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Dentist Leverages Aircraft for Business and Humanitarian Airlift

From Florida’s Gulf Coast, Dr. Jordan Harper uses a TBM 700 to bring the latest technology to his dental practice, while launching a real estate business and a toothpaste startup.

It’s pretty amazing to think of all the things a motivated professional can do with a business airplane. We’ve profiled entrepreneurs flying to meet partners across the country, leaders taking their plane to conferences – or scouting investment opportunities. Dr. Jordan Harper does all three.

A dentist with a Daher TBM 700C2, Harper flies about 200 hours a year from Destin, FL, to advance his practice, develop investment properties and launch a new toothpaste company.

“Having the TBM allows me to say yes to more things, whether it’s meeting a supplier or checking on a property,” said Harper. “Yes, I can be there in two hours.”

Harper learned to fly his last year of dental school, realizing it could connect him with ventures beyond his hometown. Powering through ground school reviews alongside his medical textbooks, he maintained top grades and started flight training immediately after graduation. Meeting his instructor six days a week, he completed his private pilot certificate in two months.

Now, Harper’s practice serves about 4,000 of his neighbors in the bayside community of Niceville, FL. The Destin-Niceville area is an ideal place to raise a family – but isolated from the rest of the country. There are only four direct airline connections to the Destin-Niceville area and Atlanta and New Orleans are each a five-hour drive.

“Flying a personal aircraft makes it easier to conduct business in different places than where you live,” said Harper. “It makes our backyard that much bigger.”

Friends say Harper is dedicated to training. He quickly trained up from an SR22T to his current TBM 700C2.

Friends say Harper is dedicated to training. He quickly trained up from an SR22T to his current TBM 700C2.

Putting His Passions Together

Harper flies the TBM to at least two dental conferences every year, the Florida Dental Convention in Orlando and Dentsply Sirona DS World in Las Vegas. His first airplane, a Cirrus SR22T purchased in 2017, needed a tech stop to return from Las Vegas, and was more limited by mountain weather and Florida thunderstorms.

“The TBM has very long legs. We can easily make it nonstop eastbound,” said Harper. “And in Florida, I needed to get above the popcorn clouds.” He upgraded to the turboprop in 2021. Rarely traveling with more than two or three business partners, and occasionally his small family, he needed to add range, speed and pressurization, but not much cabin space. With fully replaced glass-panel avionics, the TBM was a perfect fit.

“Flying a personal aircraft makes it easier to conduct business in different places than where you live. It makes our backyard that much bigger. ”

DR. JORDAN HARPER, Dentist and Business Aviation Pilot

That speed and range have helped Harper find partners for the toothpaste company he is launching. His main business partner is in Miami – otherwise a 10-hour drive with no direct airline flights to Destin.

They are developing an all-natural toothpaste tablet, ideal for travel, made from minerals the body uses to reinforce a tooth’s enamel, instead of fluoride. The day we met Harper, he was planning a flight to Buffalo, NY, with his Miami-based partner, to tour a small laboratory that could help manufacture their new product.

With Harper flying the TBM, they can make the trip in two days.

“Jordan exemplifies that flying a turboprop is not out of reach for a small business owner, and he instills confidence that it can be done safely,” said Alex Gertsen, CAM, NBAA director of airports and ground infrastructure. “I’ve had the privilege to meet him in his first year of dental school. Seeing the way he has integrated his passion for aviation into his career and made flying part of his life is inspiring.”

Operational safety is important to Harper. He often shares his knowledge with other members of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association.

Operational safety is important to Harper. He often shares his knowledge with other members of the TBM Owners and Pilots Association.

Personal Risk Management

Safety is always foremost on Harper’s mind, especially as his business interests have expanded into Colorado, where he flies the TBM to rental property that he has developed.

“For aeronautical decision-making, I definitely have my own weather minimums,” explained Harper. “In Florida we don’t have mountain wave conditions or snow, but out West, you have to deal with those factors a lot. I have boots, and the airplane is flight into known icing (FIKI) capable, but my personal minimums are I either fly around it or stay on the ground.”

Because icing and mountain flying are his biggest concerns, Harper typically does his annual recurrent training in Colorado, rather than at home.

“Jordan exemplifies that flying a turboprop is not out of reach for a small business owner, and he instills confidence that it can be done safely. ”

ALEX GERTSEN, CAM, NBAA Director of Airports and Ground Infrastructure

“High and hot conditions, and how that affects your runway calculations, [and] short runways, which are not unusual in the mountains – that’s where I focus to sharpen my spear,” Harper said. “I want to train with my instructor in those types of scenarios, so I’m better prepared if something unanticipated happens.”

He still works with the same instructor he has trusted since his TBM purchase, valuing the rapport they have established on the flight deck together.

“Jordan is dedicated to training, and it shows,” said NBAA’s Gertsen. “He went from a dreamer in dental school to an instrument-rated pilot in just a few years, upgrading from a turbocharged piston to a turboprop in no time at all.”

After his instructor, the next resource Harper turns to is the TBM Owners and Pilots Association. He spends time on the forums, sharing knowledge and learning from other owner-operators, based on various mishaps or their experience with the aircraft’s performance. That informs his personal approach to safety and risk.

“From a personal risk management standpoint, the big gotchas in flying are weather, night flying, mountain effects and fatigue,” said Harper. “You can usually do one of those things safely; with two of those factors, it gets risky. When it gets to three, that’s a complete no-go.”

With fatigue, Harper said it is not worth pushing it. “You can’t have get-there-itis. Anytime I’m driving to the airport, I’m checking myself. Spend the extra night and go early the next morning when you’re fresh.”

“We flew with a group called Operation Airdrop, coordinating with the Salvation Army to find out what people need most. Formula, diapers, sleeping bags… we made a run to Walmart and loaded the plane to our max takeoff weight. ”

DR. JORDAN HARPER, Dentist and Business Aviation Pilot

Lending a Hand

With all the possibilities opened by his flying, Harper has invested in several other properties around the country, and with his real estate partners, is always looking for lots and buildings to develop. On top of his full-time dental practice, that makes him a frequent weekend warrior.

Even so, he is never too busy to chip in when the call goes out for disaster relief. In 2017, Harper was still flying the SR22T, when Hurricane Harvey hit. On the Cirrus owners message boards, he saw fellow pilots organizing flights to get emergency supplies to cut-off communities. Less than three days later, he was flying to Houston.

“We flew with a group called Operation Airdrop, coordinating with the Salvation Army to find out what people needed most,” said Harper. “Formula, diapers, sleeping bags… we made a run to Walmart and loaded the plane to our max takeoff weight.”

When storms again battered the Gulf Coast in 2018, Harper mobilized once more. In a two-week period, he flew three trips to nearby Panama City, FL – similarly cut off by road – to help people overwhelmed by Hurricane Michael. Operation Airdrop has since gone national, and Harper is ready when needed.

Bringing Back the Latest Medical Knowledge and Technology

Dr. Jordan Harper.

In dentistry, continuous improvement is just as important as in aviation. “You’re always learning in my profession,” said Dr. Jordan Harper. “They call it a dental practice for a reason, right?”

That is why going to dental conferences is so important for Harper.

“On the show floor, you really get hands-on with the latest tools, talking to suppliers about how this device or new procedure can improve my practice, make me more efficient,” explained Harper. “It’s a huge benefit to patients.”

Most recently, he flew his TBM 700C2 to the Florida Dental Convention, where he heard about a new dental imaging technology, a cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) machine. Three months later, he flew to another conference in Las Vegas and demoed one.

“This technology is incredible, because you can see 360 degrees around the tooth, where sometimes, things get hidden on a two-dimensional X-ray,” said Harper.

He purchased the CBCT machine and brought it back to his practice. “I used it this week, actually, to diagnose what I thought was a potential tooth infection,” Harper said. “You couldn’t see it on an X-ray, and I asked the patient if we could take a 3D image with the tool I bought. And sure enough, she had an infection in the root of her molar, and we took care of it.”

Learn more about Dr. Harper’s business at nicevillefamilydentalcenter.com.

Snapshot

Aircraft: One Daher TBM 700C2

Base: Headquartered at Destin Executive Airport (DTS)

Personnel: Dr. Jordan Harper is the president and owner/operator.

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