By Henry M. Holden
Brian Wing, president of Wing Aviation, said he formed the company for two reasons.
“We believed the marketplace had a shortage of quality companies,” he said. “As customers, we weren’t impressed with the service on our aircraft or with the options available to us. We also believed the industry was about to take off.”
Wing Aviation is a leading aircraft charter and management service located at Lone Star Executive Airport (CXO), north of Houston, with a second facility at Hobby Airport (HOU). The company also specializes in airframe maintenance, avionics installation, detailing and painting services for mid- and large-cabin corporate aircraft, and offers ground transportation service.
Wing created Wing Aviation as an aircraft operating company in 1993, beginning with one Lear 35. He found that his biggest challenge was becoming known in the marketplace.
“We were asking corporations and high-net-worth individuals to trust us, when they already had options that had been around for decades,” he said.
But Wing Aviation has had steady growth over the years and now has 100 employees.
“We had plenty of help growing the company along the way—people who gave us our first shot and are now wonderful customers, and people I’d call business mentors,” said Wing.
Wing Aviation recently added four new aircraft to its charter fleet—a GIII, GIV-SP, Astra SPX and Lear 35—bringing its total fleet to 14 aircraft. The company is the only charter operation in the Houston area that offers the long-range GIV-SP.
“We’re thrilled to add these aircraft to our existing fleet,” said John Olson, vice president of business development for Wing Aviation Charter Services. “These additional planes underline Wing’s continued commitment to provide our customers with uncompromised safety and first-class air services throughout the United States, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”
Aviation Research Group/US, an independent safety evaluations company, lists Wing Aviation as a platinum-rated operator. Wing Aviation is one of only three companies in Texas and 49 in the U.S. with that rating, awarded to those operators who have met silver and gold rating criteria, and successfully passed an in-depth, on-site charter audit.
“This rating is given to only those companies who show top safety, security and quality in the audit,” Wing said. “The platinum rating adds value for our clients and reaffirms that we’re always looking for the best ways to provide safety.”
Wing says his company’s employees have a certain mindset.
“We don’t do things the way they’ve always been done,” he said.
Wing’s focus is satisfying his customers, and he believes his methods work.
“Every section of our business has grown each year, revenue-wise,” he said. “The numbers exceed anything we expected, implying that our customers are exceptionally satisfied. These people are coming back, and they’re telling their friends.”
Screening flight crews
Wing Aviation is now one of the largest charter management companies in Texas. To maintain a high level of customer service, Wing is particular about whom he hires.
“Our hiring practices are in line with the quality of the people who wear our logo,” Wing said. “We start with all the requirements that the FAA and the other regulatory bodies require. We also try to hire people who come highly recommended.”
He said Wing Aviation tries to glean what isn’t on a person’s resume.
“If you spend time with an applicant before they become a fulltime employee, you have a wonderful opportunity to learn far more than resumes or normal interviews would allow,” he said. “We spend a lot of time looking people in the eye.”
Wing says meeting a potential employee away from the airport is an ideal way to get to know someone.
“The time spent with them, at lunch, dinner or playing golf, or any environment away from the airport, is time well spent,” he said. “On the golf course, you can spot integrity in a heartbeat. Also, if you can see how someone interacts with family members, you can get a good idea how that person will treat customers.”
Wing says that some heavy jet captains have made excellent transitions to his company.
“We have captains who have 25,000 to 28,000 hours,” he said. “One pilot with 28,000 hours was a captain on the 777; his ability to join our private business and provide the level of quality and attention to detail we require for our customers was impressive.”
He doesn’t rule out hiring a commercial pilot who’s not used to dealing with customers in the back of the airplane.
“It’s a transition for them, but we’ve found ways to teach them the way we do things,” he said.
In December 2006, Wing Aviation added two new business divisions.
“We started Wing Ground Transportation to provide the level of service we provide to our aviation customers,” Wing said. “It’s been growing nicely, because our customers see our level of service and attention to detail. We’ve been pleasantly surprised by the growth.”
Wing Ground Transportation offers a full range of services, from corporate travel to special events. A fleet of luxury vehicles makes it possible to customize service for any size group. The service focuses not only on corporate executives, but also special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries—or just a night on the town.
“We have clientele who use us for in-town service and transport to airports—business trips or private or commercial travel—or even for sporting events,” said Wing.
WGT combines the “highest level of customer service” with “safe and dependable luxury.”
“Our chauffeurs are extensively trained to provide unparalleled service,” Wing said.
Wing recently brought Clean Craft, an aircraft detailing company, under its umbrella.
“Jim Frasier and his staff give more attention to detail that anyone I’ve ever met,” said Wing.
With more than two decades of experience, the Clean Craft staff is trained to operate and manage the highest quality equipment, techniques and products available in the industry. Services include interior and exterior detailing, basic trip cleaning, brightwork and complete leather detail.
“We’ve gone through plenty of cleaning companies,” Wing said. “Each starts off impressively, but then attention to detail begins to slip. We worked with Clean Craft for several months and realized they were getting better at what they were doing.”
Wing said that because of Wing Aviation’s growth, he felt it made sense to integrate Clean Craft.
“We wanted to provide Clean Craft’s services to our managed, FBO and third-party customers,” he said. “This part of the business isn’t sexy, but it continues to impress customers and exceed expectations. Nobody can clean aircraft better. The letters of recommendation we receive are second to none.”
Wing Aviation Scholarship Fund
Brian Wing has enjoyed success in the aviation business and continued company growth. As a way to give something back, he established the Wing Aviation Scholarship Fund, to help the local community in two ways. Now in its fourth year, the scholarship program recognizes and aids deserving students in the Houston area and provides internship opportunities for technical students at Westwood Aviation Institute.
Wing Aviation awards at least two $2,500 to $5,000 scholarships each academic year. The fund’s executive board evaluates financial need, academic records, test scores, extracurricular activities and recommendations. Scholarships are applied to tuition for Westwood Aviation Institute.
“We have about 30 airframe and power plant mechanics, who remember holding down two jobs, raising a family and going to school, all at the same time,” Wing said. “We thought we could help the next generation by providing them with training and jobs.”
For more information, visit [http://www.wingaviation.com].