BUSINESS GROWTH: Vaerus Aviation
Vaerus Aviation has seen continual growth since its inception in 2007, going from one pilot with one airplane in Topeka, to numerous pilots and nine airplanes, including one in Scottsdale, Arizona. Those airplanes are mostly owned in partnerships with two or three companies sharing ownership of an airplane.
Brooks Pettit, president of Vaerus Aviation, said the expense of owning aircraft is fixed in nature—equipment, maintenance and hangar fees. The value of joint ownership is that companies can share in that fixed overhead, leaving the cost of the fuel for each flight as the primary expense. The problem for many companies considering owning an airplane is finding the right partnership.
Vaerus provides a solution by facilitating those appropriate matches.
“Clients come to us and say, ‘We want to own an airplane. Can you help us find someone to own it with?’ You bet we can,” Pettit said.
The company provides two main services: assistance with acquisition and sales and comprehensive aircraft management. Aviation experts help prospective clients evaluate their aircraft needs and assist them in the acquisition process. They serve as brokers to help match a company’s needs with available aircraft and assist with the sale of aircraft once a company no longer needs it. Vaerus Aviation also handles flight scheduling, pilot operations, aircraft maintenance, reporting, insurance and anything else related to flight management.
Pettit said that many companies in Topeka hesitate to own airplanes because they do not know how to manage the operations side of scheduling, maintenance and reporting.
“A lot of our growth has been demonstrating to the business community that owning an airplane is not only viable, but also a great business decision,” Pettit said.
While the growth in Topeka has been phenomenal, Patrick Traul, director of operations, said they knew that if they really wanted to take business to the next level, the company would have to expand operations outside of Topeka. So when a referral last year from an existing client led to an opportunity to expand operations in Scottsdale, Arizona, Vaerus Aviation flew at the chance.
“Our business is 90 percent processes, “ Pettit said. “If you have the right processes and culture in place, you can train someone to handle the maintenance piece.”
The company leased a small hangar in Scottsdale large enough to house two business aircrafts. They hired two full-time pilots and one hangar technician to manage operations at the new facility. All of the administrative functions, including accounting, scheduling, flight logs, reporting, maintenance scheduling and marketing are handled through the headquarters in Topeka.
“Technology allows seamless management of an aircraft in any location,” Traul said.
The expansion into the Scottsdale market has created growth back in Topeka. In order to handle the increased reporting and operational functions, Vaerus Aviation has hired additional staff, bringing its total employees to 32.
While the expansion into other markets has been a success, Pettit said the company isn’t looking to grow too fast. Ultimately they would like to manage a fleet of 25 planes in a few key locations, but not at the expense of excellent customer service.
“Our business is a hundred percent client recommendation,” Pettit said. “We won’t sacrifice the quality of our service for anything.”
Part of that commitment to service is evidenced by the International Standard of Business Aircraft Operators certification (IS-BAO) the company received in 2014. Only 307 companies worldwide have achieved this accreditation that centers around safety management.