More business people are taking to small aircraft as a way to save time, avoid hassles.
When Jeff Kaney wants to meet with his suppliers, he often does it in person, even if they’re halfway across the country. He just hops in his jet.
“There’s a lot of things you can do on the phone — video-conferencing is OK — but there’s nothing like being able to walk around and see an organization with your eyes,” the owner of Kaney Aerospace in Rockford said. “When you make a statement like that, they get the drift.”
He’s not the only one — many business people fly personal or company planes instead of driving or taking commercial airlines. Nationally, more people are doing that, especially as airport security has tightened in the past five years.
“I don’t have to go through the ‘take your shoes off and drop your pants’ or ‘we don’t allow any fingernail clippers,’ ” said John Carlson, president of Intermodal Services in Rockford. “I don’t think about it much; I just jump in and go.”
The national Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said more people received their licenses in recent years, and many of them do it for business reasons.
Spokeswoman Kathleen Vasconcelos said it’s more convenient — there are about 5,000 public-use airports in the country, and only 540 are served by airlines.
“You can fly a lot closer to where you really want to be,” she said. “There’s also flexibility because you’re on your own schedule.”
Here’s a look at several Rockford-area businessmen who are spreading their own wings:
Recently, Dr. Vincent Facchiano started his day by making phone calls from his home office in Belvidere.
By 11:30 a.m., he’s in his plane flying to Madison. Wis., for meetings at his eye-care office.
Then he flies to Minnesota to help people move into one of his apartment buildings. He ends his day by sipping coffee at a lakeside dock.
“It’s a lifestyle that’s only made possible if you can travel efficiently,” he said. “I actually look for reasons to commute. ... The stress reduction of getting there by aircraft is worth getting the license alone.”
Facchiano, who flies from Poplar Grove, earned his license 12 years ago and said it helped him expand his businesses.
Now he operates three eye-care offices in Illinois and Wisconsin, including one at CherryVale Mall. He also owns a real estate business with apartment buildings in four states.
Facchiano flies up to 400 nautical miles in his Beechcraft Bonanza A36. Sometimes he takes other business people along.
“The first thing they say is, ‘Oh, how relaxing it is.’ They hate to come down,” he said. “Getting aloft gives you a different perspective on your problems. They all look small — they should be.”
Jet fuel is in Kaney’s blood.
His dad flew a plane for business trips for his meatpacking plant in Kenosha.
At 14, Kaney was flying gliders. At 16, he flew planes.
He’s been a flight instructor, an Air Force pilot and an international airline pilot.
But now, at 40, he flies for himself. He’s flown his Cessna Citation from Rockford as far as Seattle and California, taking trips for his aerospace and real estate companies.
“The big thing is to be able to go where you want to go, into whichever airport you want to,” he said.
Once he had a problem with a supplier in Michigan, so he and some employees flew out for a face-to-face meeting. On the way, they stopped to visit another supplier.
“You can have a shared experience,” he said. “We can be there in a day, plus be home at night.”
A Forest City Gear customer in Milford needed parts urgently. So company owner Fred Young flew from Beloit in his single-engine Piper Saratoga and delivered them. The flight was an hour; it would have taken three by car.
“Small aircraft are extremely popular because, generally speaking, there is a small airport that is close to a customer you have to visit,” Young said. "I’ve flown into small, grass airports to deliver parts.”
Young, a Roscoe businessman, got his pilot’s license in 1978. He flies about 20 to 40 hours a year, but earlier in his career, he flew 100 to 150 hours a year. Half of the trips he takes are for business, especially the longer ones.
He’s flown as far as San Diego, stopping several times along the way to visit customers. He once flew to Newfoundland for vacation.
Forest City Gear also makes parts for small aircraft, and Young said there’s been a spike in sales in recent years as more business people are taking flight.
“That business is booming,” he said.
Last summer, John Carlson flew his personal plane from Rockford to Fort Worth, Texas. His office manager and her husband drove to O’Hare International Airport for a delayed flight on an airline. Their entire trip took 12 hours. His took five.
“Time is the big thing,” Carlson said. “And my office manager lost $100 to $150 in hairspray (at security).”
Carlson, president of Intermodal Services in Rockford, earned his pilot’s license in 1984. He flies his single-engine Mooney Ovation3 about two or three times a month to places as far as Texas.
He doesn’t miss going through O’Hare International Airport.
“I was getting tired of fighting the Chicago traffic — much faster to fly over it than drive it,” he said.
Ed Collier always talked about wanting to fly. So when he turned 50, his wife got him flying lessons.
He got his license two years ago and rents single-engine Cessna 172s from Poplar Grove Airport once or twice a month.
“It’s just more enjoyable,” he said. “The main thing I hate is having to take my shoes off. I didn’t mind security until the last couple years.”
So far, the president of Collier RV in Rockford mostly flies for fun, since the planes he can fly only go about 115 mph.
Last year he bought another business, in Kenosha. He flies there when he can instead of driving.
“Ultimately, when I get trained into the bigger, faster planes, there would be more trips that I would take,” he said.
He also plans to buy his own plane.
“Maybe a Mooney or Cirrus,” he said. “Something that will go 180-plus miles an hour.”
Contact Thomas V. Bona at email@example.com.