for you,” Miller said.

Miller did his first solo flight on his 16th birthday—he didn’t even have his driver’s license yet and his parents had to give him a ride to the airport so he could take to the sky.While he was a student at UC Santa Barbara he fell even more in love with flying, spending his summers getting flight time and earning all of his ratings and certificates, taking “odds n’ ends” flying jobs –his first job he was a fish spotter for swordfish fisherman.

He started working for a charter company out of Los Angeles and was the captain of a Learjet at age 23 catering to Hollywood types.

“It was the best job anyone could ever hope for,” Miller said, noting he was living out that cliché of finding something you love for work and never working a day in your life.

Miller became a Gulfstream captain at age 25 and at age 26 he began working for a major U.S. carrier.

Eventually Miller found himself back in Carlsbad managing and overseeing private aircraft—in all of his time working for other people he had learned what worked and what didn’t work, and he knew how he might be able to do a better job with it.

“This whole thing started out as a hobby, I didn’t anticipate it going in the direction it did,” Miller said.

In a few years, his business just kept growing and he got so busy that in 2011 he hit a crossroads where he had to decide whether to pare back or bring in some help—adding Short as a partner he said was “the best decision I ever made.”

Short was born in San Diego but raised in Texas. His dream was always to find his way back to California which he eventually did in 2005—he has lived in Encinitas for 13 years.

Short’s flight path began back when he was a sophomore in college, looking for a career that would be adventurous, he did not want to sit behind a desk all day. He found a local flight school and took a test flight in a two-seat Cessna 152, “I just loved it, I decided at that point to finish school and pursue aviation,” Short said.

Short, who has a degree in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, began working as a flight instructor for a few years and was attempting to get a job flying a commercial airline when Sept. 11 happened, which made a career in aviation a lot more challenging for many young pilots.

Instead he continued flight instruction and flew airplanes for oil companies and car dealerships before he was given the opportunity to run a charter company out of Shreveport, La.

“I was 23 and I knew nothing about it,” said Short of running a charter company. “I had to learn the business side from the ground up.”

After several years he sold his portion of the business and moved back to California—he was flying and managing a couple of planes when he had a chance meeting with Miller on a runway in Phoenix, while gassing up their Citation CJs.

Since that fateful connection and Miller bringing on Short as co-owner and director of operations, Latitude 33 has only continued to grow. They have added to the fleet every year, booked more charter flight hours and hired pilots. While Miller and Short still fly the occasional charter, they currently have 31 pilots on the payroll.

Short said he is proud of the quality experience they are able to offer clients, and that goes back to having the best trained and most experienced professionals in the industry, “Knowing what is required of that position sets us apart from a lot of other companies,” Short said.

As both he and Miller can attest, being a pilot can be a difficult job—an aviation career can mean a lot of time away from families, low wages and overall low job satisfaction. Short said Latitude 33 competes with other companies by offering pilots an improved quality of life and better job satisfaction which allows them to keep a staff of pilots who not only enjoy their jobs but everything that goes into the customer side of things.

Miller said that the pilots are the face of the company and they want that face to be a happy one—a grumpy pilot can ruin the whole experience.Short said in addition to client satisfaction, they also pride themselves on safety—Latitude has earned the ARGUS Platinum rating, the highest safety rating for charters—only five percent of all charter companies have achieved Platinum status.

The ascent

Miller said 2018 was a great year for the company. With a changing economy, he said people are traveling more than ever and more people are buying planes. As of January 2019 they have added two new airplanes to the fleet, including the Citation Latitude, Cessna’s newest model, and the Challenge 605, a comfortable 10-passenger plane that can go one-stop to Europe and easily to Hawaii.

A more complete, well-rounded fleet allows them to cater to a larger variety of travelers and destinations— “It’s been an exciting year and we’re excited to see where things are going to take us in 2019 with all our aircraft,” Miller said.

Miller and Short said they consider Latitude 33 to be a family-oriented company and they have worked to stay involved and give back to the local community.They have partnered with local schools and organizations on fundraising opportunities, including Hanna Fenichel in Solana Beach, the Rancho Santa Fe Education Foundation, The Grauer School, the University of San Diego, and the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito.

Latitude 33 also has the potential to become a family business as both Miller and Short’s daughters have logged time in the cockpit with their dads. While Miller’s four-year-old currently prefers to ride in the back more than the front, Short’s 15-year-old daughter has a passion for aviation and may pursue getting her pilot’s license this summer.

To learn more, visit l33jets.com.

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