By Di Freeze
The Denver jetCenter, a fixed base operation at Centennial Airport, ranked in Professional Pilot’s 2001 PRASE Survey as the number three FBO. This year they were number one, in the popular vote. Also, for the first time, this year, they ranked in the top 10 in a survey conducted by Aviation International News.
Denver jetCenter is a familiar name to aviators across the country, which ranked the FBO number five in 2000, and number eight, in 1999.
Under the lead of Larry Ulrich, former president, DjC has consistently ranked in the top 50—of about 4,000 FBOs—for the last dozen years. It has been rated in the top 10 for five of those years.
There are approximately 400 aircraft based at DjC’s facilities at Centennial Airport. The facilities at DjC East and West include flight schools, the Perfect Landing Restaurant, and various other aviation oriented businesses.
Given a master plan in 1980, Ulrich spent the last 20 years bringing it to fruition.
Ulrich’s aviation career began in 1953 as a line boy and administrative assistant for Combs Aviation, while he attended the University of Colorado.
After college, he advanced through various sales, operating and management positions at Combs, including sales manager and general manager. In 1976, he became president. Under his leadership, Combs-Gates was rated the nation’s number one FBO general aviation service organization, again, in Professional Pilot’s nationwide surveys.
In 1979, Ulrich left a 26-year career with Combs-Gates to form and develop an FBO with Terry Combs, son of Harry Combs, founder of Combs Aviation.
Ulrich and Combs took over the facilities of the first FBO at Arapahoe County Airport, Clinton Aviation, founded by another aviation pioneer Lou Clinton, which stood where DjC West is now located.
Ulrich and Terry Combs began their business with the help of developer George Wallace.
“He was our angel,” Ulrich said. “Clinton sold it to Sutherland Lumber Company. It was an 11-year-old facility. George kept asking what it would take to get us over here. I didn’t think that there was enough money in the world. Finally, he said, ‘What if I put $3.5 million in bond financing underneath you guys? You could spend it on facilities in any way you’d like.’ Reluctantly, I left Combs.”
Combs and Ulrich took the “skeletal remains” and converted the building into an executive terminal.
“We took down the roll-up doors and put in windows,” he said. “We built four jet-size hangars in 1980.”
Unfortunately, in 1981, with the collapse of the economy, the company was in trouble.
“It’s a tough business,” Ulrich said. “During a down market, everybody that’s in it wants to get out.”
The founders sold the company to Beechcraft in 1983. Ulrich became the senior FBO operations officer, and moved to their headquarters in Wichita, Kansas, where he directed the operations of its nationwide network of 31 FBOs.
In the mid-1980s, the company again went through management changes. Beechcraft sold their Salt Lake City and Denver FBOs to a Denver based holding company, involved in land development throughout the United States.
Ulrich returned to Denver, as president, to develop their network of FBOs, consisting of one in Salt Lake City, Denver, and Colorado Springs. During this time, both Professional Pilot and Aviation International News rated Denver jetCenter one of the nation’s top FBOs.
Aero Services International Inc., a large nationwide aviation service organization based in Newtown, Penn. with 18 FBOs, offered Ulrich the presidency of their company in 1989, and he accepted.
In 1994, DjC expanded its operations by buying out Aero Services International Inc., an FBO at Centennial Airport, and forming DjC East. The original FBO is now known as DjC West. (The Fort Collins jetCenter has also been added to the network.)
Ulrich returned to Denver to resume presidency at the Denver location, the largest of the facilities, in 1996. He remained in that position until this month. David C. Miller will now serve as president of DjC, with Ulrich serving as senior vice president of the network, from headquarters at the Denver Tech Center.
Anyone who knows Ulrich is aware that he has boundless energy. A pilot, Ulrich is also an avid downhill and cross-country skier and mountaineer. Among his mountaineering accomplishments are climbing all 54 of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, the Matterhorn in Switzerland and Kilimanjaro in Africa.