Terminal of Tomorrow
Flexjet’s Global Operations Center brings industry-leading aviation tech to Richmond Heights Story & photos by Doug Bardwell
s the world’s second-largest fractional jet operator, Flexjet has set the bar for the entire aviation industry. Its newest building is the $50 million, 51,000-square-foot global headquarters housing the country’s largest seamless indoor LED display. With industry-leading technology, Flexjet’s new headquarters is a model of operational efficiency with room for planned growth. Currently, the firm maintains a fleet of nearly 270 planes and 12 helicopters, with 4,000 support employees, 670 of whom are based in Cleveland. Current growth projections look to double Flexjet’s fleet in the coming years. The new headquarters is part of its 243,000-square-foot campus at 26180 Curtiss Wright Parkway in Richmond Heights. In addition to the extensive support staff, Flexjet employs 1,100 pilots in the United States, plus more in Europe.
From hanger to headquarters
Built in the ‘20s as one of Cuyahoga County Airport’s early hangers, the former building on this site eventually added a restaurant, but both have been closed for years. Old and dilapidated, it was right where Curtiss Wright Parkway 22
curves, so your eye was automatically drawn to that site. “It was a shame,” says Kenn Ricci, principal of Directional Aviation Capital and chairman of Flexjet, “because Richmond Road is a high-traffic area, and when you looked over at Cuyahoga County Airport, this was the area you saw.” Ricci is a long-time Cleveland resident, having graduated from Saint Ignatius High School. Having a passion for aviation, he quickly learned to fly. He came by that naturally, as his father was involved with George Steinbrenner in sponsoring the Cleveland National Air Shows. After a stint working for some Cleveland corporations, managing their flight operations, he purchased his first hanger at Cuyahoga County Airport to service their aircraft. More hangers were
added on the west side as his customer base increased. As the business grew, it then became an FBO (fixed base operator) at its east side location. In 1981, he formed Directional Aviation, acquiring Corporate Wings, a global provider of aircraft management, fueling, storage and charter flight services. “But the epiphany was in 1998 when we decided to become more than a Cleveland company,” recalls Ricci, as he formed Flight Options, with a pre-owned fractional program for corporate travel. “With the decision to go international, we added operations centers in Dallas, Orlando and Farnborough, England.” In 2013, Directional Aviation acquired Flexjet and planned an immediate expansion of its fleet, placing a $5.6 billion order for Bombardier jets, including Properties | November 2023