|By Carmelo Turdo|
Owning and operating a business aircraft, especially an executive jet like the Citation CJ2+, takes expertise often only found in a corporate flight department. Those businesses and individuals who want to operate their aircraft more efficiently, or who aspire to acquire their first or multiple jets, have the option to contract with an aircraft management company that will assume the essential flight, maintenance and regulatory compliance services associated with corporate aircraft operations. The Aero Experience recently visited with the staff of one such aircraft management company, MAT Aire, Inc., at Spirit of St. Louis Airport to learn how they perform this important role for their clients.
(L-R) Robert Little. David Philyaw, Olen Berthold, Mark Trost, Shane Cano
and Christian Luse. Not pictured: Paul Staquet and Jack Kane
|Founder Mark Trost|
MAT Aire is located in a hangar shared with Helicopters, Inc. and next to Wings of Hope on the north side of Spirit of St. Louis Airport. The company currently directly manages 2 aircraft and provides crew services for several others in the area. Founded by highly experienced airline transport pilot Mark Trost in 1995, MAT Aire has navigated the ebb and flow of an economically sensitive business aviation industry ever since. David Philyaw, another veteran air transport pilot and aircraft acquisition consultant, joined MAT Aire during one of the more challenging periods of the business, and helped greatly in improving the company's prospects. Trost and Philyaw developed a business strategy that included providing more personalized service and looking to the next generation of pilots to become more involved in meeting customer needs.
|Owner, Aircraft Consultant David Philyaw|
Why is this service important? Philyaw continued, “They (our clients) are very successful, and they need an aircraft for a number of reasons – business or pleasure. They love the idea of the freedom that it affords and the opportunities that it provides. They have developed relationships with us so they trust us with their families, with their business, the face of their business…How we look and how we conduct ourselves in front of their clients reflects upon their judgment and we’re aware of that. That’s where we do a really good job.” He said MAT Aire clients just want to send a text, email or call with their flight schedule and business trip needs and have the aircraft ready to fly.
“All of our pilots are also business managers, interacting directly with our clients," Philyaw added. "Our clients love the personal attention. They love the interaction, the fact that they have such good relationships with all of us. It makes them feel a lot more comfortable. You can tell that they enjoy their trips a lot more. They fly a lot more because they are looking forward to when we show up in the aircraft with them.” That relationship helps to make communication about parts of the trip that are not ideal, like weather, safety, and other factors, more palatable.
Captain Olen Berthold, a 2015 Parks College graduate, worked with Captain Luse to build experience in the Citation CJ2+. He provided some insight on what it is like to be a young corporate pilot. “We provide contract pilot services for three other (Citation) CJs and that’s extra business and flying for everyone,” he said. There is a steep learning curve, and tough decisions, especially about weather diversions, must be made on occasion. He had to build up client confidence that the crew was acting with their safety in mind. On one flight, a diversion caused a client to have to drive about 100 miles to a destination where he could get a commercial flight. “He came back to us and said, ‘Thanks for keeping me safe. And I wanted to let you know that everything worked out fine, so I appreciate it.’ It started as a negative experience but they gained more confidence in us."
First Officer Shane Cano, also a graduate of Parks College, is getting great flight experience with his captains. “It’s a great opportunity…I couldn’t turn it down. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I can see myself as a corporate pilot.”
|David Philyaw and First Officer Shane Cano in Citation CJ2+|
|Captain Christian Luse performs pre-flight inspection of the Citation CJ2+|
MAT Aire is looking forward to a year of significant growth in 2017. Mark Trost and David Philyaw are making plans for the company to increase its operations capacity with more clients and possibly more crew members. Corporate jet pilots, like those in all types of flying, are in demand and have an opportunity to get great experience before they move on to a regional airline. Philyaw knows well that pilots at MAT Aire have goals for their careers, and he said the company is gratified to help them fulfill their goals of pilot development while providing the best aircraft management and crew services to their clients.