Silverhawk Aviation has been in the charter flight business for years, ferrying around business and private customers to wherever they want to go.

Now the company is going to give those fliers a chance to own a piece of their own airplane.

Silverhawk is in the process of getting Federal Aviation Administration approval to start a Net Jets-style fractional ownership program.

"We just saw a need," said Mike Gerdes, the company's president.

Gerdes and Gene Luce, Silverhawk's director of maintenance, bought the company from its longtime owners two years ago, and they have continued the growth that was already going on.

Since about 2010, Silverhawk has doubled its workforce to more than 90 employees, and has tripled its fleet of planes from four to 12, Gerdes said.

To deal with that growth and the expected growth from its new fractional ownership program, called Silverhawk Shares, Silverhawk is expanding its facilities at the Lincoln Airport.

The company held a groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning for a new 26,000-square-foot hangar, which it plans to use to house the planes for its fractional ownership business.

In addition, it plans to do a significant remodel of its existing facility. The two projects will cost the company at least $6 million, Gerdes said.

He said that if all goes as planned, the work on both buildings will be complete by next summer, at which time Silverhawk hopes to have its FAA approval for the jet ownership program.

To start, the company is selling shares in two planes. A three-seat Cirrus turboprop plane and an eight-seat Citation jet.

Customers can buy either a 10 percent share in a plane, which gets them 50 hours of flying time, or a 20 percent share, which gets them 100 hours.

The upfront buy-in ranges from $55,000 for 10 hours in the smaller plane, to nearly $500,000 for 100 hours, Gerdes said. Then there are monthly fees of $10,000 to $20,000.

The fact that there are no additional fees, such as fees for flight time or fuel surcharges, makes the program unique from other fractional share programs, Gerdes said.

It all comes out to about $2,400 an hour for flight time on the larger jet or more than $600 an hour on the smaller plane.

That may sound like a lot, but it's for the whole plane, so if the plane is full, it actually could be cheaper on a per-person basis than coach-class tickets.

And that doesn't even account for the time savings and convenience, Gerdes said.

While someone could get that same time savings and convenience by buying their own plane, they also take on a tremendous amount of risk and the additional costs of unexpected maintenance items.

The fractional ownership program offers the best of both worlds.

Gerdes said Silverhawk is targeting customers in a 175-miles radius, an area that includes Omaha, Des Moines, Sioux Falls and Kansas City.

It hopes eventually to expand its fractional ownership program to 10 planes and even has plans to buy even larger jets.

Gerdes said that if it reaches that goal it will mean the need for dozens more employees.

Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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