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When O’Gara Aviation Company opened its doors in 1980- the world was- to put it mildly- a very different place – yet in so many ways- things were also very similar to today.

For example- airline deregulation was brand new and many communities faced the loss of commercial air service important to their business health- while consumers in more secure locales counted among their blessings the prospect of lower fares.

Dave Higdon   |   1st March 2005
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Dave Higdon Dave Higdon

Dave Higdon writes about aviation from his base in Wichita Kansas. During three decades in...
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25 Years Serving Business Aviation’s Needs.

When O’Gara Aviation Company opened its doors in 1980- the world was- to put it mildly- a very different place – yet in so many ways- things were also very similar to today.

For example- airline deregulation was brand new and many communities faced the loss of commercial air service important to their business health- while consumers in more secure locales counted among their blessings the prospect of lower fares.

Today- after years of airline consolidation- through the decline in the strength of the so-called legacy carriers- and the growth of low fare operators- many cities now enjoy scheduled air service they lacked 25 years ago. Still others face new prospects of losing out on an air link vital to their communities’ economies.

Throughout the last quarter century- however- business aviation has enjoyed relative health in the face of regular challenges to airport access- from regulatory proposals and shareholder concerns.

Overall- the world of corporate flying grew and prospered- giving aircraft-operating businesses options that their non-operating competitors lacked. Unshackled from the constraints of airline schedules- these companies became largely immune to the vagaries and insecurities of the common carriers.

Throughout that same quarter century- Atlanta-based O’Gara Aviation Company built a strong- successful business out of helping those companies meet their transportation needs- through a dedication to only quality product and unwavering ethics. It is- according to the company- a success story built on the added value of confidence.

Veteran Aviators Do It Smarter

Ask any knowledgeable pilot about the toughest flying in aviation and chances are the answer will be one symbolized by a set of wings surrounding an anchor – the symbol of the Navy aviator. Flying a combat jet back to the pitching deck of an aircraft carrier- cruising in the black hole of night IMC- takes more than just focus and skill. It takes confidence- and plenty of it: Confidence in the crew who prepped the aircraft; confidence in the deck crew who prepared the trap wires and the Landing Signal Officer providing guidance; confidence in the aircraft… and confidence in yourself.

A parallel can be easily drawn to the act of entrusting a company to help find the perfect fit in a corporate aircraft. It is confidence that underpins the company founded in 1980 by two former Navy wingmen- John B. Foster III and Edward F. O’Gara: O’Gara Aviation Company.

In 1973- John Foster retired from the Navy- but he didn’t leave aviation. Instead- he joined business aviation mainstay Atlantic Aviation- leaving in 1975 for Hangar One- as manager for Rockwell aircraft sales. He later became a leading Beechcraft sales representative. In 1980 John was ready for something different. That’s when he partnered with squadron mate- wingman and close friend- Ed O'Gara- to start O'Gara Aviation Company.

Clients- who opt for help to find or sell a pre-owned corporate aircraft entrust that helper with decisions that will affect their finances- flight department and travel abilities for years to come. Arguably- that trust can impact the client’s very success as a business.

Over the course of 25 years- confidence in the abilities of O’Gara’s staff translated into transactions exceeding $2 billion for hundreds of satisfied clients – buyers and sellers- alike. The inventory of aircraft handled spans everything from King Airs to the Global Express- and everything in between that fits into a business mission profile.

Confidence remains at the forefront of the company’s success today- as it transitions to the management of a new generation of executives. Given their upbringing- these new executives have the right heritage to continue building on the first 25 years of O’Gara’s success.

O’Gara- The Next Generation

Serving as the new president of O’Gara is John B. Foster IV (Johnny)- son of the founding president John III who now serves as CEO. David D. Foster- John’s other son- serves as director of acquisitions.

Former sales associate- Matt Huff- has moved up to Chief Operating Officer- a change- according to Johnny Foster- designed to provide better oversight for O’Gara’s inventory- refurbishment projects- and general operations- while freeing the Fosters to focus on their passion for serving their clients.

Ed O’Gara- the founding secretary and treasurer- remains in that post and still serves as half the institutional strength of the original wingmen who started the company.

'The day-to-day operations of O'Gara Aviation Company are coordinated by a staff of professionals- with tenures to make any company envious. With time at the company ranging from 8-23 years- Ms. Sandra Wyatt (Controller)- Ms. Chris Ison (Director Of Marketing And Contracts)- and Ms. Eileen Collins (Sales Support Coordinator)- have long since been associated with the name- reputation- and success of our company-' said Foster. 'Each is truly a part of our family.'

O’Gara Aviation is also consolidating its staff back in its Atlanta offices where the 10 oversee the company’s in-house inventory- its’ acquisition efforts- refurbishment projects and marketing work. With these changes in personnel- some might think that changes in the company’s business practices were also in the works. Actually- according to Johnny Foster- the only major change occurred long before he took the company reins from his father. His focus is to continue to refine the company's fundamental values and objectives.

Making The Method Of Success A Selling Point Several years back- O’Gara Aviation’s leadership recognized an important point about its business: Service is the main product- an aircraft transaction the result.

'We’ve moved away from being a transaction-based operation toward working as a service business that- at the end of the day- results in the delivery of an aircraft-' said Johnny Foster. Researching- finding- clearing and delivering an aircraft- hiring flight crew and arranging all the details of the transaction- combine to make this more than just an asset sale- he explained- but it is client confidence that drives O’Gara’s success.

'We adopted a new corporate motto-' continued Foster- '’The Value We Add Is Confidence’.'

'Our business is not built on one-off transactions-' Foster stressed. 'Our success relies on repeat business.' He continued to explain that the company’s philosophy is to establish solid personal relationships with its customers and actually work as part of their team. More than anything- O’Gara’s veteran staff focuses on building relationships with clients- making friends as well as business associates.

O’Gara’s business philosophy apparently works. 'Repeats and referrals amount to at least 70 percent of our business-' revealed Foster. The other 30 percent takes smarts- hustle and a sense of what it takes to make prospects comfortable enough to hand off to a third party the responsibility for an expensive- complex transaction.

Balancing Act

Seventy percent of O’Gara’s clients may be repeat customers – but the split between broker and inventory transactions is far different – approximately a 50-50 split between brokerage and inventory. Balancing its business between brokering and dealing airplanes in its own inventory helps O’Gara even out fluctuations in the market. So O’Gara employs its aviation savvy to stock an inventory of pre-owned aircraft- a reflection of the company’s confidence in its own knowledge and market sense – a critical component of its success.

This balance between brokerage transactions and inventory sales helped O’Gara move 110 airplanes since 2001 – an enviable volume for a small family business at a time when aircraft values were depressed- and reselling was off.

Today- the company focuses on acquiring resale candidates that need just a touch of attention to bring them to a value status. 'In the past couple of years- we’ve moved more toward delivering a turnkey aircraft – airplanes less than 15 years old- delivered ready for immediate service- with fresh inspections- cosmetic refurbishment- and modernized- up-to-date avionics-' said Johnny Foster.

Just as important as exceeding expectations for its buying clients is creating realistic expectations for clients selling a corporate aircraft. 'Market expectation is the most critical discussion we must have with our clients-' Johnny Foster detailed. 'We want them to understand up front the true value of their aircraft in today’s market- as well as market dynamics. This education is absolutely critical to everyone's success.'

That approach means O’Gara doesn’t land every prospect it pitches – but it does mean clients who sign on can have every confidence in their expectations. 'We put a lot more effort and expense into the marketing of our aircraft-' stressed Foster- 'and never represent that we can bring more than any other organization. We do assure our clients that we will execute the most professional and comprehensive marketing efforts available. I believe our success speaks for itself.'

Looking Forward

Last year brought a solid rebound in the market for pre-owned business jets- with 1-412 transactions- according to Wichita-based AvData. Given the forecasts for continuing growth in new-jet deliveries- the size of factory backlogs and demand rebounding- the market for pre-owned jets looks to be in a growth mode once again. Last year’s 13-percent expansion could be the harbinger of several years of sales growth.

That bodes well- Johnny Foster noted- for his company and its clients – particularly concerning jets built since about 1990- which is the focus of inventory and brokerage efforts.

'Newer aircraft- nearly all set up for international ops- are still commanding good prices-' he explained. 'With the diminished supply- I think prices will continue to firm – backlogs at the manufacturers will help that along.'

As is often the case- though- the scenario is not wholly rosy. For older jets – particularly non-Stage III- RVSM challenged- aging airframes- etc. – the picture is darker.

'The markets that have yet to recover are the older technology aircraft with dated equipment-' Johnny Foster detailed. 'With older Gulfstreams- Falcons- Hawkers- and the like- it is still going to be a while before their prices recover- and doubtful they will ever scratch pricing levels seen in the late 1990s.

Regardless of what’s hot or what’s not in aircraft themselves- the opportunities for business aircraft resellers remains one open to those able to fulfil clients needs and meet their expectations. You can be confident that O’Gara Aviation will continue to succeed by exercising the skill and savvy that makes its clients confident.

The success bred by confidence is one thing that won’t likely change for O’Gara’s next 25 years.

More information from www.ogarajets.com

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