October 17, 2012

Two businessmen who won a local learn-to-fly contest in Greenville, SC in June say they were inspired by the national No Plane No Gain campaign sponsored jointly by NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

Chris Beckman, of Beckman Precision, won a complete private-pilot course from Airwolf Aviation at the Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU). John Kamin, of Kamin Design Solutions, won an introductory flight lesson. The contest, which required a 150-word essay on how the winners would use an FAA pilot certificate for business or to build a career, was sponsored by Airwolf Aviation Services, Greenville Downtown Airport, Greenville Jet Center and Greenville Business Magazine.

“Our business sells machine tools all over the Carolinas and Virginia,” said Beckman. “Having the ability to land at small-town airports will greatly reduce fatigue from getting up in the wee hours of the morning to drive from Greenville to anywhere else in our territory to make a 9 a.m. meeting.”

Beckman said that before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks he would sometimes take airlines to the more distant points of his territory, but no longer. “After the terrorist attacks, it became such a hassle, fighting the lines, TSA inspections, delays. It just became not worth it, so we just drove everywhere. Lots of windshield time.”

He added that airline trips often left him far from his customer’s locations.

The entrepreneur had seen NBAA and GAMA advertisements for the No Plane No Gain campaign before, and when the Greenville learn-to-fly contest came along, he took it as a sign from above. “As I said in my essay, a pilot’s license will greatly improve our business. Being able to fly on our own schedule and go directly to our customers and vendors will be fantastic!”

“The themes of the No Plane No Gain campaign ring true to businesspeople,” continued Beckman. “Face-to-face meetings with customers before the competition can arrive, the ability to reach smaller communities without all-day trips and having a schedule I can really call my own. That’s priceless.”

Second-place winner Kamin has owned Kamin Design Solutions since 2007. He attended the NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention in 2009 in Orlando, FL, but didn’t pursue flying immediately. This year, the learn-to-fly contest rekindled his desire to fly for business. “My major customer right now is in Florida. We have periodic meetings to go over designs, and being able to meet with your customers at their location of business is not just a nicety, it’s a necessity.”

In his winning essay, Kamin wrote, “Lots of times the meetings are on short notice, and having a pilot’s license will allow me to make more frequent visits to my customers at critical design stages and still stay price competitive.”

Beckman is actively flying Cessna 172s at Airwolf Aviation in pursuit of his FAA private-pilot certificate and said, “I’m lovin’ it!” Kamin expects to start flight training soon.