By John F. Infanger, Editorial Director
SALT LAKE CITY — While some people fear what paranoia might wreak upon the aviation industry, William Haberstock, CEO of Million Air SLC and related companies, still believes in general aviation’s potential for society and the economy. He’s optimistic about the future for his $35 million, full-service aviation company, which today comprises two fixed base operations, aircraft charter and management, aircraft sales, and airline servicing. His prescription for success: full service.
" We’re at an interesting crossroads right now," says Haberstock, 55, regarding the heightened focus on all aviation activities following 9/11 and the potential for new security regs from the Transportation Security Administration.
"I don’t believe it’s going to do the industry any good to try and hide from TSA or Congress. It’s important that TSA and Congress understand how this end of the business works, how it fits into the national transportation system, and that they understand that these companies are complex. You can’t just shut down one end of the business and expect the rest to survive and grow.
"My own Congressman came to me and said that one good thing that’s come out of all this [increased focus on aviation activities], is that he had had no idea what our business was about and the extent of it, the impact." Haberstock, a native of the San Francisco Bay area, started learning to fly at this same SLC location, albeit for an FBO predecessor, during high school, and has been in the industry ever since, often as a corporate pilot. When he got into ownership of the business, he decided that a full-service aviation company was what could be successful in today’s market.
"The FBO is a portion of the fulls e rvice aviation company that we want to establish, so that anybody in the community that wants aviation services will be able to come here.
"A problem is that we fragmented this thing [general aviation], so much that the consumer got confused and therefore didn’t take action. I still believe that general aviation is an incredible industry for what it provides, and it’s not well known — yet."
Haberstock, who majored in journalism, thinks a critical element in future success has to do with industry getting its stories more widely told.
"I’ve flown air ambulance flights, transplant flights, high priority cargo. When that little girl in Midland, TX fell down the drilling hole, I got a call at two in the morning. There’s a company here in Salt Lake that makes high performance drill bits. An hour later, we got that drill bit here and put in on a Lear 25 to get it down there. She got out the next afternoon.
"There was a guy at a convention here one time who was the expert on rocket fuel, when a trailer full of rocket fuel blew up in Kansas City. He’s in Salt Lake City while the freeway is burning up in Kansas City. An hour and 45 minutes later we’ve got the guy on site in Kansas City because there was an air charter company here that could do it.
"With Thiokol based here, I’ve flown rocket motors or other components down to Titusville at two o’clock in the morning that allowed the shuttle to go off two or three days later. "The same story goes on all day long, every day in every city."
Regarding potential farreaching security rules, says Haberstock, "You can’t have a charter company exist, 24 hours a day, with pilots and everything else, if you begin to limit this side of the business and say you can’t go here or can’t go there.".
A REGIONAL PRESENCE
In 1995, Haberstock was operating a small aircraft management firm at SLC when he, executive VP Leon Christensen, and another partner bought the Million Air FBO here. The umbrella parent company today is Keystone Aviation, with estimated annual sales at $35 million, according to Haberstock. The company operates a second FBO at Provo, home of Brigham Young University. Keystone Aviation operates Million Air FBOs at Salt Lake City (above) and Provo, where it has a new FBO terminal. It recently broke ground on a 30,000-sq.ft. executive hanger at SLC, giving it 170,000 square feet of heated hanger space at the airport.
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