Originally created 05/24/04

Businesses save by flying



AIKEN - When Avondale Mills Inc. executives need to fly halfway across the country, they get to their destination on time with no risk of losing their luggage.

Avondale Mills Chief Pilot Larry Bramon flies from Aiken to Atlanta in less than 20 minutes on a clear day.

"To travel from plant to plant is no big deal. Now we can go to New York or our sales offices out West in the same day," Mr. Bramon said. "A 45-minute flight to Birmingham, Ala., saves a day's worth of driving."

Avondale Mills Inc. has textile mills in Graniteville and other mills and customers throughout the Southeast. The company's fleet of two Cessna Citation corporate jets is based in Monroe, Ga., but the jets are flown in and out of Aiken on a weekly basis.

G. Stephen Felker Jr., a spokesman for Avondale Mills, said the company is able to manage the business with fewer people and have fewer overall costs by using the jets.

Air traffic in and out of Aiken Municipal Airport has doubled in the past five years, airport manager Beth North said. Nearly 200 planes fly in and out of the airport every day.

With the help of the city of Aiken, the airport received a face-lift - a $1.2 million addition to the main terminal.

"The airport is the gateway to your city and is a viable route for economic growth," Ms. North said.

"We're between the size of Daniel Field and Columbia (Metropolitan) Airport, and more people are finding us more convenient."

Rick Moore said flying in his twin-engine 1974 Beech Barron jet enables him to do three times as much work in one day as he could if he flew commercially. On Friday, he was inspecting store locations in Southern California.

"I can get closer to my destination in general aviation," said Mr. Moore, the president and chief pilot of Phoenix Recycled Products in Batesburg, S.C. "It's dramatically more efficient because I can go to several different cities in one day. I can cover a lot more turf."

Although his business is about the same distance from Aiken as it is from Columbia, he flies into Aiken Municipal Airport because he can leave with fewer delays, he said.

Phoenix Recycled Products specializes in recycling rubber products, and Mr. Moore said some of his customers have stores nationwide. Part of his job involves inspecting stores throughout the country.

Even with the rising cost of aviation fuel, Mr. Moore saves money by flying his jet. He said he hopes to get a more fuel-efficient jet in the near future.

"I enjoy being able to go home at the end of the day," Mr. Moore said. "You can go home and sleep in your own bed. It's a nice thing."

Reach Karen Ethridge at (803) 648-1395 karen.ethridge@augustachronicle.com.