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Sometimes- when moving around the business aviation community- it’s difficult to remember which particular Stevens Aviation folks discuss.

For some- the name reflects the gentile manners and southern hospitality of the original flight operations under the leadership of Ralph H. Cuthbertson- Sr.- Stevens’ first pilot and president.

Dave Higdon   |   1st June 2002
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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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A history of measured and mindful expansion stands Stevens in good stead into the future.

Sometimes- when moving around the business aviation community- it’s difficult to remember which particular Stevens Aviation folks discuss.

For some- the name reflects the gentile manners and southern hospitality of the original flight operations under the leadership of Ralph H. Cuthbertson- Sr.- Stevens’ first pilot and president. For others- it harkens back to the company’s original FBO- opened at Greenville-Spartanburg airport in 1962- 12 years after Cuthbertson gave Stevens its wings as an operating company.

To others- Stevens means innovation and advances wrought from the various development programs in which the company has involved itself. Some others know Stevens as the company that sold and serviced the Beechcraft they still fly today or as the service center that tends to their Learjet.

Still others think primarily of the various services delivered by Stevens through its 52 years in general aviation- services ranging from maintenance- to charter- flight instruction- to plain-and-simple good advice – the sort of insights one might hear from a neighbor across the backyard fence.

If ever there was a company category that was as many different things to as many different types of customers successfully- Stevens is among them.

Under the management team working with Christopher R. Crum- President and Chief Operating Officer- Stevens Aviation continues to advance toward growth and success as strongly in its second 50 years as the company did during its first five decades.

That the quality of service of this southern legacy is available in six locations is both a tribute to the company’s success in transferring home-grown habits to new locations and a reminder that service always sells- regardless of the geographic locale.At the same time- Stevens’ diversity serves to point out that change brings good things to those brave enough to embrace transitions.

Pick a Stevens – Any Stevens

To some- the name goes with the company’s reputation for great FBO service – particularly at its home in Greenville- South Carolina. For others- the Stevens name is synonymous with great technical services – avionics installation and service- paint- interior- engine overhaul- STC work or simple repair.

Finally- some view Stevens primarily as a world-class aircraft marketer- whether buying a new Beechcraft or a pre-owned aircraft for business or personal use. From the high-end jet to the most-frugal piston and anything in between- Stevens is capable of finding the right candidate.

While Stevens doesn’t go so far as to boast of 'being all things to all pilots' it can boast of the validity of its solid marks in all three areas. And it’s a mark of Stevens’ commitment to these areas that the company organizes and manages each segment as distinct. Technical Services- Location-Based Services and Aircraft Sales each operates its own business through the company’s six locations.

A tale of two airports – and one company in one city

For years- Stevens Aviation called the Greenville-Spartanburg airport (GSP)- its home and headquarters- with no need to look elsewhere for accommodation. It was here that the company’s first FBO established Stevens solidly among the leaders in service to business aviation- its aircraft and operators.

Only six years after opening its first FBO- Stevens Aviation landed a distributorship with Beech Aircraft Corp.- and entered into a long-lived relationship with Beechcraft owners- which is approaching 35 years in duration.

Over the years- the depth of operations at Stevens’ GSP headquarters grew to include factory-authorized service designations for the Learjet in addition to the Beech line. Along the way- Stevens became known for its strength in servicing the Beech King Air line of propjet business aircraft- with a particular nod toward the owner-flown clientele.

Beyond the two product lines- Stevens also earned a reputation for the depth of its service- with engine and avionics specialists steeped in the company’s orientation toward service with a touch of southern hospitality.

Stevens’ growth led it to outgrow its available space at GSP. Even with its roots deep and its reputation established- the airport had limitations that started to show most when the company undertook the expansion of some of its biggest business lines – heavy maintenance- refurbishment- paint and interior work.

At that point- the best answer was a move – off-site- that is. But Stevens Aviation had always called Greenville home; moving away from its hometown wasn’t exactly the hottest option.

Fortunately for Stevens and Greenville- the solution lay only a few miles away - as the crow flies- that is. That move did take Stevens’ headquarters operation away from GSP – all the way to nearby Donaldson Center Industrial Airpark (GYH)- an airport less than 15 miles southeast of Greenville-Spartanburg International. By merely expanding across town- Stevens gained new capability that complimented the entire service orientation of the company.

In addition to relocating the headquarters of Stevens to Donaldson Center- the company established expanded paint and service capabilities wholly coordinated and in-synch with similar operations back at GSP.

The leadership of Stevens Aviation already understood that one key to growth and security involves drawing business from the whole of the general aviation community. If an airplane needs service- you can probably tap Stevens to handle those needs at one of these two locations.

Sited nine miles northeast of Greenville- GSP serves as a destination for six major passenger carriers and a number of cargo operators. The airport’s 9-000-foot runway is giving way to an 11-000-foot strip. GYH sits about six miles south of city-center with its own 8-000-foot runway providing airspace access to Stevens company and its neighboring aviation enterprises – among them Lockheed Martin Aircraft. Together- the combined Greenville facilities employ about 270- from the boardroom to the maintenance and technical shops.

Growth at the GSP location prompted Stevens to move its headquarters as well as to develop a major MRO facility at its new home on Donaldson Center.

Military maintenance- airframe maintenance- avionics repair shop- avionics installation- parts department- sheet metal shop- engine shop- electrical shop- quality control- paint (exterior refurbishment) department- associated administrative support offices and most corporate offices have relocated to the 175-000 square foot facility at GYH.

As a comparison to facilities at GSP- the new Donaldson Center facility provides an added 20-000 square feet of maintenance-hangar space- an additional 37-000 square feet of paint-hangar capability and another 5-000 square feet of additional support-shop space.

Today- the Donaldson Center paint shop can handle 130 full-paint aircraft annually working only one shift. By comparison- the full capacity of 40 full-paint jobs per year available at the GSP paint shop requires three full shifts.

The addition of GYH to the mix gave Stevens the breathing room it needed to continue its growth at home and top-end capabilities marketable to the entire business aviation community - and that ultimately meant growing beyond South Carolina.

Beyond the home turf

So- Stevens went west. Even as space became tight at GSP- Stevens executed an expansion beyond Greenville that served only to strengthen the company’s competitive position back home.

Facilities added at Nashville- Tennessee- (BNA) and Lexington- Kentucky- (LEX) on the south side of the Mason-Dixon Line and beyond the line at Dayton- Ohio- (DAY) and Denver- Colorado JeffCo (BJC) provide the company with taps into new regions where the same high level of customer-oriented service serves to bolster prospects for the entire enterprise.

If one location can’t handle a major need- another one of the four remote sites can; and if they can’t- Greenville can- as we noted earlier. But the chances are that the closest Stevens location is the farthest you need to go for the work you need.

For example- Stevens’ Dayton shop includes the expertise to handle both engine and avionic repairs or improvements for its customers. Thanks to an abundance of shop and administrative space- Stevens’ Dayton facility established a Dallas Airmotive engine hot section shop on site.

Additionally- the Dayton Stevens operation includes a wholesale parts department- an interior refurbishment showroom and a two-bay paint shop. And the main maintenance hangar spans enough space to accommodate 12 to 15 aircraft at a time- plus the interior refurbishment department and serve as the hub for Stevens’ 24-hour line services.

The Dayton facility continues the tradition of quality service for the Beech fleet. Dayton also attracts Cessna Citations- Learjets and various other jets originally developed by the previous operation- Ohio Aviation. Most of the commercial carriers also use Stevens for fuel and technical support of their flight operations and the company plans further pursuit of business from the commercial side of DAY.

At JeffCo- the business aviation airport closest to downtown Denver- Stevens employs about 60 people to provide 24-hour line service and aircraft maintenance. Stevens Denver specializes in providing top notch full service aircraft maintenance and is the primary general aviation maintenance provider for Raytheon Beechcraft- Piper Cheyenne- and Pratt & Whitney in the Rocky Mountain region.

Stevens’ BJC avionics and airframe/engine shops have earned national recognition for their expertise and both shops consistently meet tight deadlines for flight crews operating under very demanding schedules. Stevens’ BJC also offers aircraft operators on-site component overhaul facilities to handle a variety of needs.

In Lexington- Stevens boasts of some of its best workers with some of the best depth of experience in the company. Stevens’ LEX operation performs complete service on Beech King Air- and Cessna Citation-series business-turbine aircraft as an authorized repair station for both. As such- Stevens Lexington offers everything from routine to heavy maintenance- from full inspections to engine overhaul capabilities- structural repair capabilities and even airframe modifications.

Additionally- Stevens’ LEX facility provides service on Beech piston airplanes as an authorized Raytheon Service Center for piston airplanes.

And at Stevens’ operation at Nashville you’ll find some of the company’s best avionics capabilities. The avionics shop at BNA includes some of the company’s most-experienced technicians and among the best-equipped shops in the industry.

Stevens troubleshoots- repairs- and re-certifies most avionics- including navs- DMEs- transponders- autopilots and FMS- even radar and- increasingly- GPS and the new realm of multifunction displays and EFIS.

As BNA’s only general aviation technical-service provider- Stevens Aviation services most makes and models of turboprops and small- to medium-cabin business jets. As you might expect with Stevens’ long affiliation with the Beechcraft line- the emphasis in Nashville is on King Airs and Beechjets- as well as Citations- and Learjets.

Stevens’ BNA facility also includes authorization and capabilities to perform virtually all engine-upkeep services- including hot section inspection and major repair.

Onward and upward: Stevens advances likely to continue

Only the foolhardy would presume that the Stevens Aviation of today is the status quo for tomorrow. If Ralph Cuthbertson’s company has advanced at all during the first five decades it’s a certainty that the second 50 years will bring more steady and measured advances.

No one – individual or business entity – survives for long maintaining the status quo. And the staff of Stevens Aviation seems to understand that dynamic. However- rather than expansion for expansion’s sake- expect more of the measured- mindful growth that marked Stevens’ previous expansions.

Whether tapping a new line of business – as the company has accomplished on other occasions with STC for engine conversions and the like – or tapping a new part of the United States- Stevens’ experienced staff understand the need to deliver on its reputation for quality service and above-board management.

It’s that understanding – more than technological skills or savvy locations – which has built Stevens into the success it is today. And it will be continuing to apply those same high standards that will stand the company in good stead well into the future.

• www.stevensaviation.com

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