Can you please discuss your career path since graduating from Embry-Riddle?
I started at the customer service desk for Butler Aviation at Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), and went through the merger that formed Signature Flight Support. After a couple months, I was promoted to Operations Supervisor, and eventually Airlines Supervisor (mostly for a UPS freight and cargo operation). After a few years, I took a job as General Manager for Hawthorne Aviation (which became Piedmont-Hawthorne and is now Landmark Aviation) at Lakeland-Linder Regional Airport (KLAL). There, I was promoted to Regional Manager and covered four FBOs in Florida, two in Georgia and two in North Carolina. After several years in the position, I left to form my own company and find an airport suitable for my own FBO plan.
After a year of doing some FBO consulting, my new company (Atlas Aviation) won the RFP for FBO services at Peter O. Knight Airport (KTPF) in Tampa, Florida. We’ve now been here just over 10 years, and have a busy Part 61 and Part 141 flight school (Cessna Pilot Center), a full aircraft maintenance shop (Cessna Single Engine Service Center) and the full ground services of tiedown, hangar storage and aviation fuels. We have hosted AOPA Expo and AOPA Summit at our airport, and continue to host several, large special events each year. We have recently expanded into aircraft painting, and plan on a full avionics shop next.
Why is involvement in organizations outside the workplace important?
I have been a member and attended the Annual Meeting of the Florida Aviation Trades Association for nearly 20 years. A few years into it, I was nominated to the Board of Directors, and learned a TON from the people I met and still call friends. When it came time to start my own company, each service or vendor I needed came from my contacts within the organization; what an incredible support network for an independent company! Once settled into Atlas, I rejoined the Board and am currently serving as President (we’ve changed our name to the Florida Aviation Business Association www.FABA.Aero). Meeting and communicating regularly with other industry professionals (ERAU has a seat on the Board) is an incredible resource for running a business.
What has been your greatest achievement in your career?
Having come from a background of larger, “chain” type FBOs, I was warned by many that you couldn’t make a living selling Avgas, and certainly not with a flight school or even maintenance. Many had the “gas and grass” mentality, and subbed out all the other services and just collected rent. We now have a proven business model of teaching people to fly, then supporting our other departments by servicing the airplanes the new pilots ultimately buy (some simply continue to rent from our fleet, of course). We have several tenants on their second or third aircraft upgrade since we taught them to fly. We have made the “against the odds” business model work by hiring exceptional people and cultivating a professional yet fun atmosphere at the airport.
What advice do you have for current and/or graduating students to make them competitive in today’s workplace?
We’ve always appreciated ERAU grads and have several working for us. More than education or experience (though both are factors), we look for a great ATTITUDE in an employee. You should be willing to learn as you go, have a smile on your face and have an honest desire to help customers. That will make both your career and the company for whom you work successful; I love what I do!