MIDDLE RIVER, MD — GrandView Aviation, a national private jet operator, wants to reestablish Middle River as a hub for aviation with an expansion that will create hundreds of new jobs for the area over the next few years.
Headquartered at Martin State Airport, the company is betting on a surge in small aircraft travel by fliers wanting to limit COVID-19 exposure.
“Due to COVID and other health concerns, there are more private fliers than ever before,” said Elli Naor, who works in business development for GrandView Aviation. “New passengers are coming to private airlines to reduce exposure — private aircraft means fewer touchpoints (such as) no security line, large terminals, baggage check and claim and check-in processes, and you only fly with your family or coworkers, not with hundreds of other passengers.”
Middle River was once home to one of the largest aviation businesses in the world, the Glenn L. Martin Company. At its height, the aircraft manufacturer employed 53,000 workers and built Martin State Airport to test its world-class aircraft. The airport still has most of the original buildings and there are signs throughout the area showing its aviation heritage, with street names like Propeller Drive and Cockpit Street.
But the aviation glory days of Middle River and Martin State Airport seem like distant history as aviation jobs have declined in the region, including recent news the largest of these companies — Lockheed Martin — is moving over 400 jobs out of state.
The area has been designated an Opportunity Zone due to the community’s low-income levels and lack of development. GrandView Aviation aims to change that.
GrandView Aviation has operated at Martin State Airport for the last five years, growing from a small aircraft carrier to the 23rd busiest charter operator in the United States, according to Jessie Naor, chief operating officer at GrandView.
Nationwide, the private travel industry is seeing huge shifts in demand. Despite record lows reported last year, by July the industry saw a 42.4 percent increase in flight activity from 2020, according to Aviation International News.
In addition to travelers seeking to limit COVID-19 exposure, corporations are encouraging employees to use private airlines more and more for business travel, said Naor. “Major firms like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs are rewarding their teams for using private jets as a way to get more face time with clients (in) a post-COVID world.”
Another contributor to the anticipated surge for GrandView Aviation is a growing need for human organ transplant flights, said Naor.
“There are more people signing up for organ donation every day, which means more lives will be saved and more demand for organ transplant team transport. Plus, as more private aircraft are being used for private travel, there are less private aircraft available to fly transplant surgical teams. GrandView is scaling our fleet nationwide so we can accommodate more organ transplant flights from more locations cross the US.”
Martin State Airport is operated by the Maryland Aviation Administration for the Maryland Department of Transportation. The expansion at GrandView Aviation is privately funded.