In Focus: 3 Who Have Served an Industry

Craig Sincock – Avfuel president takes his company to the global market

In 1985, Craig Sincock acquired a ‘mom and pop’ fuel distribution company in Ann Arbor, MI. Through the years he has led Avfuel from a four-person shop to one that employs hundreds nationwide and has various subsidiaries – Avtank; Avlease; Avsurance; Avflight; and Avplan. The company’s latest focus is targeting the growing international marketplace.

To grow the company to its present size, Sincock through the years orchestrated some 16 major acquisitions. Among them: Pride Aviation (1988); Triton Fuel Group (1993); PS Trading, Inc. (1998); and, Texaco General Aviation (2001).

He relates, “We’ve always tried to emphasize a high level of customer service and treat customers as friends. It’s been our model all along. We took that high-touch model and put it together with the fuel and branding, and then added services and product lines.”

His biggest letdown over the past three decades? “My biggest disappointment is probably the industry has not been able to change enough the public perception about what business aviation is about,” he says.

Regarding the future of the industry Sincock comments, “It’s going to be different in that the expansion areas will be in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America, as demonstrated by where the aircraft manufacturers are selling airplanes. Aviation is the venue in which people connect — people, culture, commerce. You can look up people on the Web, but eventually you’re on a plane. Future growth will be more global than domestic.”

Allen Bretz – A familiar face at Phillips 66 gets set to retire

In 1981 Allen Bretz joined Phillips 66 as a pilot in the legendary corporate flight department – its history tracks the history of the industry -- and after joining the General Aviation Sales team in 1985 became a familiar face at FBO ramps. He eventually became marketing director and today oversees sales for a four-state region for Conoco-Phillips. He plans to retire in 2012.

He comments, “There’s been a lot of change in the industry. The larger chains have become more involved. Many of them went on buying sprees and bought up ... a lot of the old mainstream FBOs. The overall quality of the business has improved dramatically – on all facets -- quality control; management has become more focused on growth; not as many pilots running the business.”

Regarding the future of 100LL avgas, Bretz says, “We’ve been saying for 20 years it will be gone in ten years. With industry, EPA, and FAA now working on it, it will happen. It won’t happen overnight. Then once we get a new fuel we have to look at how it will be refined and distributed. It will have to be safe and affordable.”

Mike Delk – After 40 years in fuel distribution, a new family business

In 1971 Mike Delk joined the family business, Valley Oil, which was co-founded by his father. He grew Valley Oil through various acquisitions of regional distributors before entering an agreement to distribute AirBP fuels as Air BP Aviation Services, a business that recently was sold to Epic Aviation LLC.

Comments Delk, “Candidly, I never thought about not being in the family business. The thing about family businesses is there’s a trust factor there that you are always comfortable with, and everyone is after the same goals. It’s a culture that I tried to maintain as we got larger. I think everyone felt they were part of a family business. That culture is harder and harder to keep as you get larger.”

It’s not surprising, then, that his new venture, Paragon Aviation Group, involves daughters Megan and Molly. Paragon seeks to build a network of subscribing independent fixed base operations which will create more buying power, broader marketing, and a unified brand to present to the industry at trade shows. “Our motto has always been, helping aviation businesses grow,” says Delk. “A reason we started Paragon is, the girls and I still had a passion for the industry when I sold out. This is a way to maintain the aspect of the business I really like, helping businesses grow. There’s still a large group of strong family businesses out there.”

Looking ahead, Delk says, “The U.S. has historically been the innovator and leader in aviation, especially general aviation. If we lose that leadership, I think it will hurt the economy even more.”

On the topic of the changing face of fuel distribution in the U.S., he says, “Thirty years ago there was only one real independent fuel supplier; today there’s actually only one real fuel supplier still in distribution. That’s a real turnaround. It’s just a natural extension of what’s happening in all industries. The industry is trying to be more efficient.”