Grand Rapids-based charter operator Otter Air Services has received its Part 135 certificate for on-demand operations from the FAA. Founded in 2020, Otter operates a fleet of new Pilatus PC-12NGX aircraft.
“The Otter concept was born after realising untapped potential in the short haul sector of charter industry,” says general manager Josh Reckley. “We have set the highest standard at Otter to create an amenity rich experience with an unmatched level of customer service.
“The tremendous short field performance of the Pilatus brand helps expand the number of usable airports for our clientele. We are excited to expand our business model and offering to include two PC-24s that will be added to the fleet in 2023. The PC-12NGX and PC-24 complement each other very nicely and provide commonality of OEM and avionics for our pilots and technicians.
“We always viewed the PC-12NGX as a phenomenal regional type, for trips up to around 500 nm, although the time difference compared to the light jet sector was fairly minimal. However, we have been pleasantly surprised by the aircraft’s popularity among clientele on much longer trips to Aspen, Florida and the Bahamas,” Reckley continues. “The aircraft just does everything really well; passenger and pilots alike both love it. Our customers have said they actually prefer the PC-12NGX cabin size over some light jets.”
The company is waiting to move into a new hangar facility and passenger terminal at the Gerald R Ford International airport in western Michigan. Construction is scheduled for completion in March 2024, so for now the team is temporarily located at the AvFlight Grand Rapids FBO.
“We have strategically selected a site located on the east side of the airport for ease of highway access and avoiding the airline passenger congestion and traffic found on the west side of the field. Otter will be the only facility on the airport with an elevated outdoor seating area to enjoy an unobstructed view of the sunset before or after flights,” adds Reckley. “We have collaborated on the project with the design and construction industry’s finest partners, including Integrated Architecture, FCC Construction and OTJ.”
Otter is committed to maintaining a strong safety culture by focusing on aircraft maintenance, using premium training providers for its highly experienced pilots and technicians. It also utilises two pilot crews on all flights.
Third generation pilot Reckley is one of two dual-rated (helicopter and aircraft ATP) pilots and FAA-designated check airmen/instructors for the company. He provides training and/or checking for the line pilots to ensure standardisation. He has spent the past more than 19 years in aviation, both flying and management across fixed and rotor-wing sectors. Most recently he was the former assistant chief pilot of Amway Aviation on the S76, H130 and G550s.
Director of operations Craig Agapie earned degrees from Indiana State University in professional aviation and aerospace administration. After college he flew cargo for seven years, and later taught aerobatics. He joined Otter in the summer of 2021.
Director of maintenance Jake Ansbach and chief pilot Tim Roberts both served in the US Marine Corps. Ansbach held positions such as CH-46 crew chief, weapons and tactics instructor, and quality assurance representative. He was selected to serve as a Marine One Crew Chief responsible for the maintenance and operation of the US President’s helicopter. He helped start up Otter Air Services in late 2020. Roberts served five years as a CH-46 helicopter mechanic/crew chief. He has flown multiple types of aircraft and helicopters in several industries, including flight instructing, airlines, utility work, air medical services and for a corporate flight department.