Priester Aviation

What It Is: A privately owned aircraft charter and management company headquartered at Chicago Executive Airport, Priester Aviation operates upwards of 70 aircraft from more than a dozen locations throughout the U.S.

How It Grew: Chicago native George Priester founded Priester Aviation in 1945 as a flight school. In 1953 his family bought Gauthier’s Flying Field with its 2,800-foot turf runway, renaming it Palwaukee Airport. Soon after, George’s 14-year-old son, Charlie, joined the business. In 1960, the family built a 5,000-foot paved airstrip at the airport; and in the 1970s, it added FBO services and jet charter. By 1983, Palwaukee was named the world’s busiest privately owned airport, and the family sold it to the neighboring communities of Wheeling and Prospect Heights.

Priester Aviation remained headquartered at the airport and continued its growth, focusing on jet charter and aircraft management, and Charlie’s son Andy joined the business. In 2001, managing aircraft based nationwide, Priester sold its FBO and maintenance businesses to Signature Flight Support; and by the end of the decade it had earned Argus Platinum, Wyvern Wingman, IS-BAO, and Air Charter Safety Foundation safety accreditations. The company opened a global operations center in 2011 at its home field, which had by then been renamed Chicago Executive Airport. Andy Priester became president and CEO two years later. The company introduced its “New Priester” initiative and Centerline jet card in 2018, while continuing to grow its fleet.

What It Offers: 

Aircraft management. Complete management services, charter program to generate offsetting revenue, and full-time safety director.

Air charter. On-demand charter provides high-touch service domestically and internationally on aircraft ranging from turboprops to ultra-long-range aircraft.

Jet card. A 25-hour Centerline jet card provides guaranteed access and point-to-point pricing aboard light, midsize, super-midsize, and large-cabin jets.

Quote: “Private airports have no zoning protection...there are no tax benefits. Every nickel that goes into the airport is private funding.” —Charlie Priester, on why his family sold Palwaukee Airport to its municipal neighbors 

Recent News: In February, Priester added eight aircraft to its managed fleet, at locations from New York to Long Beach, California.


Founded: 1945

HQ: Wheeling, Illinois

Employees: Under 200 (est.)

President & CEO: Andy Priester