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The Aero Experience is a celebration of Midwest aviation and aerospace achievement. We invite you to join us as we explore the treasures of Midwest aviation through first-hand experiences. Our contributors take turns flying lead, and we are always looking for new destinations. Check in with The Aero Experience frequently to see where we will land today, and then go out and have your own aero experiences!

Blue skies,

Carmelo Turdo, Mark Nankivil and Fred Harl - The Aero Experience Team

Monday, January 23, 2017

MAT Aire Takes Aircraft Management Services to New Heights at Spirit of St. Louis Airport

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
So what is aircraft management the MAT Aire way?  “Highly personalized aircraft management and pilot services," Philyaw answered.  "We get to know our clients very well, on a personal basis.  This industry is all about attention to detail, and the crews are all cued into that.  If it’s in our control and we can do it, then we try to accommodate our clients.”  For instance, business owners may want certain foods for the flight and they are provided.  Crews plan for the most economical flights in the aircraft, weather, range and other safety factors considered.   

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 Christian Luse
Captain Olen Berthold

First Officer Shane Cano

MAT Aire has added four crew members in the last few years to the three highly experienced airline transport pilots already on staff.  They are graduates of Parks College of Engineering, Aviation and Technology, part of St. Louis University.  Captain Christian Luse came to MAT Aire in 2014, followed by Captain Olen Berthold, First Officer Shane Cano and First Officer Jack Kane.  Their customers have confidence in young crews.  “Our clients tell us how much confidence they have in us, and that has been very rewarding to hear,” Luse told The Aero Experience.  They are more than just pilots, but able to interact well with clients.  They bring a new personality to the company.  David Philyaw added, “We have a really strong working relationship, a very positive vibe here…The clients trust them.”  Both Philyaw and Mark Trost commented that the graduates from Parks College were well prepared to join the corporate aviation industry. 

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. 

Robert Little
During our visit, we met a new member of the MAT Aire team, Robert Little.  He is an accomplished corporate pilot, and brings with him 17 years of management consulting, sales/marketing, charter sales, and aircraft sales experience.  It was also a bit of a reunion, since Little flew for Mark Trost at MAT Aire seven years ago.  He will bolster the operations and sales business, and assist with plans for expansion to other regional sites with corporate jet  operators.  He will also include client aircraft upgrades and sales in his portfolio.   
MAT Aire is ready to become your corporate or personal flight department, managing your aircraft operations and making aircraft ownership a very positive experience.  Contact  MAT Aire today to get started! 

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