By Niki D’Andrea / Photos by Kimberly Carrillo
When it comes to the aviation business, a lot of things need to be nailed down before a plane gets up in the air. There’s chartering, insurance, maintenance, catering, piloting and chauffeuring, among other things. And Pinnacle Aviation does it all.
“We pretty much do everything from A to Z. There’s nothing we don’t do for the client,” Pinnacle Aviation CEO Curt Pavlicek says. “They have to do nothing but just drive up in their car and get out of the car. We grab their bags, throw them in the airplane and get on the airplane and fly wherever they want to go. We take care of all the things that happen up to that point. There’s a lot of steps that happen for an aircraft to be flown to different destinations.”
There were also a lot of steps for Pavlicek to transform Pinnacle Aviation – which celebrates its 30-year anniversary in the Airpark this year – into a one-stop shop for aviation. Over the past three decades, his company has grown and changed concurrently with the Scottsdale Airpark area.
It really all began on a farm in North Dakota, where Pavlicek grew up. Sitting in one of the conference rooms at Pinnacle Aviation headquarters, with the occasional private jet taking off from the runway behind him, he recalls, “One of the things I knew I never wanted to be was a farmer, because it didn’t hold enough excitement for me. So my dad one day said, ‘Why don’t you go out and learn how to fly an airplane? That sounds kind of interesting.’ And I said, ‘I never thought about that, Dad.’ So the next day, I went to the airport and I took a flying lesson and just fell in love with it. It was awesome.”
Pavlicek earned his pilot’s license in 1974 and got a job flying private planes. In 1980, one of his clients – who lived in Scottsdale but had a home in North Dakota – hired him to fly his plane between the destinations, so Pavlicek lived in North Dakota during the summer and in Scottsdale during the winter. The same client wanted his plane available for charter, and so Pavlicek suddenly found himself in the chartering business.
The Airpark was a little different back then. “When I first came here, the runway was half the size, and half the length,” Pavlicek remembers. “The Airpark was still here, but it was in its infancy.”
In 1988, Pavlicek started buying and selling planes, also on the request of a client who wanted to sell his chartered plane. After sales, buyers began asking Pavlicek’s company to manage their aircraft, and so Pinnacle Aviation began managing aircraft in all aspects from insurance to storage and maintenance. Business boomed on the basis of referrals. Pavlicek says Pinnacle Aviation’s safety ratings are also a selling point for clients; the company has not had a single accident over its three decades in the Airpark.
“Companies that are Fortune 500 companies, companies that are going to charter from us – they’re going to see the ratings we have from a safety perspective, and so it’s important to me to support our operations people. They’re the ones who came to me and said, ‘If we want to be number one in this industry, we have to do this.’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. Let’s do it.’ That’s important to me, to make sure we have the basis of good safety behind us. Because then there’s no excuses,” Pavlicek says. “You’re doing the best you can in the industry, and we’re not shortcutting anything with our services, and that’s what clients appreciate. The real clients that understand our type of business, they say ‘Pinnacle does it the best and that’s why we want to fly with them.’”
“We’ve had audits by some of the largest companies in the world, and they walk in and say, ‘Wow, this is great. We love what you guys are doing,’” he continues. “In fact, we’ve actually had the FAA sit in on some of our safety meetings and say, ‘We wish everybody else was like you guys and did it the right way.’”
In addition to its high safety ratings, Pavlicek emphasizes the all-encompassing nature of Pinnacle Aviation’s services. “If we have a charter at 3 o’clock in the morning, the charter manager is here in a shirt and tie to see them off,” he says. “We want our clients to know – we don’t care what time it is, day or night, we’re gonna be here. Their car’s gonna be arranged, the catering, whatever has to happen. We want it to be seamless for the clients. So it’s a very topnotch service.”
While Pinnacle Aviation and Scottsdale Airpark have evolved simultaneously over the past 30 years, there’s one area where the aviation company has outgrown its home: hangar space. “The biggest issue that we have here in Scottsdale is the lack of hangar space. So for us to grow here, it’s very difficult, because if somebody wants to bring a big Gulfstream in here, we don’t have anywhere to put it. Really, the whole Phoenix area is limited where you can put airplanes. All the satellite airports around Phoenix Sky Harbor have no space,” Pavlicek says. “It’s going to change next year when they build those hangars across the way that they’re building. That’s going to help a little bit, but I still think that’s going to be the limiting factor, not only for our company, but for other companies on this airport and in the Phoenix Valley in general – a lack of hangar space.”
“There’s really limited ground to build hangars on,” Pavlicek continues. “There are two other pieces of property that are available here, and I’m not so sure when that’s gonna happen. It could be 10 years from now. And we need hangars immediately.”
To expand Pinnacle Aviation’s services, the company has branched out to other states. It has an airplane in New York, two planes in Hawaii, and one in California. Pavlicek’s also talking with a company in Texas about providing services for them. But he plans to keep Pinnacle Aviation’s corporate headquarters in the Airpark. “We’re always going to be here,” Pavlicek says. “We love Scottsdale. We’ll never change that.”