Imagine, if you will, launching an air charter operation. Typically, it would involve one or several turbine-powered, multiengine aircraft crewed by two pilots. The flights would often be arranged through brokers who set the pricing and who in turn pay the carrier for the providing the service. Typical arrangement, but not how Ben Hamilton and his partners imagined it.

Hamilton, an aerospace engineer from Georgia Tech and CFI who headed the school’s 200+ member Yellow Jacket Flying Club, and pal Aaron Sohacki, also a pilot and fellow Ramblin’ Wreck, had a different view when they began discussing the charter business back around 2005.

They agreed that top-end users such as major corporations and high net worth individuals were well served by outfits like EJM, Jet Aviation, and others. However, they saw the mass market – people who drive their cars on two- to six-hour business and leisure trips – as being woefully underserved. Untapped, really.

Of course, getting workaday road warriors off the interstate and into the air would demand a pricing proposition they could accept. That excluded anything burning Jet A. And requiring a second engine. And a second pilot.

Their flying solution was the Cirrus SR22, a sophisticated, high-performance four-seat aircraft. Powered by a single, avgas-burning Continental IO-550N engine, rated at 310 hp, the airplane can cruise at 180 kt. and has a seats-full range of 1,100 nm. A feature unique to the Cirrus among production aircraft is its whole-airplane parachute system. The system is activated by pulling a handle on the ceiling, thus firing a rocket that deploys a 65-ft.-diameter canopy, which lowers the machine to the ground.

A second key element was a website that would instantly provide users with pricing for any trip between any two of the 900 airports in the eastern U.S. The pricing could vary, depending on the time of day – a programmed feature designed to help minimize deadheads.

A third critical consideration was the person at the controls. Since there would be just one pilot, that person had to be an experienced aviator and have an engaging, welcoming personality – after all, the pilot would likely be the only ImagineAir employee with whom the customer would have contact.

Backing the company’s launch was Paul Fischer, a physician and entrepreneur based in Augusta, Georgia. Dr. Fischer had extensive experience as a user of airlines and private aviation, and much preferred the latter. He believed others would feel similarly, if given the chance.

ImagineAir began operation in 2007, based at Gwinnett County Airport, Lawrenceville, Georgia. The company’s prime service area was to be the southeastern states, but would range as far north as New England.

While business was slow at first, the clientele kept building, and the operation kept growing to accommodate it. In 2014 ImagineAir raised additional investment capital and merged with Kavoo, an SR22 operator based in Danbury, Connecticut, thereby becoming what it describes as “the largest air taxi company spanning the entire eastern United States.”

Today the company has 40 employees, operates a floating fleet of 11 SR22s, which are leased from customers and flown by 20 full- and flextime pilots, most of whom are retired airline or military aviators. All totaled, the aircraft have logged over 25,000 flight segments on trips averaging 1 hr. 20 min. and carrying an average of 1.8 passengers.

According to president and CEO Hamilton – co-founder and friend Sohacki is now a marketer for Delta Airlines – the operation is profitable and growing. Revenue has increased by 30% or more each year, he says, and the plan is to grow the fleet to 30 aircraft next year and add another 20 in 2016. “The demand is there,” he says.

At one point the company considered operating Eclipse 500 very light twinjets, but the manufacturer’s bankruptcy put an end to that. Just as well, says Hamilton: “For our model, the price was too expensive.” Still, he admits to “eyeing” the Vision SF50, Cirrus Aircraft’s single-engine jet now in certification flight testing.

Hamilton attributes ImagineAir’s success to several factors. First is the instant, dynamic pricing and flight confirmation for customers. Then there’s SR22: “It’s working well. We have had success with it.” Having a roster of affable, highly experienced pilots is key – “The number one positive feedback we get (from customers) is about their pilot.” And finally, there’s fulfilling on the pitch, “to turn a three- to eight-hour drive into a one- or two-hour flight, and get customers home for dinner.”

Once the company saturates the East Coast, Hamilton imagines they may launch a West Coast operation as well.