CARLSBAD — After 20 years of climbing the ladder from sales associate to president of Schubach Aviation, Carlsbad resident Kim Herrell now belongs to a small and elite group — female owners of private aviation companies.
In early 2020, Herrell bought Schubach Aviation, which offers private jet charter services out of McClellan-Palomar Airport, after serving the last decade in the company’s second-highest post.
Today, Herrell is in the process of expanding the company’s horizons and its wide-ranging fleet of Challengers, Hawkers and Beechjets in response to to growing industry demand over the past two years.
But Herrell, originally from Utah, didn’t discover her career path until she landed a job at Keystone Aviation servicing private aircrafts at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
From there, her career in private aviation took flight.
“The possibility seemed so boundless,” Herrell said. “I just really took to it. (Private aviation) is a totally different animal (than commercial). In San Diego, we have the best clients.”
After graduating college, Herrell eventually relocated to Carlsbad after accepting her first job at Jet Source, a full-service aviation firm.
However, following a serendipitous encounter with Henry Schubach, Herrell was hired for a sales position. Herrell worked her way up to marketing director, then vice president. In 2017, Henry Schubach, who was considering retirement, privately encouraged Herrell to become the company’s next CEO.
While Herrell had reservations, she took the job and ran with it. And since she was now the top boss, she figured she might as well buy the company.
“I feel like (Henry Schubach) saw talent in me,” Herrell said. “I was lucky to be in a place where I was seen. He saw the passion and all that. I slowly took on more and more responsibility.”
After reaching an undisclosed deal, Herrell found an investor to become an equity partner. Now, she can execute her vision as the industry experiences exploding growth.
Still, Herrell recognized her gaps of knowledge and pushed herself to learn and close those holes to better serve the company. For example, she learned more about operating costs, aircraft acquisitions, lending and maintenance.
“I spent a lot of time learning and sending myself to school,” Herrell said. “Is my end game really to own the company? I hadn’t thought that big before, so I had to expand my thinking.”
As for the future, Herrell said one area of need is more hangar space at McClellan-Palomar to keep up with the exploding demand for charter and private flights.
Under Herrell’s tenure, Schubach Aviation has bought seven new planes, increased its charter services and is looking to expand operations outside of California. Currently, Schubach Aviation charters between two to eight flights per day.
“Private aviation is one of those industries that, during strange times like COVID, has shown a light on the value,” Herrell added. “I saw that everyone wanted to level up their commitment.”