A Higher Calling

Direct Approach Cessna Customer Spotlight Jacobson 9-21-11 

Grant Jacobson has a heart as big as Texas.

After the self-described Austin businessman “fell into money” on the passing of his entrepreneurial father in 2010, his spending became admittedly self-indulgent.

 The spending quickly grew tiresome and, inspired by his father’s legacy, he decided to do something much more important.

 Grant’s father, Harvey, founded what became widely known as The Jacobson Group, in 1949. By 1998 the manufacturing firm had grown to be worth $270 million, the cash price Cordant Technologies Inc. paid for it. The older Jacobson, who was 91 when he died, enjoyed aviation, and infused his son, Grant, with the love of flying, a philosophy of helping individuals rather than organizations and giving back – in a decidedly Texas way.

Texas Jacobson Aviation

His company, Texas Jacobson Aviation, exists simply to provide free air transportation for military and civilian medical patients – to, from or within Texas. The company supports children and adults in need of medical attention, and brave military men and women who have served America – the country’s wounded warfighters.

 “Yesterday for example, we flew from Austin to South Carolina, to Georgia, to Houston and back to Austin. We picked up a patient and his family in South Carolina, and then a patient and her husband in Georgia, and brought them all back,” Jacobson says. “I get to fly and truly impact people’s lives.”

Since founding the company a little more than a year ago, Texas Jacobson has flown more than 400 individuals on more than 360 missions totaling more than 200,000 miles. Jacobson, 55, began the operation with a King Air, quickly moved to a Cessna Citation XLS+ for longer missions and will replace that jet later this year with a Citation X.

Giving Back

The company flies four days a week and Jacobson makes it a point to fly almost every mission personally. Since picking up the company’s Citation XLS+ in April, Texas Jacobson has flown it more than 350 hours. “My father worked very hard for a very long time. He raised me to give back. Now I get to give back and do something I enjoy,” Jacobson says.

After getting his MBA from Pepperdine in 2002, he moved to Hawaii, where he learned to fly in a Cessna 172. “I got my single engine, then my instrument, then my multi.” He flew Caravans commercially for a time there and since relocating to Texas has accumulated a total of more than 1,800 flight hours. Texas Jacobson Aviation co-pilot Gary Standifer is a career pilot with more than 8,000 flight hours, and his ratings include Airline Transport Pilot, Single and Multi-Engine and Certified Flight Instructor, Fixed Wing and Rotor. 

Helping patients in distress does take an emotional toll. “There’s one lady that we got really close to. “When she got sicker, it was difficult. She’s just a lovely, lovely woman. And her daughter, her son-in-law, her grandkids, are all just lovely people; couldn’t be nicer.”

The company works through several partners: Grace Flight of America, Mercy Medical Airlift, and Air Compassion for Veterans, an organization whose mission sums up an approach that Texas Jacobson Aviation embraces:

The mission and purpose of Air Compassion For Veterans is to ensure that no financially-stressed wounded warrior / veteran / or their adversely affected family member(s) is denied the ability to access: distant specialized medical evaluation, diagnosis, treatment, counseling, rehabilitation or any program that will promote healing and restoration for reintegration into a productive life.

Lives on the Line

“On our last military mission we took six guys from San Antonio to Florida for scuba diving as  therapy;  they were all amputees. It was really kind of funny. One of the guys, he seemed like he was whole. And I said, ‘What’s your deal?’ He said, ‘Well, they wanted to take my foot, I wouldn’t let them, but it’s really useless.’… I am so proud of the people that actually put their lives on the line.”

 “One of the first vets we took was Patrick Ziegler from Fort Hood, one of the shooting victims from the attack. He was really messed up and in a wheelchair, but he was just a great kid. We took him to Tallahassee in the King Air to surprise him with a football game.  I heard that when they walked him on the field, the whole stadium stood up and cheered. There was another vet without legs and he could get in and out of the King Air and in and in and out of his seat faster than I could,” Jacobson says.

With the heavy Texas-based missions that it flies, the company spends $50,000 to $70,000 monthly just in fuel. The cost for aircraft acquisition, operation and management are also substantial, a $20 million investment since the  company’sinception.

Citation X Coming

But that’s not enough for Jacobson. With the new Citation X coming online soon, he is looking to expand the charitable efforts by partnering with other businesses that want to also make a difference in the lives of people whose medical solution may only be a flight away.

“Cessna’s been very supportive. It has stepped up more than once. The people in Cessna’s San Antonio Citation Service Center – Bobby Jones and the guys – are all just amazing, cooperative, agreeable, and they help us with our mission.”

In addition to a heart of gold Jacobson balances the poignant with a funny, albeit edgy side. In the official photo on his Website, he poses next to his Citation looking very much like a successful country and western singing star, complete with cowboy hat, long black duster and shiny snakeskin boots.

Far from a Texas cowboy persona, though, he calls the Citation XLS+ the “Yom Kippur Clipper,” which reflects his Jewish heritage. The Citation X will soon become his “Shiksa Goddess.” 

Single, he currently lives in a converted commercial building in downtown Austin, three blocks from the capital. He never flies the airplane for personal use and doesn’t go out much, preferring to focus his energies on his charitable missions.

For a guy who “fell into money” and loves flying, Grant Jacobson is certainly doing the right thing.

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