Private flight has certainly seen better years. In addition to fighting a recessionary headwind that has slowed the entire manufacturing sector, this particular industry has served as the media’s preferred target for populist outrage in the wake of financial crisis and Wall Street scandal. In the minds of many, its products have become the ultimate symbols of elitist excess.
That private aircraft and the flight-services companies that facilitate their use are essential business tools seems not to have mattered to critics. That the aircraft-manufacturing sector and its suppliers employ hundreds of thousands of Americans seems to have gone unremarked by politicians and pundits who, while they sanctioned the allocation of hundreds of billions of dollars for ill-defined job-creation programs, decried routine corporate expenditures on private aviation as immoral. What followed was a sad tale of plummeting sales, layoffs, and damage done.
And yet, despite all of this, the private-aviation industry soldiers on. Its products are marvels of engineering that continue to furnish an essential competitive advantage in our ever-changing global marketplace, while leading flight-services companies enable legions of travelers to utilize aircraft in inventive, cost-efficient ways.
In this year’s Best of the Best issue, Robb Report recognizes the finest aircraft and flight-services programs the private-aviation sector has to offer. In making our selections, members of the editorial staff worked closely with the Robb Report Private Aviation Advisory Board, a group of seven industry professionals who bring a wealth of experience and knowledge to the task. We asked these experts to evaluate the entire spectrum of aircraft and flight-services programs using objective criteria before making their recommendations for the Best of the Best list. The criteria were designed to illuminate the strengths and weaknesses of these products and services—as well as those of the companies that offer them. It should be noted, however, that the criteria did not include the perceived financial stability of any company or vendor. Given the current climate of economic uncertainty, we strongly recommend that individuals work closely with established aviation consultants to research thoroughly any aircraft or flight-services programs under consideration.
In the pages that follow, we record the results of our selection process. This year we recognize not only exemplary products and services, but also all of the executives, engineers, line workers, pilots, mechanics, and other individuals who form the backbone of the private-aviation industry. These men and women and the products they make truly are the Best of the Best.
The Robb Report Private Aviation Advisory Board
Peter V. Agur Jr.
Managing Director and Founder, The VanAllen Group
Peter V. Agur Jr. has been a management consultant since 1985. His firm provides consulting services for large public and private corporations, high-net-worth individuals, and royal families, among other clients. Peter began his career as an Army aviator and went on to work for several major airframe manufacturers. He has a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical sciences from the Metropolitan State College of Denver, and a Master of Business Administration degree from Georgia State University.
James D. Butler
CEO, Shaircraft Solutions
James D. Butler is an attorney and the CEO of Shaircraft Solutions. Shaircraft negotiates private-air-travel investments for individuals and businesses, including fractional ownership, jet-card programs, and charter. James specializes in fractional-share valuation disputes. Clients include pro golfers Scott Verplank and Scott Hoch and NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long.
Founder and President, Jet Advisors
Kevin O’Leary heads Jet Advisors, a full-service corporate-jet consulting firm in Broomfield, Colo. Prior to founding Jet Advisors, Kevin worked for Hawker Beechcraft, Travel Air, and Flight Options. He has a Master of Business Administration degree and holds a commercial pilot’s license.
Walter Kraujalis is an aviation attorney with expertise in sales and acquisitions, business development and due diligence, aircraft-selection analysis, and safety/management/ISBAO consulting, among other areas. He is a licensed pilot (commercial and private) with more than 9,400 hours of flight time. Walter is also a speaker and instructor at industry functions, and he has published many articles in aviation publications.
William J. Quinn Jr.
Director, Aircraft Sales and Acquisitions, Cerretani Aviation
William J. Quinn Jr. has been actively involved in the aviation industry for more than 41 years, during which time he has served as a helicopter-maintenance technician in the United States Navy; worked for several aircraft manufacturers; founded a number of successful aviation businesses; and served as the director of aviation and chief pilot for a Fortune 500 company. He holds an Airline Transport Pilot license with type ratings in both business jets and helicopters.
H. Lee Rohde III
President, Aviation Management Systems
H. Lee Rohde III currently serves as president of Aviation Management Systems, a Portsmouth, N.H., company that provides management-, technical-, operational-, and asset-based consulting services to the aviation, financial, insurance, and legal communities. He joined the firm in 2005. Lee is an experienced pilot and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics.
Keith G. Swirsky
Chairman, Business Aviation Group, GKG Law
Keith G. Swirsky is an attorney and tax specialist concentrating in the areas of corporate-aircraft transactions and aviation taxation. GKG Law, in Washington, D.C., provides full-service tax and regulatory planning and counseling services to corporate aircraft owners, operators, and managers. Keith holds a Master of Laws degree in taxation and a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University.