As the quality of commercial airline service worsens, more and more people are turning to private aviation.
That from Carl Finch, the tall Little Rock pilot who has flown with and for many of the state's business leaders for more than two decades.
That situation, and with the technological developments in private aircraft, opens up a whole new field in the aviation fraternity, he says.
It's called "aircraft management." "It's one of the fastest-growing segments of the market," Finch said last week.
Finch, and several of the city's business leaders, and a whiz of an aircraft salesman, have formed a company for this purpose.
The name is AirResource Group. It's an outgrowth of talks over the years between Finch; Greg Feltus, a Stephens Inc. executive; and Walter Smiley, the well-known business and civic leader who, years ago, founded Systematics Inc., the nationally recognized bank data firm.
Feltus is senior executive vice president at Stephens Inc., the Little Rock investment banking firm.
The sales whiz is Cheri McKelvey, who worked for Central Flying Service for about seven years, and between raising a son and being the wife of Dr. David McKelvey, a prominent gynecologist, helped set sales records at that venerable fixed-base operation. (FBOs, as the facilities are more popularly known, are the service stations/garages for private aviation.) "We saw a tremendous need right now in the market for people to get good advice, especially someone who wants to buy their own plane and wants to look at the options available, to get good, unbiased consulting," Finch said.
The new company is not connected with any fixed-base operation or other aeronautics related companies, and because of that is "free to negotiate in our clients' best interests," Finch said. The company, offers consulting on everything from what sort of aircraft the client should acquire and where the best hangar is for their particular aircraft to matters of maintenance, insurance, fuel, management and training.
He said the company can tailor the deals with clients, offering all stages from full service to small parts of whatever is needed.
All of the principals are pilots. Finch has more than 25 years flying, logging some 14,000 hours of corporate aircraft flight time.
He also has been involved in aircraft sales and management since the start of his career, dealing in all kinds of corporate aircraft from light twins to heavy jets. He said he's done "extensive consulting for many highprofile clients worldwide." The venture came to fruition earlier this year when McKelvey became available, Finch said. McKelvey said she had left Central Flying Service at the first of the year to pursue other opportunities.
She has a long history in sales in Little Rock, becoming "the first outside salesperson hired at Alltel Mobile for their cellular division when they opened here in Little Rock." She learned to fly at Central Flying Service in 1998 and started selling airplanes there the next year. She said she helped to set record sales for the past four years.
McKelvey added that the company will be a broker and buyer for all kinds of airplanes not just one specific make or kind.
She said with a laugh that, being a woman, she still is "a big minority" in aircraft sales. "When I started seven years ago, there were not many of us." Finch, a 1969 graduate of Hall High School, will be the president of the company.
McKelvey will be the vice president for sales and marketing.
They will operate out of offices at 11500 Fairview Road in west Little Rock, which is the place where Smiley operates his Smiley Technologies, a bank data processing company.
Finch said there also are a number of other, unnamed partners.
The new company is not connected with any fixed-base operation or other aeronautics related companies, and because of that is "free to negotiate in our clients' best interests," Finch said.
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