Jan 10, 2014
by JEFF SPRY CBN Feature Writer
Streaking into 2014, Professional Air in Bend has fortified itself with a four-prong approach to continued success and sterling service. Formed in 2005, the company serves the Central Oregon aviation industry via the Bend Airport with several distinctive fronts: fuel sales (both AvGas and Jet Fuel), charter, flight instruction and aircraft maintenance, including avionics.
Professional Air continues to be the only full-service provider of FBO (fixed base operations) services at the Bend Airport and has generated rave reviews from both local and out-of-town customers.
President Gwil Evans has served as the dedicated ringmaster since their inception and applauds his team’s comprehensive approach.
“We are the front door and the face of the entire airport,” he said. “Providing everything from rental cars to free popcorn and ice, oxygen service and lavatory service, courtesy cars and free steaks from Lovejoy’s Market for our best customers.”
A Yukon XL Denali and a Mercedes Benz are the courtesy cars for day use by pilots and customers.
“We pride ourselves on the little things that make a difference: driving customers into town for meetings when they’re late, making hotel reservations, cleaning windshields or oil off someone’s cowling without being asked, picking up passengers and luggage at their plane in our eight-seat golf cart and treating everyone as if they are our only customer.”
2013 was another stellar year for the company, after three straight years of flatlined business trajectory. Evans calculates that fuel sales were almost the same as 2012, but they sold a significantly higher volume of jet fuel than in prior years. Corporate jet traffic increased marginally in 2013, plus local turbine owners were using their aircraft for business travel more as the year progressed.
Presently, Professional Air flies a 4-seat Cessna 172 for charter, but in 2014 they plan to add a turbine – possibly a PC-12.
Their flight school features two late-model Cessna 172s with Garmin GPS technology, including the latest touch-screen G750.
“These 180-horsepower trainers are complemented by our Cessna 172RG (retractable gear), and our Cirrus SR20, a state-of-the-art carbon fiber, glass-panel aircraft which feels more like a high-end luxury automobile, except that it has a Ballistic Recovery System – a safety feature like no other – the entire airplane is cradled back to the earth by a large parachute in the event of an emergency.”
Professional Air’s deluxe twin trainer has been called one of the nicest in any fleet in the U.S.
“This 2003 Piper Seminole had one owner prior to coming to Pro Air, and it also has the full Garmin package to match a really nice leather interior,” Evans added. “With these five aircraft, a student can run through a complete set of pilot ratings and obtain a twin-engine, instrument certificate with a commercial endorsement in about two years. No other flight school in Central Oregon can match this.”
In the coming year, Evans intends to add a second Cirrus aircraft to the fleet, the SR22. Faster and capable of carrying larger loads than the SR20, this is an exemplary traveler’s airplane, which will be available for training as well as rental.
“We think our rental customers will be ecstatic to be able to jump in this bird, which has the ability to get to Portland in less than 45 minutes, or the Bay Area in two hours.”
Professional Air occupies the main terminal building of the Bend Airport, as well as their main maintenance, north maintenance buildings and four large hangars, bringing their total space to nearly 42,000 sq. ft. They operate four refuelers (2 AvGas and 2 Jet), three aircraft tugs across the main center ramp and a quad equipped with a snow-plow to help customers in and out of their hangars. A full 30-student classroom houses the latest technology in flight simulators, operated in conjunction with COCC.
“We’ve trained pilots who have gone on to fly Gulfstreams for royalty in the Phillipines, King Airs for private military contractors in the middle east, for airlines like BigHorn Airways in Alaska, Skywest and America West, and as private jet pilots for a number of corporate flight departments.
“Flight instruction and maintenance have been our strong suits for the past several years, helping us manage through the recession and come out much stronger. As a company, we had 51 employees at the aviation economic peak in 2008. That number fell to a low of 17 in 2011, and now stands at 24. We plan on growing slowly, steadily, and with a conservative outlook.”
In 2011, they began developing an avionics department, doing installations and service, and that line of business has skyrocketed.
“As a Garmin dealer, we install the latest technology in all kinds of airplanes and rotorcraft. Avionics helped our maintenance department grow by 20 percent a year the last two years. That’s been topped only by our flight instruction department, which has grown 30 percent a year for the last three years. We have an edge over other flight schools in that we have late-model aircraft, and don’t utilize under-powered aircraft, as a policy, for flight instruction.”
Their sister company, Aero Facilities, is currently finishing the second new airport building to be built in 2013. It’s a two-hangar 5,000 square foot custom hangar project, each purchased by two new out-of-town pilots who are bringing their aircraft and calling Bend home. This project comes on the heels of a 14,400 square foot tee-hangar building completed last summer. There are nine individual, custom tee-hangars, with electric bi-fold doors, a common pilot lounge and bathroom built into the end of the building. Prices on the tee-hangars range from $90K to a high of $150K.
Professional Air and Aero Facilities continue to work with the airport and community to provide a satisfying experience for visitors and pilots. That personal touch serves Evans well.
“When you come out to the airport and into the FBO, you’ll likely be greeted by the smiling face of Amy, or Gabe, or if you head into the maintenance facility, it might be Steve. And the first thing you’ll hear, right after “good afternoon,” is “what can we do for you? It’s how we want to do business and the only way we know.”
541-388-0019, 63132 Powell Butte Rd Bend, OR 97701, www.professionalair.com
President/GM: Gwil Evans
No. Employees: 23
Year Established: 1986
Product/Service: full-service FBO and flight training school, offering aircraft maintenance, avionics sales and service. A genuine Garmin Avionics Sales and Service Center.
Hot News: Recently completed construction of a new nine-hangar building on the airport’s east side, for lease or for sale.
Outlook for Growth: Expect flight instruction and aircraft maintenance to continue growing at 10-15 percent next year. Looking at the addition of a turboprop as a charter aircraft in 2014.