Times are tough in the aviation sector. The proverbial road to success has become a little narrower as companies transform, trim their fat and consolidate their way to what we all hope is a brighter future. One way we at US Aviation hope to continue to grow is through diversification.
Six years ago we existed as only a flight training academy and small maintenance facility serving the north Texas region. In 2007 we received our first International students. These students knew other students who knew others and so on. Within six months we were in the throes of what is now called the “Indian Boom” with more than 60 students from south Asia working toward their commercial certificates. As with any boom this was short-lived as their home pilot labor markets started to saturate and the student levels dropped down to more sustainable levels. We were worried about the future and did not know if we could continue to grow, but we knew we had made contact with a growing list of industry partners around the world, many of which were former students. We reached out and found that with the right combination of incentive, proven success, and competitive rates students from all over the world were interested in training at US Aviation Academy. On a long wall in the central corridor of the Academy now hangs a map of the world pinned with the home locations of our pilot graduates, more than 35 countries so far. Some of these countries send us government or airline contract students, but our most successful marketing tool continues to be word of mouth. As with any business, when you put out a good product people recognize that and it enables you to grow even in difficult times.
Now that the Academy was growing US Aviation could build on success and expand into other services. We branched out into the aircraft sales and brokerage business, which then became our Light Sport aircraft sales and service business for those who want to fly for fun. Many of these small aircraft are built in Europe, so we started importing to sell domestically. Many potential sport pilots needed training, so it was a natural extension of the business to provide sport pilot flight training and develop the US Sport planes website. We expanded LSA maintenance services through Rotax and airframe technician training. This increased activity of our aircraft maintenance shop suggested we branch off from the maintenance department into a standalone avionics shop, which then allowed us to offer avionics upgrades and avionics installations for these shiny new aircraft.
As you can imagine we quickly outgrew our maintenance hangar. After a few conversations (blood/sweat/tears) with the airport and local banks we opened two new hangars, our first physical expansion. Our maintenance shop moved out of the original hangar. That allowed the Academy to build it out into badly needed training facilities and additional office space. This expansion also allowed us to further expand and diversify our services. The runway-facing side of the building was transformed into a FBO, which added services including full line service, fueling, a pilot shop and pilot lounge. US Aviation could now offer transient pilots everything from Hertz rental cars to chocolate chip cookies. Our flight staff relished the new training facilities where we could hold multiple ground schools at once while our students studied in the computer lab and the pilots had a quiet space to debrief. This also allowed our training services to expand to include helicopter training, advanced systems, turbine, and ATP ground schools-and even FAA safety seminars. We finally had the space to work without stepping over each other!
US Aviation is a prime example of how diversification can be a powerful tool for any aviation company to use as a means to grow. Every company has its own path to find. There’s no such thing as a predefined route; through diversity many new things are possible. You can’t know where your next customer will come from but the more possibilities you explore the more your world opens up-the proverbial think outside the box. At US Aviation we look for diversity through services that complement what we already do. Everything has to work hand in hand to create a sort of synergy. With a little luck and the right emphasis on quality, efficiency, and safety any aviation business can make it through to the brighter end of the economic tunnel.
–David Adams, director of logistics, US Aviation Academy