At EBACE last month, Boeing Business Jets announced that current president Steve Hill would be retiring in July after 30 years at Boeing and that Steve Taylor, current BBJ chief pilot, has been appointed the company’s new president. Until then, the two Steves are sharing the responsibilities of the job (although Hill also plans to use up his vacation time). In the midst of the show, Taylor sat down with AIN to tell us his story.
How did you get into aviation?
I grew up around little airplanes. My first airplane ride was in an Aero Commander at age a month-and-a-half, and I have kind of been in them ever since. I was a kid who read airplane magazines front to back, your basic airplane geek. My dad, Richard (Dick) Taylor, flew in the Army Air Corps during World War II and afterwards worked for Boeing for 50 years. He was director of engineering and is known for his work on the 737, the two-crew flight deck and Etops. He still flies his Aerostar at age 87.
When I was 14, my dad bought a 1958 Super Cub, which arrived in pieces on a trailer. We put that airplane together. I soloed it on my 16th birthday, got my private license on my 17th and fly my kids in it today.
How did you go from a private
license in a Super Cub to an ATP in Boeing airliners? After getting a degree in economics and business administration in 1986, I went to work for Boeing as a buyer. I didn’t see much of a future there, so went back to school and got a degree
in mechanical engineering. Boeing is very much engineering-driven. I figured out that if I were going to be successful there, I needed that background.
I worked in flight ops engineering for two years and then was promoted into management. That’s the department that makes airplane flight and performance manuals, calculates takeoff weights and cgs, that sort of stuff. I was a training instructor, teaching pilots airplane performance.
In 1997 Borge Boeskov, the first BBJ president, called me to interview for a job as a sales director. After about two minutes, he said, “I think you’re the right guy. What do you need to do this job?” At the time I was a multi-engine, commercial, instrument pilot and had about 800 hours total time, but I had never flown professionally. I said, “If I’m going to sell 737s, I’m going to need a 737 type rating in order to talk to the customers.” Borge said, “Absolutely! That’s a great idea.” One phone call later, I was in the Boeing training program, getting a 737 type rating.
What was your job at BBJ?
My territory was the eastern U.S. At the time Boeing allowed us to use private airplanes and would reimburse for the equivalent coach airfare. I spent two years flying my dad’s Aerostar as a BBJ sales guy, visiting customers. I quickly learned that BBJ customers–the flight department guys– treat you much better if you show up on the ramp in an airplane and wearing a ratty, sweat-stained shirt than if you show up at the front door wearing a business suit and carrying a briefcase. That helped me develop strong relationships with them. And with all the flying, I got my 1,500 hours. A friend helped me get a Falcon 10 type rating and my ATP at the same time.
And then you left Boeing.
Yes, the chief pilot of one of our customers, Michael Chowdry, offered me
a chance to fly for Atlas Air. Mr. Chowdry also needed a director of maintenance. I forgot to mention before that when I was 16 and during college, I worked for an old salt of a mechanic named Orville Wilbur Tosch, who ran Aircraft Industries at Boeing Field. He was a designated examiner and he eventually issued me my A&P. The business is now called Tosch Aircraft, is located at Tacoma Narrows airport and is run by his grandson, Paul.
So I was hired as first officer and director of maintenance. This was in 2000, when the BBJ had just gone into service. Within a month the chief pilot left, so I was the flight department. Mr. Chowdry, who was rated in the airplane, and I and about a half dozen contract guys would fly the airplane. I got to live BBJ, flying it all over the world, taking it back to Lufthansa for warranty work, and doing all of the maintenance. I was gone from home almost the whole time, but I got a lifetime of flying experience with Mr. Chowdry–about 600 hours in six months.*
Why did you leave Atlas Air?
My wife basically told me I had to make a decision. So I struck out on my own as a contract pilot from 2000 to 2002. I helped four customers manage their BBJ completions. While doing this, I got hired by a Canadian family that has an older 737-500, working for a really wonderful woman.
As it happened, Boeing was advertising positions in executive flight operations, which operated a Challenger 604 at the time and BBJs. They hired me as captain. I had been gone from the company for only two years, but I went from someone who had never flown professionally to an almost 3,000-hour seasoned veteran with airplane completion experience.
I didn’t want to leave that job. But when Boeing decided to consolidate its executive flight operations in Gary, Indiana, I decided I didn’t want to move there and was offered a job in production flight test. So I became a production test pilot
in 2004, doing acceptance testing in new airplanes. While doing this job I added
777 and 747-400 ratings.
Then before his retirement in 2007, Mike Hewitt, BBJ chief pilot from the beginning of the company, looked throughout the Boeing organization to find a pilot with the right credentials and hired me to replace him.
How do you see your job as president of BBJ developing?
Boeing Business Jets tries to be the face of Boeing to business jet customers. That they picked me as Steve Hill’s replacement, I believe, reflects the fact that Boeing recognizes that BBJ is different from the other sales organizations within the company. We have our own dedicated field service staffers, people who are dedicated to fleet support, spare-parts people, procurement people. We have engineers that manage the configuration of the airplane. My role as chief pilot was to manage the flight deck, make sure that it had the latest possible avionics.
What are your first tasks as president?
I need to find a new chief pilot, probably from production flight test. Probably my single biggest challenge is getting the field-service network and the people in place as we expand the BBJ business model to encompass the twin-aisle airplanes. We’ve developed VIP specifications for the 787, 777 and 747-8. So when someone buys
a 747-8 VIP from Boeing, we will be the single face of Boeing for that airplane.
How will you travel to visit customers?
Primarily via airlines. However, I’m retaining my currency in the BBJ and will still serve as a captain in our executive flight operations group, so when my travel schedule coincides with other executive travel requirements, I’ll serve as a crewmember. I also plan to fly various customer demonstration flights, as well
as fly BBJs to the shows we attend.
What is the best advice you ever learned as a pilot?
The best advice I ever learned was from my mechanic mentor Orville Wilbur Tosch. He said, “Don’t do nothin’ that you don’t know nothin’ about” (meaning always get help from experts); and, “If you don’t have time to do it right in the first place, then when will you ever find the time to go back and fix it?”
*A short time after Taylor left Atlas Air in 2000, Michael Chowdry died in the crash of
his personal Aero Vodochody L-39, along with
Jeff Cole, aerospace editor of The Wall Street Journal, on Jan. 24, 2001. –Ed.賞