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Business Aviation Helps Fuel This Small Company's Success
As aviation fuel prices soared during the past year, avgas and Jet A became a top issue for discussion among business aviation pilots and flight departments.
But NBAA Member Sklar Exploration Company, LLC has always been focused on fuel, relying on business aviation to search for and develop new sources of oil and natural gas.
The company, based in Shreveport, LA, uses its airplane in part to support flights for locating deposits of those commodities, which larger companies then refine into automotive and aviation fuels, propane and other petroleum products people use every day.
“In the exploration business, the old adage ‘time is money’ really is a rule we live by,” says William T. Gates, Sklar vice president and aviation department manager. “For us, to quickly respond to any type of need we must be able to put our employees – whether they be management, engineers or field operations people – on the ground quickly.”
Sklar’s Cessna Citation 560XL flies an average of 25 hours a month on business trips to company wells throughout the southeastern United States, or occasionally as far as Colorado and Illinois.
“Sometimes we’ll go out to the wells in Alabama, Mississippi and other states,” says Alicia Edmondson, Sklar’s chief pilot. “But, we also fly for all sorts of other work-related missions. Basically, if the destination is more than a three-hour drive from Shreveport and the plane is available, we take the plane.”
A Quarter Century of Flying
The family-owned company of more than 30 employees has been in Shreveport for nearly 80 years. For the last 25 years, Sklar has used an airplane to support its business.
Although Shreveport Regional Airport (SHV) has a modest number of commercial airline flights to several major cities in the South and Southwest, there are virtually no direct flights to Sklar’s destinations, which is why the company has relied on business aircraft to reach new customers and grow the small company.
“Our field operations are going 24 hours a day, and when a need or problem arises, the timing is not always conducive to traveling on commercial airlines,” explains Gates. “Having an airplane allows us to get our people into smaller airfields closer to where our operations are.
“It is a mode of transportation that allows us to do business more costeffectively,” Gates adds. “It really is a business decision.”
At first, Sklar flew smaller, pistonpowered airplanes; later, the business moved on to a Merlin turboprop and, most recently, the company has operated a series of light jets, including a Beechjet and a Citation IISP, CJ1 and CJ2.
Besides Gates, Sklar Exploration has two other pilots – Edmondson and Warren Abbot, Jr. Like most smaller flight departments, they must handle a myriad of duties, from scheduling use of the aircraft to arranging for maintenance to be performed at the Cessna Service Center and ordering flight department supplies.
NBAA’s Helping Hand
An NBAA Member since 2000, Sklar enjoys the variety of benefits the Association offers to help the company and its employees stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends, operational best practices and regulatory news and developments.
Gates says that NBAA’s presence on Capitol Hill is a great benefit to Sklar and similar companies that rely on planes as business tools, adding, “I’ve not found a better advocate in terms of presenting an accurate depiction of the benefits and advantages that a business airplane provides to a company.”
The Association also helps the company’s small aviation department stay as efficient and productive as possible. “When you’re starting up a new department, the resources that NBAA supplies are really a goldmine,” he notes.
In addition, Gates says he has gained a wealth of knowledge from participating in the tax education sessions and programs available on the Association’s web site through On Demand Education (www.nbaa.org/ondemand) and Business Aviation Regional Forums and seminars (www.nbaa.org/events) that take place across the country throughout the year.
Hard Work and Professionalism Help Company Ascend
Sklar prides itself on the training and professionalism apparent in its dedicated aviators, such as Gates and Edmondson, an alumnus of Southern Illinois University. After graduating in 1998 with an aviation and flight management degree, she honed her skills as a pilot for charter and fractional companies and as a flight instructor in the Chicago area.
Edmondson could have taken a different career path, but she says the opportunities that business aviation affords pilots are second to none. “I’ve had so much success in business aviation because it’s about how strong a worker you are, how hard you work,” she says. “In my jobs, I’ve really had to work for the things I’ve earned, and that makes me proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
She says young pilots should seriously consider the benefits of a career in business aviation. “You need to work hard, study hard, and do a lot of things in order to get ahead in this industry,” she explains. “My interaction with the customers is very satisfying,”
Clearly, Sklar’s people and aircraft will continue helping the small firm work harder and smarter, fueling the company’s continued success.