The 28-year-old entrepreneur is the president and CEO of Ascension Aircraft, which moved to Atlanta more than a year ago after starting on Peach Orchard Road in Augusta.
The business offers leasing, fractional ownership, selling, buying and charter services for private aircraft. Larkins estimates his company will reach $7.5 million to $8 million in sales this year.
He has 11 full-time and four part-time employees, which include pilots and teams for sales, airport operations and scheduling.
Larkins was recognized by Inc. Magazine as the “No. 1 Entrepreneur in the United States” in 2009, by Business Week as one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs Under the Age of 25” in 2009 and CNBC as one of “The 100 History Makers in the Making” in 2010 for being a young entrepreneur and millionaire. And he’s just getting started, he said.
He said Ascension Aircraft continues to grow in Atlanta, and he plans to open 25 locations nationwide in the next five to 10 years.
“I definitely want to continue to grow. We’ve developed a little bit of a niche in the private aviation industry, but we’re not at the point where we want us to be yet,” Larkins said. “I hope one day that Ascension becomes a brand name and a household name … Hopefully, we’ll have one of the premier private aviation firms in the country with a little bit of work.”
Larkins started Larkins Enterprises Inc., the parent company for Ascension Aircraft, in 2001 and Ascension Aircraft in 2004 when he was in aviation school at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
His interest in aviation was sparked at age 12 during an airplane ride, and he became one of the youngest certified pilots in the country when he flew solo two years later. To pay for his flight lessons, he created an aviation sales and advertising business at age 15. He earned enough to buy his own $60,000 single-prop airplane.
He began his companies with a dream to revolutionize the way private aircraft were bought, sold, financed and operated.
His clients include small businesses, flight schools, universities and major corporations across the country.
“Most recently, probably one of the most exciting aspects of the company, where we’ve had the most growth in the last two years, is the fractional ownership division,” Larkins said.
Fractional ownership developed because aircraft are so expensive, costing $500,000 to $750,000, and the average pilot flies only 100 to 150 hours a year, an average of three to five days a month. Most of the time, the aircraft sit inside the hangar not being used.
Because it’s not economical for most people to purchase an aircraft, the company NetJets developed the jet fractional ownership concept in 1986 to create a pool of jets that people could share, similar to a time share. This gave people and businesses the benefits of aircraft ownership at a fraction of the cost.
Larkins decided to apply the concept to private aircraft, offering the service to pilots, and found success.
“We had one competitor here in Atlanta that had been here for 12 years and left within seven months of us starting operations here,” Larkins said. “We went from being the new kid on the block to becoming No. 1 in market share here in the Atlanta area.”
Larkins continues to work as an ambassador for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aviation and Space Education program. He speaks at nearly 60 schools a year to promote aerospace careers. He spends 30 percent to 40 percent of his time traveling.
“It’s amazing to me how many people forget the career opportunities that are available in aviation,” he said.
Larkins still makes time to practice his flying skills. He frequently hops in his airplane to fly to speaking engagements or visit his parents in Martinez.
“I come home to visit family all the time in Augusta now,” he said. “It’s a 40-minute flight.”