A Different Breed of Air Traveler

A Different Breed of Air Traveler

By Andrew Laing

John Zayac and “Thumper,” his SNJ-5B, took second place in the T-6 Bronze class at the Reno Air Races in 2004.

John Zayac and “Thumper,” his SNJ-5B, took second place in the T-6 Bronze class at the Reno Air Races in 2004.

John Zayac avoids the time-consuming, anxiety-inducing minefield that is commercial air travel today. And no, he doesn’t telecommute; neither does he pour revenue into a high-priced company jet.

Instead of battling snarled traffic and security lines at Denver International Airport, Zayac drives 15 minutes from his Denver Tech Center office to Centennial Airport, hops into either his vintage AT-6 World War II plane or his Cessna 421 aircraft, and flies himself to business meetings.

For Zayac, the convenience of flying himself for business is key. He travels several times a month to meet with customers and pitch potential clients for his Denver-based mergers and acquisitions company, IBG Business Services, Inc. He travels often to rural areas in Colorado and surrounding states such as Utah, Nebraska and Oklahoma.

This has allowed him to grow his business in ways he wouldn’t have been able to because he can meet with potential clients in person more often. And he can do it on short notice.

“There’s an old adage in the M&A industry that ‘time kills deals,'” Zayac said. “To take a commercial flight to the Western Slope for a business meeting would normally eat up most of a day. With my own airplane, I have the ability to take off in the morning, meet for an hour or two, have lunch and come back the same afternoon.”

There’s also the “wow” factor, especially when Zayac takes clients and potential customers for a spin–literally–in his 1944 AT-6, which was used as a training plane for fighter pilots during World War II. In fact, Zayac said he was able to secure a new client in Fort Collins the first time he flew for business in part because the person was impressed that he piloted his own vintage plane to meet her.

New trend in business travel

Business executives are being lured in large numbers to private air commerce. Private chartered services provide many benefits–most notably a better use of time, increased personal security and greater physical comfort. The madness and hassles of daily airport operations and the agonies of airport congestion are fueling a major rise in private business air travel.

This is especially true in our highly security-conscious environment in the aftermath of 9/11. A direct result of this booming business can be seen in the sudden expansion and development of private hangar space at airports of all sizes.

Zayac confirms that he’s very aware of the changing patterns in private airplane use, especially in the wake of 9/11. He rubs shoulders all the time with business executives who pilot their own airplanes. They are, he says, a “band of brothers”–a hard-charging, risk-taking subculture with an insatiable desire to be taking risks in the air when they’re not putting it all on the line in the business world. Zayac’s aeronautical circle also includes a famous test pilot, an astronaut and a well-known Hollywood actor.

Air races

In his spare time, Zayac races the AT-6 at air races around the country and usually features prominently at the Reno National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nev. each September. This year he took fourth place in the Silver class, a personal best. As a measure of his flying colleagues’ respect, he was also recently elected president of the nonprofit T-6 Racing Association.

Being passionate about flying, he’s also an active volunteer with the Young Eagles program. The organization, chaired by Harrison Ford, aims to encourage interest in flying among young people by providing free flights for youth between the ages of 8 and 17.

Close call

With all the flying and air racing that Zayac does, there are obvious risks involved. His closest call came five years ago, on his way to the Reno Air Races, when his plane developed engine trouble after he took off from Centennial Airport.

Zayac turned back, following a major highway to stay away from residential areas. Then the engine died. The highway Zayac was following had heavy traffic, but he saw that four-lane Colorado Boulevard south of Denver was mostly clear, so he maneuvered to avoid a pickup truck and landed on the boulevard.

“I was more lucky than good,” Zayac said.

His business colleagues and flying buddies would probably disagree.

For more information on IBG Business Services, visit [].