Although it was a low-key beginning in 2007 for Burgess Aircraft Management LLC, with a lone aircraft and two part-time employees, it didn’t take long for the business to really take off.
By early 2008, a second aircraft, its first hangar and four full-time employees were added on its way to nearly $1.9 million in revenue for the year. Today, 23 employees, 10 aircraft and three hangars at Springfield-Branson National Airport are in the company’s portfolio.
The company provides an on-demand fleet of planes that the staff flies, services and manages for charter service, according to Mark Burgess, managing partner and chief operations officer.
Managed joint ownership is also offered through the company, he says, in which individual owners are able to lease planes to Burgess Aircraft for charter trips. The company helps prospective owners find planes and facilitates the financing and purchase, while maintaining operational control of the jets.
Burgess says growth has been steady since founding over a decade ago, and revenue was up 25% to $11.5 million in 2018.
“We’ve seen growth in Springfield, but the bigger part of our growth is from outside charter companies and brokerage firms,” Burgess says. “They’ve got airplanes and crews but can’t handle the lift. We cover the additional lift for them.”
Those airplanes are frequently on the move, he says, as Burgess’ fleet averages 800 to 1,000 trips a year.
“We’ve gotten busier,” he says. “About half generate out of Springfield and half are generated out of other places.”
Aside from flights to Canada, Bahamas, the Caribbean islands and Mexico, Burgess says all U.S. states, with the exception of Hawaii, are travel destinations for his company. This year’s goals include purchasing an airplane that will go to the Aloha State, with a second plane to travel to Europe. Citing privacy concerns, Burgess declined to disclose company clients.
Burgess says the aviation industry is feeling the impact of pilot shortages nationwide, but his company has been proactive to largely avoid the issue.
“We not only pay an end-of-year bonus, but also added a midyear review and bonus compensation,” he says.
A single-engine aircraft is even being offered to employees as an added company benefit for them to use for free, allowing for more time-efficient personal trips. He says such an employee perk is a creative way to be competitive with a benefits package.
Among charitable endeavors, Burgess says the company is a regular supporter of Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks, Dynamic Strides Equine Therapy, Victory Mission and Rare Breed via trip donations and cash contributions. For the past six years, service of aircraft and crews have been donated around four times a year for Veterans Airlift Command, to transport disabled veterans for medically related trips, military reunions and family functions.
“We feel like it’s a good way to reach out to veterans who can’t get around easily,” Burgess says.
Despite the company’s humble start more than a decade ago, he says 2019 isn’t showing any notable signs of slowdown. Three more aircraft are in the acquisition process. And with two staff members added earlier this year, he says another employee will be hired once the aircraft roster is expanded.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May the all-items inflation index surged 8.6% over the past year, the highest increase since 1981.