In Danto’s world, that means improving the flying experience. Danto runs Premiere Aviation, a charter airplane firm based out of Concord in the East Bay but with footprints all over Northern California.
Danto has been spending more time in Marin of late, shuttling Mill Valley clients on weekend trips to Tahoe and flying local entrepreneurs up and down the coast, allowing them to take in-person business meetings without the hassles or logistics that often come with them. For his planes that carry up to six people, Danto says he’s created a unique cost formula for those clients to do so, he says, that breaks out to approximately $750 per hour, including fuel and the pilot's time, or an annual lease of 25 flights per year for $12,500.
"It’s like being a part of the jet set but without having to dive into the huge fixed costs associated with it,” Danto says.
Born and raised in the New York area, Danto moved with his mother in 1973 to the Bay Area, where his brother and sister already lived. Already a fanatic about airplanes at 15, he started flying soon after he moved here.
Though Danto has lived all over Northern California since then, he spent his first summer living with his brother in Fairfax. “It was a very good time for Marin County – and it was exciting,” Danto says. “I got here at a very good time for music and culture here. I feel very privileged to have experienced it. I have an extra bond with Marin.”
Danto got a degree in aeronautical operations at San Jose State University in 1982, and soon after graduation moved in Humboldt County to be closer to his girlfriend at the time. He took a job managing the Garberville Airport, repairing planes, creating a charter service and generally resurrecting an airport that, at that time, had seen better days.
“I brought a new life to the community,” Danto says.
In 1989, he moved back down to the Bay Area and bought his own plane: a Cessna Golden Eagle, a “very versatile plane that is the safest cabin class, pressurized twin plan ever produced,” he says, noting that he’s now been flying a Cessna Golden Eagle for 30 years.
That plane, coupled with Danto’s decades of experience building, repairing and rebuilding planes, hatched a new idea.
“There was a better way to build the mousetrap,” he says. “I wanted to make the experience of flying in a jet quieter with soundproofing and more efficient and cooler.”
One of those efficiency modifications was to construct small doors that cover the landing gear when it’s retracted, a minor upgrade that significantly improves the fuel efficiency, he says.
“It makes the airplane a totally different plane,” he says. “There’s no more efficient way to travel a distance of about 500 miles or less."
Over the years, Danto received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration for his plane modifications, and also began selling kits to allow plane owners to make the upgrades themselves – he’s sold more than 250 to date.
More info on Premiere Aviation.