Small is beautiful, even sometimes for the very rich. Last Friday we had been invited to fly up to Nantucket for a nice lunch by the sea by Adam Katz who owns Talon Air, the private charter service which advertises on the NYSD. This was the second Nantucket lunch. We made the same trip last year on Talon’s Gulfstream IVSP.
I’m not one of those people who are always getting a lift on someone’s private jet, so the experience remains entirely a novelty.
This year, however, the planned excursion to Nantucket was looking to be interrupted. On Thursday, the night before, the weatherman was advising “big, violent thunderstorms” from Washington to Maine.
“We know Adam won’t fly if it’s threatening,” JH assured. So we waited. At 9:00 o’clock Friday morning, Jason Kaufman, VP for Talon called JH. We were on. Accu-weather was still saying “violent thunderstorms everywhere all day,” blah-blah-blah. Arrgh.
“What if something happens?” I wondered aloud to myself. “Risk your life for a lunch in Nantucket?!”
JH picked me up in a cab at 10:30 Friday morning. We were due at Teterboro for an 11 o’clock departure. The route by car is you hop on the FDR Drive, then onto the Harlem River Drive, then over the George Washington Bridge and before you know it, you’re there. It’s not even a half hour from my apartment. If you have no traffic.
Left: Driving over the George Washington Bridge en route to Teterboro Airport.
Inset: Our taxi driver Robert Demella, who was a dead ringer for Buddy Hackett's little brother.
We had traffic. On the Harlem River. The cabbie, a ringer for Buddy Hackett’s little brother (not that little), says he’d never seen this – bumper-to-bumper – on the Harlem River. He's also heard about the bad weather forecast. He’s a comedian too. “Maybe I’ll be reading about you in the papers tomorrow -- you and JFK Jr. in the same body of water, at least you'll be in good company."
Ha ha; yeah sure. “Maybe we’ll miss the plane because of the traffic and so it won’t matter,” I counter to comfort myself.
"I can see the frogs and locusts," the cabbie calls out, as if having a vision, referring to 2 of the 10 plagues from the Book of Exodus.
We’re laughing but it’s not that funny. Then JH’s new cell phone rings. It’s a weird, loud, relentless racket that he hadn’t figured how to change. "When you go down, at least I won’t have to listen to that cell phone,” says our cabbie the comic.
We get to the airport ($80 including tip). The first plane has already left. There’s a second waiting for Adam Katz. Adam, who has 13 planes in his Talon boutique charter fleet likes to fly his own plane. After hearing him talk about flying last year, confidence was instilled. He’s been flying since his late teens (about thirty years) and he knows what he should and should not do, as do his pilots. I knew we’d be fine.
Talon's Hawker 800 XPi awaits our arrival on the runway of Teterboro with storm clouds looming.
A few minutes later, he arrives with his two young sons and their male nanny and a business associate and his wife. We’re joined by Scott Schindler, his co-pilot (all Talon planes always have a co-pilot). Ten minutes later we’re airborne on a new Hawker 800 XPi. Still no sign of the storms.
As soon as we’re aloft, Adam comes into the cabin, opens a cabinet door and removes specially prepared picnic boxes from David Burke Donatella. Meals are specially prepared for Talon flights by DBD, one of the hottest restaurants in New York.
We flew out across Long Island Sound along the Connecticut coast, above the clouds, and before you could say Donatella, we were going in for a landing over Nantucket.
The airport is almost exclusively private jets. I counted eighteen. There was one commercial liner. It’s amazing; this former frugal fishing village, whaling spot, still frugal looking but now home to the new American mega-rich and their multimillion dollar weathered shingled saltbox-style McMansions.
One of the big differences to this New Yorker’s eye, between this island and the also very wealthy Hamptons is the atmosphere. Still New England austere in feeling, sandy driveways, weathered mailboxes and very basic garb, it’s still rustic and beachy except for the center of town clogged with commerce.
Climbing above the bad weather ...
... into a sunny pocket between the clouds at an altitude of 26,000 feet
There were cars waiting. Adam drove. He’s a lawyer and real estate executive by day running the family’s management firm but Talon is his fixation. I understand that. We feel that way here at NYSD; it’s our baby. Driving down the long and (gently) curving road, he was telling us (I asked) about his jet charter service. I was trying to understand the difference (besides size) between Adam’s business and NetJets, for example.
At Talon, you don’t own; you rent. They sell individual flights. Prices vary per plane where space and distance vary also. They also sell blocks of time, by the hour. This is not like buying round-trip coach, believe me. The prices are so out of my league that I don’t even remember them. Of course we must remember that a Gulstream runs into the tens of millions. Talon’s new Hawkers are $13 million each. Furthermore Talon has its own hangars, its own maintenance crew (this is not always the form in the private jet business).
Adam’s marketing model is the Old Fashioned Way: Everything’s about the client, delivering the very best to his client – from availability (under two hours notice), to arranging a car that picks you up and drops you off if you need it. They’ll pick up and deliver your luggage if you need it. There’s a helicopter service for their contracted customers from any heliport in New York to any New York metro airport, free of charge. There are the special DBD client-selected menus from boxed lunches to chef-prepared full meals. The planes are all equipped with the very latest computer technology. Talon is the only private jet service that can land in Washington at Ronald Reagan International Airport, having applied for and gained special permission with an on-payroll TSA certified security officer that accompanies passengers into the airport.
Meanwhile back to our lunch: fifteen minutes from the airport, Adam pulled into a driveway of a two-story white frame, weathered shingled inn and restaurant with the Indian name of Wauwinet. It’s considered one of the best on the island. Evidently all of the inns are owned by one man. Again, unlike the Hamptons, the fanciest of establishments on Nantucket are low key. Service and style and grand cuisine, however, keep the bar raised.
We lunched at a long table for 12 on the terrace in the sunshine, overlooking the lawn that leads down to the beach; no violent thunderstorms even looming. Excellent burgers, very fancy and very good; lobster rolls, oysters on the half shell, tuna tartare; salads with seafood and a Cabernet Sauvignon.
I sat across from our host shooting questions about his business; about what he does and how he does it. It fascinates because it’s pure. He’s one of those rare ones who applies the thoroughness of an artist’s eye, a surgeon’s obsession with precision and the shrewdness of a luxury end retailer to his business. And he’s bursting with enthusiasm.
Adam Katz (above, left) and Scott Schindler piloting the Hawker to Nantucket.
Prescious cargo rests his head on our flight to Nantucket.
I know that sounds like so much hype, but it’s true. And in a world where expediency mostly delivers a lot less than that so much of the time, it’s amazing to behold. When he’s not doing that, or running his real estate business, or flying his family somewhere for a few days vacation, he’s learning more about planes, about flying, and in his spare time, he’s started a pilots class for young schoolchildren in Great Neck.
Adam Katz’ Talon Air is tiny (NetJets has 517 planes), but because it is owned and run by a man who would be a client, it delivers the serious traveler’s wants and needs. And even at a price far lower (When you take up front, per hour and maintenance charge, and divide by number of hours) than the fractional jet businesses.
L. to r.: DPC in front of a '47 Ford beach-wagon; Eric Landt, Director of Hospitality at Nantucket Island Resorts.
Lunch at the Wauwinet.
Meanwhile, lunch over, twenty to four, we left Wauwinet and it was back to the airport. Adam was staying the weekend with his friends and sons.
Since 9/11, there is a security system in operation in Nantucket where cars cannot be allowed admittance or driven onto the tarmac without an official escort. An airport of almost entirely private jets. Because of that, we had to wait for what looked like an over-staffed staff to get around to taking us on. No convenience there.
Then there was about a forty minute wait to be allowed to take off. Then there were the storms – finally – on the coastline between Manhattan and Nantucket. So we were re-routed north to Kennebunkport, then across New Hampshire and Massachusetts to Albany, and down to Teterboro, almost doubling our travel time. But it was a smooth flight and when we arrived, it was dry on land. And seven o’clock. A long lunch for the privileged.
Nantucket scenes from the grounds of the Wauwinet.
The Talon Air team: Scott Schindler, Jason Sanders, Jason Kaufman, and Frank D'Angelone.
A quick look around in between courses.
L. to r.: The cockpit of the Hawker 800 XPi; DPC sitting pretty in the cabin.