FBO and charter/management company Advanced Air (Booth 2031) has transformed Jack Northrop Field/Hawthorne Municipal Airport into one of the Los Angeles area’s premier destinations. Once just a viable alternative airport for those who didn’t want to fly into busy Van Nuys, Los Angeles International, or John Wayne/Orange County, Hawthorne has developed its own business aviation haven.
“This used to be a sleepy airport with no hangars with doors, leaky roofs, and no new construction since the 1970s,” said Advanced Air president and founder Levi Stockton. “Now see what we’ve built. We’ve brought in some tenants from Santa Monica Airport [which is closing at the end of 2028], and we’ve built more than 200,000 square feet of hangar space, including 75,000 square feet on the north side.”
With more than 120 employees, the FBO—Jet Center Los Angeles—and its charter divisions continue to grow. “We’re firing on all cylinders,” Stockton said, and that has been a result of the company’s diverse offerings, from FBO services to retail charter and aircraft management plus operating aircraft for other companies.
When the pandemic began in 2020, Advanced Air saw changes in customer demand. As companies found that they couldn’t move people on airlines, they turned to charter. And while passengers cut back on travel in the company's Pilatus PC-12s, Advanced Air put the Pilatus fleet to work delivering Covid tests. “When one thing slowed down, another thing picked up,” he said.
Advanced Air’s jet and turboprop fleet now numbers nearly 25 aircraft, and the company is looking to add more aircraft, including additional King Airs and midsize jets. “We have one of the largest propeller fleets on the West Coast,” Stockton said. Advanced Air operates all of Surf Air’s PC-12s, as well as two 30-seat Dornier 328s for Taos Air, which flies Essential Air Service and other routes in the Southwest U.S.
Although the pandemic put a pause on some flight operations, Stockton said, “Now we’re going back into the worst we’ve seen of the pilot shortage.” Advanced Air does have an advantage, however, as it can start low-time pilots in the right seat of a PC-12 and help them move into the captain’s seat at 1,200 hours, then obtain their Airline Transport Pilot certificate at 1,500 hours to fly the King Airs, then the 328s and jets.
Stockton doesn’t expect pilots to stick around forever if they are aiming at a lucrative airline job, but Advanced Air can give them a good job with benefits and help them grow from a few hundred hours to 3,000 hours in three years. “They have a good quality of life and pay structure and skip the regional airlines and go directly where they want to go,” he explained.
All Advanced Air flying is with two pilots and full crew resource management training, a modern safety management system, and participation in the FAA’s Aviation Safety Action Program. This not only ensures high levels of safety but prepares pilots for future opportunities with the latest safety protocols.
One example is a pilot who started on the Jet Center Los Angeles line crew a little over two years ago with 390 hours of flight time, then started flying in the right seat of the PC-12. More recently, this pilot was sent to training for his type rating on the Challenger 350 and has already logged more than 3,000 hours.
Advanced Air is also good at putting aircraft to use efficiently. “Aircraft management is our core business,” Stockton said. “We’re a management company that offsets costs with charter. We’re really good at taking an asset, maintaining it, operating safely, and protecting its value.”
The growth at Hawthorne Airport couldn’t have come at a better time, as the next major event on Advanced Air’s calendar is Super Bowl LVI, which is scheduled for February 13 at SoFI Stadium in Inglewood. Hawthorne Airport, with its 4,884-foot runway, is the closest airport to SoFI, and preparations for the event have been underway for months. “There will be airplanes in every nook and cranny,” Stockton said, and this will likely be the case when the 2028 Olympics comes to Los Angeles.