New company finds success selling planes, even in economic downturn

Some would say that launching a business that sells airplanes in this economy is a recipe for failure. But not so for Piedmont Aircraft Co., which opened its doors earlier this year.

In its first six months of operation, the Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company sold 24 aircraft, including a Beechjet, a Premier, two Beech 1900s, 11 King Airs, two Barons and six Bonanzas. The firm was launched in February of this year representing previously owned Beechcraft and Hawker aircraft. The numbers include aircraft sold through July 31.

“Even in this market—which is one of the toughest markets we have seen in years—there are buyers out there,” said Piedmont CEO Tom Mekis. “It’s a question of matching the right buyer with the right seller — at the right price.

“It’s about tactfully educating the seller as to what their airplanes are worth when we’re in this down-cycle,” continued Mekis. “Sellers have to adjust their expectations and once you get that expectation set correctly, there are buyers ready to capitalize on depressed values.”

The company was part of Landmark Aviation, acquired when the Carlyle Group purchased and combined the assets of Piedmont-Hawthorne Aviation, Garrett Aviation Services and Associated Air Center under the Landmark umbrella in 2004. When Encore Aviation acquired the Landmark Aviation FBOs and previously owned aircraft business from Dubai Aerospace Enterprise in 2008, Encore opted to focus on the FBOs, which presented Mekis — who had served as vice president of Landmark’s aircraft sales, charter, management and MRO divisions — with a business opportunity. Piedmont was formed in February 2009 with offices in Winston-Salem and Charlotte, N.C. and Leesburg, Va.

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