By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Celebrating its 60th year, Sawyer Aviation Group has spent the last two, pandemic-fueled years watching new faces climb onboard, hoping to avoid crowded major airlines planes.
However, its services go beyond transporting families on vacation.
President Chad Verdaglio established Sawyer as one of the leading charter companies of organ transplant teams and organ transport to hospitals across the country in the last five years.
A 24-year pilot, Verdaglio is truly a hands-on executive.
“When I get the call at 2 a.m. for a flight request and I’m groggy, I just remember why I’m waking up,” Verdaglio says.
“This is to help someone see another sunset, another sunrise. I spring up pretty quickly. I will help with some of the flights, especially the organ transplant ones. I want to make sure we have around-the-clock coverage.”
Verdaglio says 40% of Sawyer Aviation Group’s charter business is serving organ transplant teams.
“Talk about diversification,” he says. “We have a 24-7 dispatch operations center. Think of a miniature mission control. This also allows us to field calls for third-party plane owners who have a broken airplane.”
Staff can put a maintenance technician on the aircraft, dispatch for a medical flight or fulfill needs for a flight crew and aircraft staffing.
In 2002, Verdaglio purchased Sawyer Aviation and has grown the company into Sawyer Aviation Group with operations in private aircraft-charter; sales; aircraft-acquisition consulting; flight training; aircraft rental and aircraft management. Sawyer is the largest fleet operator of Premier 1’s in the world.
“We’ve been around since 1961, but I like to refer to us as a 60-year-old start up that’s always looking for ways to innovate, be better and safer for our crews and customers.
“We don’t just show up, rinse and repeat. We want to know how we can sharpen this and improve and adapt. Aviation is a tough business, but we’re still here.”
Under Verdaglio’s leadership, Sawyer Aviation Group expanded its private charter services offerings of luxury transportation between Scottsdale/Phoenix and cities throughout the United States.
The Airpark-based, privately held company recently launched SawyerMX, which offers aircraft maintenance, employing the largest staff of any maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) provider supporting the Scottsdale airport’s top fleets. Services also include 24/7 dispatch for regional aircraft on ground (AOG) air and ground mobile-maintenance response, enabling quick and after-hours response.
“We are very proud of our company history and the growth we have achieved,” Verdaglio says.
“Sawyer Aviation started as a flight school and quickly added private charter flights, aircraft maintenance and sales. Today, Sawyer Aviation Group is a full-service company poised for the increase in demand for private aircraft and transport services.”
Sawyer Aviation Group is the preferred maintenance provider for two-thirds of the airport. Each fixed-base operator like Ross Aviation or Jet Aviation must provide maintenance service to their tenants. Sawyer Aviation provides maintenance on behalf of those companies. Verdaglio says he’s “honored to have that designation.”
“Private aircraft owners and pilots that find themselves with a mechanical issue and are stuck now have a solution with SawyerMX,” Verdaglio says. “Our services eliminate the need to wait until the next day or through a weekend to get an issue fixed and get back in the air.
Sawyer Aviation Group also added operations and services out of Van Nuys Airport in California and is adding 42,000 square feet of hangar space and approximately 7,000 square feet of offices and training rooms to its existing facilities at Scottsdale Airpark.
The added space, including offices and hangars, will be complete by early 2022. It provides more space for plane management and maintenance. It also allows Sawyer Aviation Group to offer its clients private hangar space, room to host events, training sessions and additional offices for employees and instructors.
The space is needed. During the pandemic, Sawyer Aviation Group has witnessed two trends from its vantage point in private aviation.
“With this pandemic virus and variants, we saw that a lot of new people are flying private for the first time,” Verdaglio says.
“With that, they’re also taking longer flights than we’ve seen in the past. We feel we can help.”
Sawyer Aviation Group boasts a fleet primarily of light jets with fuel-efficient engines, however, it works with a nationwide channel of charter brokers, so Sawyer can arrange for larger aircraft to fit the bill.
Sawyer Aviation Group’s planes, he says, provide a great first experience for those wanting to try private flights.
“It’s a good way for people to dip a toe in the industry, take a first flight,” he says. “Airlines are so stressful, too, with not having direct flights. We can get there and back in the same day to, say, Telluride or Aspen. We can go straight to the closest airport.
“They call us at charter dispatch, and we give them a quote. They can book online, and they can reserve the airplane. All we need is a two-hour response time.”
Sawyer Aviation Group
14600 N. Airport Drive, Scottsdale