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The wizard of OzJet

Only a maverick would launch a new airline in Australia.

Only a maverick would launch a new airline in Australia. The market is littered with the remains of those who tried to break into the country's cozy aviation duopoly, once dominated by Qantas and Ansett and now shared by Qantas and Richard Branson's Virgin Blue. But the chain-smoking, self-made Paul Stoddart is approaching the runway anyway.

Later this year Stoddart plans to launch OzJet, an airline that will specialize in the corporate market, offering extra legroom in B727-200s fitted with 60 seats instead of the standard 120. Flights will cover Australia's eastern seaboard, where most of the population resides, putting OzJet in direct competition for the business-class market with longtime leader Qantas. "I hope they take it reasonably easily," says Stoddart, 49. "We're only looking for a modest market share."

Since 1989 the Melbourne-born Stoddart has operated a charter aircraft and spare-parts business out of London. He also owns the Italian-based Minardi Formula One motor racing team, which he purchased in 2001.

Stoddart understands the turbulence of an industry where losing money has become an art form. He notes, "There's that old saying that if you want to make a million dollars in aviation, you need to start with ten million, and if you want to make a million in motor racing, you need to start with 100 million." With Ozjet, he'll begin with A$70 million ($56 million) -- and buckle up.