Like many operators, when Hendricks went looking for an airplane, he came to the task with a very specific wish list. Topping that list was the need to safely get into and back out of the strip at West Creek. The thick and cushy bluegrass runway runs 2,600 feet, with a short approach from the east and a more leisurely departure path to the west through a comfortably wide-so long as the engine keeps running-valley toward Gateway, a tiny canyon land berg on the Dolores River.
As you might guess, his choices quickly narrowed to a couple of turboprop singles, the Pilatus PC12 and the Cessna Grand Caravan. Hendricks is not the first operator to noodle over that choice. While the PC12 is pressurized, a lot faster and very roomy, the non-pressurized Caravan is very spacious in its own right. Moreover, its large windows, high wing and ability to be happy flying slowly around and through the red rock canyons and dramatic spires of the area while carrying six or seven passengers in corporate comfort make it an ideal sightseeing airplane. It's also an ideal platform for the 20-minute trip to and from Grand Junction (GJT) Airport, the airport where Hendricks hops on or hops off his NetJets Gulfstream G200.
Hendricks also planned to use his new airplane to commute from Grand Junction or West Creek Ranch to his ski retreat in Utah, roughly a 90-minute flight. While the Caravan doesn't have ski tubes, it can be so outfitted, though when you have your own lodge, as Hendricks reminded me, you usually keep the skis there.
But the most unlikely part of the profile turned out to be one the Grand Caravan excels at, carrying Hendricks and his family from western Colorado to their home north of San Diego. The flight takes about three-and-a-half hours in the Caravan, which sounds like a lot compared with the G200, but Hendricks points out that it's not a straight comparison. For starters, the trip from West Creek to Grand Junction (to hop aboard the G200) takes an hour or so by car. And on the other end, with the Gulfstream, Hendricks would be looking at going into much-less-convenient Lindbergh downtown instead of Montgomery Field to the north, which is much closer to Hendricks' home. Being able to use Montgomery can cut as much as an hour off the total trip time. All told, the Caravan is actually a little faster door to door than the G200. (Obviously, the 270-knot PC12 would be a terrific airplane for regular jaunts to SoCal from Grand Junction.)
So the choice was made. A Caravan it was. Now, what to do with that Caravan.