Writer: Gabriel Vasquez
The Las Cruces Bulletin
Owner Jo Raabe-Asprey and her late husband Robert Asprey, who was an alumnus of electrical and computer engineering at NMSU, are long-time supporters of the College of Engineering. Photo by Marty Snortum for Adventure Aviation.
From one to a million — gallons of fuel that is.
That´s how Adventure Aviation owner Jo Raabe-Asprey likes to recall the growth of her airport-based enterprise.
“Women make good pilots,” Raabe-Asprey said. “So it only makes sense that we also know how to pump gas well.”
Not just any gas, but jet fuel — millions of gallons of it that´s piped into military and commercial aircraft every year.
The fuel is pumped from Adventure Aviation´s refilling station into the private planes of politicians, business people and rock and sports stars among others.
As the largest commercial operation at the Las Cruces International Airport, Raabe-Asprey and the staff of Adventure Aviation are the first impression many visitors get upon arriving in the Mesilla Valley.
To say the guests are well received would be an understatement, Raabe-Asprey said.
“We’ve catered to three presidents, vice presidents, rock stars and celebrities,” Raabe-Asprey said. “They want something elegant and upscale, and we give it to them.”
More than just a sleepy pit stop on the way to larger cities, the Las Cruces International Airport now thrives, due in part to the services offered at Adventure Aviation.
The company, started by Raabe-Asprey and her late husband in 2000, offers services to the military, commercial, educational and private industries simultaneously.
They refill their planes, cater to them via their in-house restaurant, the Crosswinds Grill, offer transportation arrangements and often go above and beyond to make sure their guests´ expectations are met and exceeded.
“Just by the physical location, it´s a great place to stop when going cross country,” said manager Doug Newton, a gold seal flight instructor who now runs the company´s day-to-day operations. “The restaurant itself adds a certain draw. It´s nice to be able to stop, eat, get fuel and take care of business all in one stop.”
From filet mignon for Al Gore to 20 chicken dinners for the University of Nevada basketball team, the kitchen at the Crosswinds Grill is capable of catering to just about anyone.
“Some just come for our $100 burgers,” Raabe-Asprey said. “We don´t charge $100, but if you´re going to fly here for one, it´s going to cost $100.”
Raabe-Asprey, sole owner of the company, is part of Women in Aviation, a nonprofit organization that helps women in the aviation and aerospace industries network and share ideas. She also owns a critically acclaimed art gallery in Hunstville, Ala., the Signature Gallery, and two commercial farming operations in Belize.
But Adventure Aviation´s success would not be possible without the expertise that Newton brings, Raabe-Asprey said.
“I´m very fortunate to have Doug running this operation for me,” she said.
Newton worked for Raabe-Asprey during his time at Sun Pacific, a now defunct airline. Raabe-Asprey was the CEO of the company at the time, and said she tried hard to get Newton on board as she planned to start Adventure Aviation in Las Cruces. Newton had been flying commercial jetliners for years, including as a pilot in the ´90s for the New York Yankees and U2.
After much hesitation, Newton agreed. “I liked the area, liked the general aviation and the atmosphere,” Newton said. “I was supposed to be on my way to Chicago (for a job opportunity), but I never went. I (came to Las Cruces) and told the guy I wasn´t coming. I´ve been here ever since.”
Newton has more than 30,000 hours of flight time under his belt and can fly anything from the two-seater Diamond Katana to a 200-plus passenger 727.
He´s now busier then ever, coordinating the events for an upcoming air show, slated for May 30 and 31.
“It´s coming together pretty rapidly now,” he said. “On Saturday there´s going to be an evening show — a twilight show with lighting and pyrotechnics. We´ve also got 14 paid acts scheduled — numerous amateur and volunteer flybys, static displays, military war birds, experimental and general aviation. We´ve got a grand plan for the air show.”
He said the show this year would be “the best ever,” and the first for Las Cruces since 2000.