Learning To Fly at AUS

Dec. 23, 2011

AUSTIN, TX — In an era when much of flight training has become the domain of universities, two brothers and former military pilots, Matthew and Corey Quillen, have been working since 2007 to follow a more traditional path toward success with their own business. Their entreprenurial endeaver, Streamline Aviation, is based here at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

Explains 32-year old Matt Quillen, “We chose the name for 2 reasons: First, a streamline is an aerospace engineering term that is used to define airflow or other fluids over a wing and other objects — we’ve always thought that word sounded really cool. Second, we thought it would help describe our mission of making the pilot certification process simpler.”

Streamline Aviation, a Part 61 school, was launched in 2007, at the height of economic prosperty. “Our first year and a half the revenue growth was kind of like a hockey stick, really going up,” says Quillen. “Had we started at the end of ’08 or early ’09 we wouldn’t have made it six months. But because we had a great 2007 we were able to weather the storm.

“Today we’re steady; we’re not growing as fast I’d like, as we were in ’07 and early ’08. I learned through the recession that we really need to hold onto our cash.

“Our biggest thing now is instrument ratings. We travel and fly customers in their own aircraft. You don’t even need an airplane for that; you just need a good instructor, good training aids, a good syllabus, and a good marketing campaign, which we’re working on.”

The company has two Diamond training aircraft under leaseback, and Quillen relates that many customers are business owners who purchase an aircraft and then need to learn to use it. Or, they upgrade to a different model and hire Streamline to provide “transition” training.

Says Quillen, “Our goal was to be a full-service flight school, start to finish, from private to instrument to ATP. And Diamond offered the entire fleet – DA20; DA40; and DA42. And we did that; we actually had five airplanes at one time and were providing all of that training.

“When the downturn started, we did adjust our business model. I’m very glad that we did.”

“I think we’ll ultimately do nothing but instrument flight training, and probably with people who own their own airplane. That’s been our biggest success. We do the ten-day instrument course.

“You’d be surprised how many people buy an airplane and don’t even have their private pilot’s certificate; and a lot of others don’t have their instrument rating.”

Streamline operates as a subtenant of Signature Flight Support at AUS under a three-year lease that renews automatically annually, according to Quillen. “They provide a professional environment and respond to our needs pretty quickly,” he says.

He says Streamline’s annual revenues topped out at $800,000 early on; today it’s about 60 percent of that peak. “Our margins have been better since we changed the business model,” he says. Both brothers are instructors, though they focus today more on the business.

Comments Quillen, “Unfortunately, when you grow a business, instead of working in the business you have to work on the business. So we’re more managers at this point.”

He explains that since flight training is a riskier environment than private aircraft ownership, a key cost factor is insurance. “We contacted Avsurance and they took a leap of faith, if you will. There was only one company that would underwrite us.” The aircraft are ensured for some $250,000, at a cost of about $1,000 per month.

To attract new customers the company relies heavily on its Internet presence [www.StreamlineAir.com]. “We try to be number one on the search engines,” explains Quillen. “Sometimes we’ll pay to be number one with a sponsorship if we have to. We do some direct mail; a lot of word of mouth. Probably a third of our customers come from other customers.”