Friday, May 24, 2024

Glenn Gonzales


Glenn Gonzales spends a chunk of time 40,000 feet in the air, but his real office is
on the ground in downtown Greensboro, where his commercial air-travel company Jet It
is headquartered. 

The cockpit, he says, is the reason the company has gone from takeoff in 2018 to a major presence on the fractional-jet landscape in less than five years. The company sells shares of its aircraft fleet, giving owners the ability to use a plane for entire days rather than having to rent by the hour. The company has about 200 employees concentrated in Greensboro but also in Dallas; Millington, Tennessee; and Canada.

“We’re an aviation company led by aviators,” says the former Air Force fighter-jet pilot, 45, born in Houston. Many of Jet It’s senior executives have similar flight resumes. Co-founder Vishal Hiremath now heads Jet Club, its European sister company. “Now I’ve surrounded myself with incredibly competent people in areas I might not be as smart in, but we work really well together.”

After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1999, he flew missions in Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan, then left active duty in 2009 to become a demonstration pilot for Gulfstream Aerospace, a business-jet manufacturer. He earned an MBA from the University of South Carolina in 2012. He remains in the Air Force Reserve.

In 2014, Gonzales went to work for Greensboro-based Honda Aircraft, which has created an innovative private jet line. He rose to regional sales manager before forming Jet It in 2018 with Hiremath, a former colleague at Gulfstream.

Four years later, the company operates 24 HondaJets, two Canadian-made Embraer Phenom 300s and two Gulfstream 150s. The latter two are faster, larger and longer range than the Hondas.

Late last year, Jet It got crossways with HondaJet, which filed a federal lawsuit in December contending that Gonzales sold a new aircraft to a third party without the manufacturer’s approval. The legal action followed a trade press story citing Gonzales’ private email criticism of HondaJet’s customer service.   

While Gonzales says the company is “happy with HondaJet,” offering different options is a key factor in Jet It’s success.

“We’ve focused on diversity,” he says. “Diversity of thought, diversity of experience and an innovative business model and innovative aircraft that let us meet the needs of diverse clients.”

Being a former fighter pilot, he says, has opened doors to capital and financing. But he and the company have to prove their ability to deliver. “I’m fortunate,” he says. “My experience touches on all aspects of the business, from flying airplanes to the business aspects.”

He has also served as a mentor in the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce’s entrepreneurship programs.

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