Washington businessman Calvin Cafritz has acquired controlling interest in a small commuter airline based in Daytona Beach, Fla.
He already has expansion plans.
The airline, National Florida Airlines, currently operates three daily nonstop flights between Miami and Daytona Beach using an eight-passenger Piper Navajo Chieftain, which Cafritz says will be replaced soon by a 19-passenger de Havilland Twin Otter, and another plane will be added.
The Washingtonian isn't entirely new to aviation. The business activities of his locally based Calvin Cafritz Enterprises include leasing aircraft, he noted. He also said he has been interested in aviation since he was a child.
The opportunity to buy into the small Florida carrier came up recently when it began to suffer from the effects of the poor economy. "Although the airline was able to maintain its schedule . . . they had run into some financial difficulties and needed an infusion of additional capital to get into a position where they could expand," Cafritz explained. "The challenge is to see if it's possible to take this and transform it into a money-making business."
Cafritz, who will serve as president and chairman of the board of the airline, said Florida continues to be a fast-growing state with "real potential" for the expansion of air service. He declined to disclose the amount of his investment.
Although Peter Vazquez, founder and former president of the airline, is staying on as its chief operating officer, Cafritz has brought in a new management team -- unpaid -- that includes several Washingtonians, including Jeffrey M. Rubin of Washington-based Aviation Enterprises as executive vice president and attorney Daniel Webster Coon as vice president and general counsel.