The Liberty Gazette
October 30, 2012Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Returning from a business meeting we stopped in San Marcos, where the city has invested enthusiastically in their airport with innovative ideas. Construction of a new air traffic control tower and hiring an aviation management company to manage the airport are just two major changes to San Marcos in the past couple of years. Another is the impressive Redbird Skyport, an FBO (“Fixed Base Operator”) offering flight training and much more.
We were greeted at the airplane with a golf cart, taken directly to the door that opened as wide as the smiles of Skyport team members. The welcome was genuine, and when we said we had not been to San Marcos since before their new facility was built last year, our greeter promptly offered a personal tour of the 12,000-square foot building. Much of that space is the main hangar, but there’s also a cafe, gift shop, conference room, pilot lounge, showers, flight planning room and several computers, in addition to many Redbird simulators.
Redbird began building lower cost full-motion simulators in 2006 when Jerry Gregiore determined he could make them affordable to primary flight training schools. As it turns out, he’s revolutionizing the industry.
A pilot and retired information technology executive, Jerry served as Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Pepsi and for Dell. It was he who implemented “G2” strategy that brought Dell great success. Dell had bought in to a software vendor’s vision that building the computer around inflexible software would let them build more, and quantity meant profits. But that didn’t fit the company that advertised custom-built computers. A lot of money had been spent when Michael Dell wooed Jerry from PepsiCo. to “make it work.” Instead, Jerry swung the ax because it didn’t make sense to “layer problems around a broken core.” Given corporate politics, that took a lot of guts.
He also recognizes the importance of customer service and the value of employees, the "back room folks who are keeping the operation running". He believes too many employers misunderstand the loss a company suffers when one of these back room people leaves, saying, "there is no balance sheet for human capital loss". That attitude translates into better service, which helps craft brand loyalty.
Indusry praise. Aero News Network called Redbird’s strategy “the leading edge of a revolution of innovation.” Aviation insurer, Avemco, suggested Redbird has the formula for transforming today’s broken methods of flight training. Probably the most well recognized and highly respected flight trainers in the history of aviation, John and Martha King, defined the Redbird Skyport as the line of demarcation of the before and after, and Mark Paolucci, Vice President of Sales for Cessna Aircraft, identified Redbird as the future of aviation. Tom Haines, Editor in Chief of AOPA Magazine, congratulated all of San Marcos because the city stopped talking and started doing the right thing. San Marcos mayor Daniel Guerrerro is proud of what of what’s happening in his town, “seeing history being made right here.”
Linda: Our trip had taken us to another town not far from San Marcos. In that town, their airport is dying a slow and painful death because horribly narcissistic politicians are running it into the ground by killing off the entrepreneurial businesses that once made it a success. Ironically, Redbird had originally planned to build their facility at that airport, but when they encountered the backwards “good-ol-boy” politics so prevalent in many small towns, they walked away, and took their innovation, their success, and their enthusiastic people with them.