Andy Priester, 35, is his father's son. There's the pragmatism of a Midwesterner; the confidence of a family business with a history. There's also an air of tomorrow. Says Priester, "I'd like to think that the infusion of my newer ideas, things that are perhaps a bit less conservative than what we've done in the past, has been good for the company. We're considering things today that we might not in the past; as a result, we've expanded past Chicago to Dallas and Oklahoma and Minnesota - and out to China. Before, I think we really looked at ourselves as a very regional, Chicagoland company." In essence, opening the door to Asia has presented a new future, says Priester.
Andy is the son of Charlie Priester, current chairman and CEO who directed the company for years, following in the footsteps of his father George, who founded the company. In fact, George Priester purchased the Palwaukee Airport here in 1953 and grew the airport and his fixed base operation into the leading corporate aviation facility in the Chicago area for years. Today, the Priester Aviation FBO is a Signature Flight Support, of which Priester is a sub-tenant, occupying three hangar bays on a four-bay corporate facility (which the original Priester Aviation built in the 1980s).
Today, the company has taken two of its historic strengths - charter/management and aircraft sales - into its core business, and has been broadening its scope by contracting with aircraft in new markets. Those include Janesville, WI; Dallas; Tulsa; and Minneapolis.
However, in the midst of its aggressive expansion into the U.S. market outside of the Chicago market, the company discovered the Asian market, and Andy Priester sees a good deal of potential there.
"Right now, business aviation over there is a drop of yellow in a sea of green," says Priester. "As more and more [corporate] airplanes are delivered in China and more companies and individuals wind up buying airplanes, there are going to be more companies doing this."
That said, Priester acknowledges that more bizjets in the Asian/China market equates into more aircraft management opportunities for companies like Priester Aviation. The company currently has some 34 bizjets on contract, which includes a contract for seven aircraft in the Minneapolis market. The company owns no airplanes. Explains Priester, "Our operating philosophy is, as a company we don't want to own any of the airplanes. We just want to do a good job managing them for those people who do own them. It"s worked well."
Asia Comes to Chicago
In June, Priester Aviation announced that it had entered into an agreement to form a partnership with BAA Jet Management Limited, a Hong Kong liability company, to offer aircraft management and charter services throughout Asia.
Per the agreement, Priester will provide flight crews, operations, and maintenance under FAR Part 135, while BAA will provide the customers. According to Andy Priester, it was an opportunity that came to him. It was the company's new approach to growth that made it possible, he says.
The opportunity began, recalls Priester, when Global Wings, a charter company based in Japan, approached Priester Aviation about working together.
"They really wanted to work with us," says Priester, "primarily because Japan in Asia is undergoing a similar evolution that the United States did back in the 1940s-70s. What they liked about our company is that we literally lived through the same type of transition. They wanted to work with us on a consultative and an experience basis.
"They currently have three Learjet 45s that they run around China and Japan. They've really developed the market on their own."
In time, says Priester, that led to the introduction to BAA [Business Aviation Asia] Jet Management, which operates three G-200s but which is aggressively pursuing more management contracts.
Chicago Upstart North American Jet is making its mark, and significant investment By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director May 2001 Ken Ross, president, North American Jet...
CLA and Priester aim to create a true nationwide service area for aircraft management, charter, maintenance, avionics, interior refurbishment, sales, acquisition and consulting.