A small business venture growing roots at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport experienced a great first year. A big part of that was having the right business plan in place ahead of time.
SRT Aviation has been a valued client of the Rend Lake College Small Business Development Center since November 2005 when the SBDC helped plan the start-up of the corporation’s Fixed Base Operation at Mt. Vernon Outland Airport.
”With their experience in aircraft and my experience in business, we were able to put our heads together and come up with a legitimate plan that was highly feasible,” said SBDC Director Curt Mowrer. “It appears that it was right because they have been highly successful and I look forward to working with them. It is exciting to be involved in such an aggressive industry.”
Since SRT arrived, the FBO has seen an increase in general aviation traffic, freight and cargo planes, military aircraft and charter planes. There was a 30 percent increase in fuel sales at the airport – topping-off at 10,000 gallons sold – in the first month of SRT Aviation operations.
Chris Collins, Manager of the 2007 Airport of the Year, has been quoted as saying, “SRT is one of the things that put Mt. Vernon airport on the map.”
The expanding SRT Aviation observed its first anniversary in June by announcing the establishment of a new flight school. It is one of many accomplishments SRT Aviation and its President, Rich Carney, have experienced. In their first year, the company completed between 125 and 160 jobs, the largest of them being a $125,000 project.
Additional achievements by SRT Aviation in the past include the rebuilding of many antique planes – notably the historic Charles Lindbergh Spirit of St. Louis, which hangs at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis. The company was recently featured, along with National Railway in Mt. Vernon, on the cover of the worldwide publication “Professional Pilot Magazine.”
“They have increased airport traffic phenomenally,” Mowrer said. “I don’t think the service out there has ever been better and their network of pilots and people in the industry is a true asset. Individuals in the aviation business know who they are and they know they are here, so they seek them out.”
The crew – Parker Johnson, Carney and Shawn Sayle – has more than 100 years of combined experience in aviation. Whether a client needs a small single-engine airplane refueled or a major overhaul of a twin jet, SRT gets the job done with overnight hanger space, GPU’s and tug service, a forklift for cargo haulers and more. They have recently added computerized prop balancing and became a service center for both jet and reciprocating engine overhauls, allowing for SRT to offer technical support, parts, supplies and engine changes, as well as act as a representative for plane owners who are in the market for parts and equipment.
SRT also takes care of the pilot. They provide automated flight planning with WSI weather, wireless internet, snooze and weight rooms, food and beverage. They will also shuttle pilots who require overnight stay in local hotels, as well as assist with vehicle rental.
“We’re constantly looking for new things,” Carney said. “You can’t stay stagnant for too long. We feel comfortable right now, especially working with the Small Business Development Center at Rend Lake College. Curt and I talk probably every to or three weeks if not more often. He is probably getting tired of hearing from me. We call him if we need help with anything and he calls us. It really makes you feel good when you have ideas that you can bounce off of someone with so much experience.”
“We are proud of the achievements of this client and look forward to our continued relationship,” SBDC Director Curt Mowrer said of SRT Aviation.
“We are going to ... get a full 18-month platform to look back on,” Carney said. “By Dec. 31, we will have 18 months of good solid numbers. We will be closer to doing some joint ventures here at the airport, possibly expanding our flight school to include an additional airplane, maybe recruiting foreign students and looking for housing in Mt. Vernon for them. We are going to sit down with Curt and see which direction we want to go.”
The sky’s the limit.
The SBDC of RLC provides assistance to all sectors of the local business community. Its goal is to assist small businesses in start-ups, expansions and problems while providing customized training programs, consultations and economic development assistance to larger industry. The Center utilizes whatever college resources may be available in order to maximize this cooperative effort between industry and education. For additional information, call 618-242-5813, Ext. 2001; or 618-437-5321, Ext. 2001.