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Now approaching comfort with Western Edge Aviation

Western Edge Aviation's new Pilatus aircraft sparkles under Saturday's sun in Dickinson.

Not everybody can afford or would desire to use a charter airline service.

Those that would in the Dickinson area, however, are in for a treat following the recent acquisition by Western Edge Aviation of a Pilatus Turboprop plane.

"Essentially what it means with this plane is you go higher, faster and it's more comfortable," said Western Edge's chief pilot Josh Zellers. "We looked around and decided the Pilatus was the best option for us. We've had it online since December and it's been popular."

A single-engine aircraft, the Pilatus PC12 can accommodate up to eight adults with bags, Zellers said. In addition to its comfortable leather seats and leg room to spare -- it's described as flying first-class on a commercial flight -- the Pilatus also has something many smaller aircraft don't have: an on-board rest room.

"It's bizarre -- that's become my No. 1 sales pitch," Zellers joked. "I tell people, 'This is the Pilatus, it has a private bathroom.'"

Whether you're talking oil industry folks flying to Williston (where Western Edge has another headquarters) -- about a 25-minute ride on a good day from Dickinson -- or a recreational trip anywhere in the continental U.S., Zellers said the Pilatus can do the job.

"I'm really in awe of this airplane," Zellers said. "It has all the features you're looking for. Yes, it costs a little more than commercial service, but you're gaining a lot, too. We hear a lot that the landings are kind of rough with some of the airlines. This plane doesn't have that -- it's very smooth."

Zellers said in the two years that he's been with Western Edge, this winter -- typically a slower time of year -- has provided record numbers. Zellers said 70 percent of his passengers are business travelers; the other 30 percent are recreational flyers.

Although it looks and feels like a brand-new aircraft, the Pilatus in the Western Edge hanger is actually a 2000 model. Depending on weather conditions and tailwinds, the plane usually travels at between 300 and 400 mph -- oh, and you'll get free soda on your trip.

"It's really the only way to travel," Zellers said. "We're really happy with it."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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