You can’t accuse Craig Sincock, president and CEO of Avfuel, of being a pessimist. Asked about the current state of business for Avfuel, he said, “Eighty percent of our business is still happening.”
That’s a fairly accurate gauge of current business aviation activity, at least in North America. Avfuel (Booth No. 227) supports 700 branded fuel dealers and 2,500 other aviation customers across the U.S. The Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company has about a 20-percent market share, both in terms of number of FBOs served and number of gallons pumped. So fuel sold by Avfuel provides a reasonable measure about the level of business aviation flight activity.
“That 80 percent is the new baseline,” Sincock continued. “I think we’ve reset the bottom and we’ll build up from here. There won’t be a fast recovery, but our economy will recover. Business aviation will turn with it. Aviation counts in our culture. It brings cultures together, business together, governments together, people together. You can make contact with e-mail and telephone and on the Web, but to close the deal, you really need to meet face-to-face.”
What about that 20 percent that is not happening?
“It’s across the board, affecting everyone, though not equally,” said Russ Standefer, Avfuel vice president of contract fuel. “There are still companies flying, but not as much as they were before.”
What pilots and flight departments are doing differently in this downturn, Standefer said, is being smarter and more efficient about procurement of their fuel needs. “They are shopping price and also payment solutions, billing, location and back-office coordination.” He said it seems a bit odd that flight departments are looking at fuel pricing more now than they did six months ago when fuel prices were much higher. The reason, he said, is that overall economizing has become more important and some departments are now working with smaller staffs, so they need to be more efficient.