Though formally organized as Jordan River Aviation LLC (JRAL) in 2009, the company actually began in 1993 when pilot and consulting services were requested of Keith Fritz, JRAL’s founder and owner in New York City. By then, Fritz had already been flying professionally for more than 25 years and had a grasp on what corporate flight departments needed and expected of themselves and the service contractors that they relied on.
The Oil and Gas Industry had a set of expectations that they required of those companies that supported the energy sector and their work was expanding globally. But corporate operators were still largely ignored because of a lack of a unifying standard of expectations and requirements. When polled about their operations and maintenance practices in 1993, charter companies responded that they met and fulfilled the demanding standards of FAR 135, but few people realized that the FAR 135 Standards were the bare minimum of what was required of a charter company and fewer were even familiar with the terms “Best Practices” and “World-Class”.
As one corporate flight manager put it, “most would know who was the best operator was in their own backyard, but which ones far from home met the same standards that they had set for themselves was a mystery.” When asked about the safety records of any charter company, all the FAA could say was that the given charter company was legally established and no comments, positive or negative were allowed to be made.
But discerning companies wanted and expected more and some engaged auditors and assessors to evaluate those that they were using. Perceptions of the charter industry ran the full range of “No Confidence” to “Very Professional.” As everyone knows, every industry has its top performers and the “also ran” companies. Learning who the good operators was until then, a word-of-mouth exchange, “but you can’t hang your hat on that” said one department manager.
In 1994, Fritz and his associates had organized an “elevated 135 standard” with regard to training and safety programs, higher liability insurance coverage and probes into the operator’s history and the experience levels of crewmembers and technicians. So began the process of matching up the best charter companies with the most powerful corporations. The idea of confederating corporate operators as a defining force in the charter industry and then informing and auditing the best charter companies what was expected of them. The charter industry responded and the best companies saw an increase in business while those who chose to remain behind languished in anonymity. From there, it progressed to reviews of some of the country’s most prestigious flight departments, major air carriers and examining government agencies and oversight committees.
Chairman & Founder
Fritz is the Chairman and Founder of Jordan River Aviation LC (JRAL) and is responsible for the strategic direction of the firm, its marketing efforts as well as a variety of select client projects including corporate flight department audits, charter operator evaluations and many other special projects including accident and incident investigations where highly experienced investigators are brought onto the scene. He works with chief executives, security & risk managers, executive protection directors, flight department directors and safety officers as well as travel department managers. He has a wealth of experience in practical applications, having served as a flight department manager, director of operations, chief pilot, flight instructor and check airman, safety officer and conformity auditor. He is one of the few aviation auditors that have ISO-9000 certification lead auditor status. The depth and breadth of his knowledge, and his ability to be innovative create an extremely flexible approach for working with clients and is central to JRAL’s success.
Prior to founding JRAL in 2009, Keith began his consulting career as a founding member of a large aviation consulting firm in 1994, the first company of its kind to confederate vetted charter companies for corporate flight departments on a national scale and moving quickly into the international role in 1996. From 1978 until 1994, he served as a corporate pilot for high net worth individuals and corporate flight departments. From 1973 through 1980 he was a senior research and development test and evaluation pilot for the US Army, responsible for developing test profiles and then analyzing and improving experimental navigation and detection systems for all US Military Services and NASA. He began his love of flying at the age of 11 when his grandfather introduced him to corporate aviation in 1961. Since then, Keith has over 14,000 accident and incident free flight hours and has flown more than 30 types of jets, helicopters, seaplanes as well as an airship (blimp). He also flew for one year for Airborne Law Enforcement Services in the Chicago area, supporting police organizations including the DEA, Secret Service, and FBI as well as state, county and municipal police departments.
Married to his business partner Karen since April 1973, they have five married children and 19 grandchildren. He has worked on aviation matters in all 50 states, all provinces of Canada and in 90 foreign countries and has long standing relationships with hundreds of business partners throughout the world. JRAL has a broad range of capabilities and experience in the following areas:
Extensive work with industry executives – including CEOs and Corporate Officers, a former US President and Presidential Cabinet members, Foreign Heads of State, Entertainers and Celebrities, Corporate Attorneys, Insurance Underwriters, Aircraft Accident Investigators, Corporate Travel Managers and Aviation Department Directors.
Aircraft Inspection, Site Surveys, Equipment Evaluations, Airline Evaluations and Assessments, Airport and Seaplane Base Assessments, and Helipad-Heliport-Helistop Licensing and Inspection.
Authoring company aviation standards and checklists and establishing internal and external quality assurance policies and procedures. Inter-Department Involvement with Flight Departments, Corporate Security, Risk Management and Health & Safety – Loss Prevention.
He was the IFR Chairman, Vice President and elected President of the Eastern Region Helicopter Council from 1983 until 1991
Business Aviation Advisor to the FAA for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games
Pro-bono Consultant to Aviation Start-up Companies and Aviation Auditing Firms
Coordinator for Aviation Emergency Response Plans
He has been published or cited in a wide variety of magazines, including Business and Commercial Aviation, Aviation International News, Professional Pilot, Rotor & Wing and the ERHC news where he was a regular featured writer.
His independent studies and reports to the FAA in New York City on helicopter and seaplane traffic in the 1980s paved the way for policies and procedures that are still in use after 30 years of successful service.
One of his proudest accomplishments was providing security services for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from 2002 until 2012.
Keith holds a BA from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, having majored in Communications and Military Science. He holds an ATP (Airline Transport Rating) and served as an Instructor Pilot for dozens of FAA Safety Inspectors and Flight Examiners. He is a former military pilot, airline and corporate aviation safety auditor.
Research & Development, Test & Evaluation Pilot for the US Army Aviation Research & Development Command (AVRADCOM) from 1974-1978. He was senior project pilot on experimental aircraft that were highly modified for the US Army Security Agency, US Navy Electronic Warfare Laboratories and NASA. His responsibilities included:
Test and Evaluation pilot for the development and operational testing of the landing system used on the US Space Shuttle
Responsible for implementing experimental programs and designing flight profiles for experimental navigation and detection systems and weapons delivery systems
Pilot for US Presidential Cabinet level government employees
Executive Officer for an aviation battalion and troop commander