Local travelers now have more options for private short-haul jet trips with the arrival of charter airline Verijet at the Santa Maria Public Airport's Central Coast Jet Center.

Verijet, founded last year and based out of Florida, is operating three aircraft on the West Coast as of July 26, all of which will come back to their home base at the Santa Maria Public Airport for maintenance and inspections between trips.

The jets will service the general areas of southern, central and northern California, with a base rate of $3,000 per flight hour and no repositioning costs, making it one of the most economical jet services in the business, according to the Verijet website.

Each jet can hold up to five adults and two children, and can travel within 700 miles in either direction of the Santa Maria Public Airport. However, for trips with just one passenger, the jet could travel distances as far as 1,200 miles with a full tank, according to West Coast region pilot Jim Bagnard.

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Verijet Captain Jim Bagnard performs a visual inspection of his Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet on Friday. 

On Friday, Verijet officials and Bagnard offered a small group of Santa Maria business owners and residents a close-up view of the Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet that will be used for the flights, with similar kickoff events this week in Napa and Hawthorne. 

According to Bagnard, an experienced pilot with decades of commercial airline, aerial firefighting and Marine Corps. experience, the idea of the service is to provide economical, convenient and safe short-haul flights to a niche market of travelers looking to fly in and out of smaller airfields that don't accommodate larger jets.

"Let's say that a client lives in Grass Valley — they would have to drive to Sacramento to catch a charter flight to wherever they want to go. We can get into smaller airfields where our client might live, and that gives them a lot of convenience as a result," Bagnard said. 

The aircraft boasts a safety setup including a parachute system and auto-land feature that can be activated by the passenger if the pilot were to become incapacitated, he said.  

"It's set up with all the latest technology. It's a dream to fly," Bagnard said of the jet.

At this time, Verijet is operating only out of the Central Coast Jet Center, which offers ground support, fuel and aircraft storage to jet pilots. 

In the near future, the Santa Maria Public Airport District Board will consider a request from Verijet to house their aircraft in one of the airport's commercial hangars, according to Chris Hastert, airport general manager. 

"What they're looking for is a little more than the services the jet center has to offer, so they're looking to have a little more of a presence in Santa Maria," Hastert said.

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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