[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2008/images/03/08/art.sohacki.jpg caption=”Aaron Sohacki fell in love with planes at an early age.”]
Like a lot of kids, Aaron Sohacki’s dad took him to watch airplanes take off and land at the airport. Like some kids, his love for watching planes turned into a love of flying, and he got his pilot’s license before his driver’s license. Uniquely, his love for flying turned into a passion for running a business that flies other people.
When Sohacki was 21, he started ImagineAir. It’s a regional company that lets regular folks fly privately. Along the way, he has flown some not-so-regular people like one of his first clients, the former mayor of Augusta, Georgia, who needed to fly to have dinner with Rudy Giuliani.
The charter service takes people 300-500 miles from the headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Considered a new version of a taxi service, the “air taxi” often costs less than commercial travel. Now age 24, the CEO still flies customers and often gets asked, “Are you even old enough to fly this plane?”
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview
I look for inspiration in stories like Aaron..I’ve always passionately dreamt of being a commercial pilot ever since i was in 2rd grade,now am 21 yrs old..I wasn’t raised that well off so my major problem has been money. Being a minority(african american) does not hinder me in any way, i know i will get there one day..and to everyone out there with a dream..don’t let go of it !
steven (twin cities)
Bravo Sohacki. Full support from my side.
Talk about doing something you love and flying with the idea…
Now that’s an Entrepreneur!
I don’t know too much about the flying biz, but anyone that can offer me a way to fly without worrying if my cologne bottle is too large is a visionary to me!
Bravo Aaron, this is so inspirational. I wish you will one day become the largest airline in the world. I surely will need your service. You may need my marketing service as I struggle to build my empire at thebusinessads.com – Bravo.
From a personal perspective, it’s always a great story to hear about someone doing what they love. From a business perspective, it’s truly entrepreneurial if they can make a sustaiinable business out of it. In this case, I don’t see how it’s profitable.
I looked for someone like this last summer in my area…couldn’t find anyone though! I think there’s a bigeer demand than one might think. Where I wanted to go had a small airport literally right next door, but I was going to have to fly into a large airport over an hour away instead because the airport was too small for the big jets.
Terrific job Aaron! What was the most difficult challenge you had? How did you get through it?
First and foremost, I’d like to say that it’s awesome he’s doing what he’s doing. But, like Dale said, it can’t possibly be profitable and I’m fairly certain he had to be bankrolled by someone, or he inherited a good deal of money. Anyone who knows anything about the costs of flying a late model airplane (or any for that matter) for hire knows this to be true. The down payment and monthly payments on a $300,000 airplane, coupled with required periodic inspections, gas, parking, advertising, etc. are beyond most 24 yr. olds means. You just can’t charge enough to cover all of it…at least not in the beginning. Again, I’m totally for what this young man has accomplished, but it’s really not like you can just decide to go out and make all this happen without the kind of backing the vast majority of us could obtain under normal circumstances. Clear skies and tailwinds Aaron!!!!
hey Aaron, i am 21, i flew Cessna 172’s, and 152’s and like you i got my pilots license before my drivers license, awesome experience to know that you can do something that most people your age can not do. I got to read this article on you and I think its awesome, i back you 110% percent. Right now i am in the navy and working on flying helicopters and if your ImagineAir business is still around when i get out of the military i would like to join your business, i dont know if you will get to read this but if you do, e-mail me a firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awesome Job Aaron.
Aaron….can you explain the regulatory requirements of your charter business…is it a simple FAR Pt 135 operation? Do you fly in all types of weather? Do you charge by ‘air time’ , or distance, and are you interested in expanding your business to other locations which would be well served by such a “personal transportation” business, such as the northeast? Thank you
Do you have a Part 135 certificate from the FAA?
Great story of entrepreneurialism. Any plans to expand your business?
Sort of in reply to ‘Norm TX’: Although the costs are steep with a late model plane, (although airworthiness directives are generally not as abundant as with an older plane ); the financial model for this young man’s venture is MOST workable. The ‘catch’ is that you create a focus on a very specific type of clientelle; the so-called ‘well-heeled’ crowd. For the latter folk, speed, ease and conveinence are the only real concerns; they aren’t looking for a ‘discount airline’, just someone who could get them ‘there’ without all the associated inconveinences of the scheduled carriers.
Kudos to this young man. I’m a flight instructor and really would like to see a lot more young people get involved in aviation; hopefully positive stories like this will be an impetus for some young person, to excel.
Dream Big. Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, you will achieve.
Recycling Today For A Greener Tomorrow
To those who’ve posted being so pessimistic. That attitude is why most fail. For Aaron, no matter how he managed to finance the business he is doing what he loves and making a living at it. That, in itself, is something to be proud of. Before making a snap judgement about how he did it try watching his interview tomorrow Live Friday, March 14, at 3:30 p.m. ET. Congrats Aaron on living your dream.
Thats hott! Is he single?
How awesome!!! I have a son who is 22 years old and he is exactly like you Aaron!!! He has a love for aircraft as well and collects every single book he can on aircraft. Everyone Sunday, together we go to the airport and watch all the planes take off and land and have been doing this for years and years. This is one of his favorite hobbies. You go my boy Aaron. I have a question, though. How much do you charge to charter a flight?
Kudos to this Georgia Tech grad for being able to do what he loves, but give credit where credit is due CNN. A teenager doesn’t get the money to get his pilot’s license and ratings by working a paper route. Flying is an expensive undertaking. He also didn’t found ImagineAir completely on his own. Less than 5 minutes of Internet research shows that he co-founded this company with fellow Georgia Tech grad, Benjamin Hamilton, and the entire enterprise is bankrolled by Dr. Paul Fischer. For more information, see the Augusta Chronicle article from February 2007, http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/021807/bus_117002.shtml.
Congrats on the success of your business!
Did you have any challenges obtaining funding to start up your business? Do you feel you had any discrimination due to your age? If so, how did you overcome them?
This is an awesome idea Aaron.
What are your aspirations for expanding the company throughout the US? How were you able to start your company financially? Also, are you hiring pilots in the future?
Thanks for being an inspiration. Dreams do come true–eventually.
For Steve in Texas, this service is offered in Texas through a network
that represents several operators like the one in this story. Just search Texas low cost charter.
If he charge his client less than comercial travel, how could he make any profit?
When they say its cheaper than flying regular commercial air they are talking FULL FARE, which it states on the ImagineAir website. Full fare isn’t cheap, and thats probably how they’re able to turn a profit.
Question for Aaron Sohacki:
How did you determine there was a need for your air taxi service and how can you operate and charge less than a commerical airline?
Congratulations on your success.
Awesome idea! It will take some time to develop though…
To all of those that are interested in the cost and profitability, I researched a flight from Birmingham, AL to a small airport in the Atlanta area yesterday. One way would be around $450 (hour flight). I believe you can rent a Cirrus wet (fueled) for a little under $200 / hr. Also a fractional owner you can operate an SR22 for about $270/hr. This includes maintenance, hangar, insurance, training and all other associated costs. With this scenario, you would have to layout around $100k-$150k for your equity stake though. I think it would be possible to run his operation in the black, but it would require very little additional overhead, an efficient schedule maximizing the aircrafts time in the air, and sufficient funds until the operation breaks even (which could be several years). In other words, you better live at home or share living expenses. If he can make $200/hr and fly around 10 hrs per week, he can make back his equity stake in a year. I am sure there is an “economies of scale” factor here as well…so maybe this thing is possible after all!
There are dozens of well-established companies providing Air Taxi service, including DayJet, NetJets, and others. It’s amazing that this person was able to arrange financing for his certifications and business, but air taxi service is hardly new.
You have done a wonderful job Aaron at bringing this dream to reality, your continuous hard work has come to fruition.
Having flown with Aaron, I greatly appreciate the beautiful polite service, the efficient, luxurious flight and the no wait between parking my car and getting into the plane and off to my destination. Not to mention the circarama view with a guided tour by the pilot, if you ask him:)
I wish you the best Aaron!
This is awesome Aaron — goodluck!:)
I previously thought of doing a similar Air Taxi operation but in other parts of the world. I would really like to talk more about future operations. Have a fantastic day.
wow that is great! Keep it up!!
Great!!!! All the best Aaron for your future. I actually love flying, especially what you are doing. How you ever tried flying F-16’s that is an awesome aircraft.
I just wanted to say I have really enjoyed my experience with ImagineAir, and in response to some who say it cannot be profitable by being so low-cost, I would like to point out that the time they have saved me over commercial travel has been more than worth it. Also, their entire staff is so considerate: top-notch customer service!
Got a girlfriend? Hey now!
Thank you CNN for posting this POSITIVE news. More papers should include more positive stories of all kinds. We see too much of the negative in the world, and though we should knows what’s going on in the world, we also need to see the positive to inspire us all to something better.
A guy i know from High School is their CTO, I think it’s a great idea an I congratulate them on getting this business off the ground and running!
Congrats, Aaron, on achieving your dream. My 18 year old nephew has just acquired his PPL and is the youngest pilot in aviation history in Barbados, so I understand the expenses involved. In order for young persons to achieve their dreams they have to be focused and determined. Some careers are not initially profitable, and some will never be. However, the satisfaction achieved from doing a job you love can many times outweigh the initial financal challenges. Youngsters need to have positive, committed role models to emulate. Best wishes.
I recently attended an Awesome Teachers Awards dinner in Atlanta, Georgia which was being hosted by a 19 year-old who founded an organization called Each One Reach One Community Impact Project, Inc. This young man who is a college student, Antonio Jennings, sought to find the 20 most awesome teachers in the Atlanta Public School System. He put all of this together while home on spring break (with the help of his mother). I believe he said he received 147 nominations and narrowed them down to the top 20. The top 20 were invited to a very nice dinner at the 755 Club at Turner Field and each received a very nice gift. The winner received a crystal trophy and a cash prize of $1,000.00. Mind you this was all paid out this young man’s pocket. Not only did he award the teachers for doing awesome work in the community, he gave out more than $40,000.00 in scholarships to some of the tutors who volunteer with his program. His program, by the way, serves at risk youth who are struggling in school and with discipline and is in its 4th year. Rarely do you hear about awesome work of young African American male who are “not” pro athletes. He is not trying to make money himself, but to give as much as he can to help others. I salute Mr. Jennings and hope that you will share this story.
Here is his website: http://www.eachonereachone.dreamhosters.com
Antonio, I salute for you all do for your community. Keep up the great work — you are setting for a positive example for all young men.
good luck and more power to your career!