One of the general aviation industry’s most prominent players is celebrating 60 years in business. Showalter Flying Service in Orlando recently hosted their biggest celebration yet.
Showalter opened the doors to its newest hangar as the backdrop to an enormous party on April 29. There, family and friends looked back at Showalter’s early beginnings and its role in the development of general aviation. According to Bob Showalter, company CEO, the industry has changed dramatically in 60 years—and Showalter was there to experience and shape that dynamic growth.
Timing is everything, and Showalter was at the right place at the right time when they opened their doors in 1945. With an end to World War II and separation from service, Howard and Sandy Showalter and “Buck” Rogers migrated to Florida, acquired 100 acres of ground in Winter Park and built Showalter Airpark.
It was intended to be the Mecca for the private pilot, with a country club atmosphere to make flying attractive to everyone. With the advent of the G. I. Bill, flight training became a large part of the operation and the fleet was increased to three J-3 Cubs, a Luscombe Silvaire, a Taylorcraft and a Fairchild 24.
The company soon expanded to include a flight school at Sanford and one at Herndon, then known as Orlando Municipal Airport. Eventually, as corporate aviation began to take off, Showalter sought to upgrade their facilities to handle the corporate pilot’s needs. When the new terminal was built at Orlando Municipal Airport in 1951, the Showalter Corporation became the first fixed base operator on the airport.
When the airlines completed their move to McCoy Jetport (now Orlando International Airport) in 1968, Herndon (now Orlando Executive Airport) became the city’s general aviation airport. Today, Orlando Executive Airport ranks among the 10 busiest general aviation airports in the United States.
Upon Howard Showalter’s death in 1965, his son, Bob Showalter, eventually joined Rogers as partner and vice president/sales manager. Between Rogers’ 30 years of experience and Showalter’s avid passion for flying and natural salesmanship, it was an ideal union.
Keeping it all in the family, Bob Showalter’s wife Kim was named president in 1994. She had recently completed a two-year stint as the chair of the Business Management Committee of the National Air Transportation Association. Eventually, their children, Jenny and Sandy, became involved in the business. Their daughter has enjoyed working as the company’s customer service manager since 1996. She’s the former vice chairperson of Angel Flight Southeast (she still serves on its board of directors) and is the current vice chairperson of the National Business Aviation Association Schedulers and Dispatchers Committee. Their son joined the company in October 2002 after working outside of the industry; he’s marketing director and aircraft sales assistant.
Even with the advent of major competitors, Showalter Flying Service remains the principal general aviation operator in Orlando. While times have changed, Showalter continues to offer an array of services in aircraft sales, service and management.
“We have a rich history to look back on and we take great pride in our aviation roots,” says Bob Showalter. “It’s my hope that we will continue to serve the flying public for generations to come.”
For more information, visit [http://www.showalter.com].