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August 6, 2003
PAVCO keeps 'em flying at the Narrows Airport
Airport stalwart expands 
to meet aviation demands

of the Gateway

In the parlance of the aviation industry, companies that provide aircraft-support services at the nation's airports are called FBO's, or fixed-base operators.
It's an industry acronym that Michael Pickett - president of the family-run PAVCO Flight Center at the Tacoma Narrows Airport - throws out frequently when asked about his business.
"A lot of FBO's have come and gone in the time we've been here," Pickett said last week of the venture the former U.S. Air Force pilot and his wife, Stephenie, embarked upon nearly 22 years ago.
"It's a fantastic airport and it's not going anywhere," he said. "I'm not going anywhere either."
Providing 'round-the-clock' services seven days a week, PAVCO is a demanding enterprise. It's also the antithesis of the early retirement the energetic and outspoken Pickett - now in his sixties - attempted for a time before opening the couple's current business in 1982.
After selling a local marina they had operated together for eight years on Harborview Drive following Pickett's military career, the former pilot and his wife intended - at least briefly - to retire.
"After six months I couldn't stand the inactivity of the mind," he said of his long-abandoned effort to adjust to a slower-paced lifestyle. "I enjoyed the fishing and a lot of other activities, but nothing filled that void."
Acquiring little more than a dilapidated hanger that then stored what Pickett called "Boeing antiques," the couple was faced with the prospect of building their second business from scratch, intending initially to offer only aircraft fueling and flight maintenance services at the airport.
Over the past two decades, however, PAVCO has grown into what Pickett now calls "a full-service FBO," engaged in small aircraft sales and a variety of aircraft support services, as well as offering charter flight services and a surprising range of flight training programs. 
PAVCO also is "heavily affiliated with Cessna," Pickett said, operating a service center for the airplane manufacturer and selling new aircraft as a regional distributor.
In a separate partnership, his company even recently began operating a fledgling aircraft avionics components development subsidary.

"We supply jet fuel and aviation gas and we perform aircraft and avionics repairs," he said. "We have an average of 60 to 80 students in flight training at any given time."
"We have four hangers here now, about 24 employees, and about 26 airplanes," he said of PAVCO's operations. "Last year, we had revenues of about $1.8 million from our FBO and about $3 million in aircraft sales."

"I can't think of a better 
place to go to work 
every day. Our work 
with students 
is very rewarding..."

Michael Pickett, 
PAVCO Flight Center president

The revenue figures reflect a downturn for the company, Pickett said, explaining that 2002 was a challenging year for his FBO, just as it was for other businesses in the aviation industry.
"Last year was tough," he said. "They had closed the airport for several days after Sept. 11, and it took us into the late spring and early summer of 2002 to regain the clientele we had lost."
But as the industry emerges from the downturn prompted by the threat of terrorism, Pickett said PAVCO is witness to what he believes may be a permanent change in the way people travel.
"Since Sept. 11 charter demand has been growing by leaps and bounds," he said. "The airlines are  
pulling back on the number of destinations they fly to and they're being replaced by charter business."
"We go to towns the airlines don't," Pickett said. "We fly into the San Juan Islands and a lot of small communities carrying engineers, architects, project managers and sometimes politicians."
For PAVCO - already providing charter services routinely throughout the Puget Sound region and as far north as Alaska - the trend is one to be capitalized upon. The company plans to do so in the near future through an expansion and upgrade of its existing charter fleet, he said.
But for Pickett - who flew a range of fighter and other military aircraft during his Air Force career and service in Viet Nam - the most personally satisfying aspect of PAVCO's operations comes through sharing his interest in aviation with both experienced and budding aviators.
"I can't think of a better place to go to work every day," he said. "Our work with students is very rewarding, whether it's a 16-year-old high school kid who wants to learn to fly or a 54-year-old who comes to us for a chance to do something he's always wanted to do."
"We've trained a lot of local kids and a lot of Tacoma kids," he said. "If they make it through the training, you see them progress significantly. Their personality changes and they begin to show a level of responsibility that's not typical of 17-year-olds these days."
Robert Strenge
Peninsula Gateway

Pavco President Mike Pickett (left) poses on an amphibious Cessna at Tacoma Narrows Airport with his wife Stephenie and son Matthew. The Cessna is one of the family-run company's fleet of planes that provide charter services throughout the region.
PAVCO keeps 'em flying at the Narrows Airport     |     Narrows Airport looks to expand its audience
August 6, 2003                                                                                 September 28, 2011