By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski
Growing up in North Dakota, Curt Pavlicek was driving with his father when an airplane passed them.
“I said to my dad, ‘If we were in the airplane, we would be home already,’” Pavlicek recalls. “Dad told me to go to the airport and take a flying lesson. The next day, I did just that.”
Now, Pavlicek and his wife, Terry, are celebrating the 35th anniversary of their Airpark-based company, Pinnacle Aviation. He doesn’t take all the credit for the company’s success.
“We have a great team,” Pavlicek says. “We couldn’t be as successful without the team we have. They helped us build who we are. It’s a family business, but we’re a team-building business. It’s just a big family.”
Founded in 1988, Pinnacle Aviation came about organically. Pavlicek was flying a corporate jet for a real estate development company until the real estate crunch hit. His employer said they had good and bad news for him: Pavlicek was getting laid off, but his boss was allowing him to sell the aircraft and would pay him a commission.
“I advertised it,” he says. “I talked to various clients and eventually sold it. Through this process I talked to clients that weren’t interested in this aircraft but wanted me to find other types of aircraft. That’s how I built my client list. I would go out and find the aircraft they were looking for.”
Clients in Scottsdale/Phoenix soon learned about his business acumen — all based on one client in North Scottsdale who allowed him to sell his aircraft. As his expertise and reputation expanded, he broadened the company from an aircraft sales and acquisitions company to aircraft management.
Since the first aircraft sold, Pinnacle Aviation has represented clients in numerous sales and acquisitions from turboprops to Boeing 737 and 757 aircraft.
Pinnacle Aviation has evolved into five segments: aircraft sales and acquisitions, aircraft management, aircraft charter, aircraft maintenance and aircraft insurance. It employs 90 people — two in the Bay Area, three in Hawaii, two in Colorado Springs, and the remaining number in Arizona.
“We pretty much do everything from A to Z,” Pavlicek says.
“Once clients buy an aircraft, they most likely want someone to manage it for them. We provide pilots, perform maintenance, provide insurance, and also charter the aircraft.
“About 75% of our owners want to charter their aircraft. They’ll want us to put their aircraft to work so they can derive additional revenue. We have the FAA license to provide charter services to the public.”
The aircraft management company supervises the entire aircraft ownership process from crew staffing to maintenance services to accounting and insurance solutions.
Being the largest Arizona-based charter company, Pinnacle Aviation takes clients on domestic and international travels. Clients enjoy Pinnacle Aviation for its timeliness and stellar customer service, Pavlicek says.
“It’s fairly expensive, but it costs the same to fly one person as it does 10 people in the same aircraft,” he adds. “The jet’s going to burn the same amount of fuel. It does help to have more people from a cost perspective. What is real positive is the time factor.
“A corporation that has 10 executives flying to different facilities in the United States would take three to four days on the airlines. Flying privately the same trip could be accomplished in one day. When you start to look at the time factor, all of a sudden it doesn’t look so expensive.
“You just show up, get in the airplane and you’re gone. That’s a real, distinct advantage to flying corporate. You don’t have to deal with crowded terminals and security lines.”
Its maintenance technicians average more than 20 years of experience in maintaining business jets, and they are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Pinnacle Aviation’s employee retention speaks for the company’s longevity.
Scott Guetti, Pinnacle Aviation’s director of maintenance, has been with the company since he was hired as a maintenance technician in 1997.
“He’s been with us for 26 years,” Pavlicek says. “We have great employees who are dedicated to us. Our office manager, Pegeen Griffith, has been with us for 27 years.”
As Pavlicek looks forward, he says there’s room for growth. Pinnacle Aviation recently added 20,000 square feet of hangar space on the west side of Scottsdale Airport.
The Scottsdale Airport has been the perfect partner for Pinnacle Aviation.
“It’s the center of Arizona in regard to any corporate activity,” he says. “Whether it’s corporations or celebrities, Scottsdale is generally the most convenient and preferred airport to arrive and depart from.
“We feel very fortunate to have found a wonderful place like Scottsdale. There are other airports in the Valley, but everybody’s first choice is Scottsdale.”
In 2024, Pavlicek will mark his 50th year in aviation. He’s been in the Airpark since 1980 and his love of aviation and his clients continues to drive him.
“I also attribute our success to hard work, being honest and having integrity,” he says.
“Most of our business is referral business. It’s like a chain reaction. I think a lot has to do with our reputation, not only from a client standpoint but pilots want to work for us. It’s what it’s all about.”
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