Aviation Access Project opens at GMU

Aviation Access Project (A.A.P.) has announced the formation of a Flight Center at Greenville Downtown Airport (KGMU) in Greenville, South Carolina.

Headed by local businessman Mitchell West, the Flight Center represents a new initiative to promote the growth and development of the pilot community in the Upstate of South Carolina by offering low-cost aircraft ownership with a flight training option.

Flight operations will formally begin on Saturday, May 24, in conjunction with the airport’s Take Flight 5k, a fundraiser for the aviation-themed community park that is being completed on the airport grounds.

Shown are Leonard (Len) Assante, Mitchell West and Gerald (Gere) Gaige,  GMU's AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer on Monday when Aviation Access brought its first plane to GMU.

AAP’s Len Assante, Mitchell West and Gere Gaige, GMU’s AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer when Aviation Access brought its first plane to GMU.

“Since this recession hit, fewer people are entering the field of aviation and, in fact, many established pilots have had to sell their planes and get out of flying altogether,” stated Joe Frasher, Airport Director of the Greenville Downtown Airport. “Aviation Access Project’s concept of shared aircraft ownership, and optional training, may encourage many to enter, or get back up into, the sky.”

A.A.P’s CEO Rick Matthews calls the Greenville, S.C., location an “essential” component in the company’s plan to increase access to recreational and personal business aviation.

“Our shared ownership and management model allows more current pilots and those who have a passion for aviation the opportunity to own a well-equipped, highly capable aircraft for thousands less than the price of a new car,” he said. “With a monthly maintenance fee of less than half of the average new car payment, we offer an unparalleled opportunity to enter or re-enter the world of aviation for a fraction of the cost and none of the hassle they might expect.”

Matthews cites a survey done by the Experimental Aircraft Association some years ago that noted many people are interested in aviation, but are deterred by high costs and complexity. A.A.P. aims to address those concerns.

One cornerstone of the A.A.P. program is the sharing of both one-time and recurring costs among a group of pilot-owners. In a typical arrangement, A.A..P sells 1/8 shares in an aircraft and charges a monthly fee that covers all recurring costs such as insurance, maintenance and storage. Each owner is allocated approximately 75 hours per year of flying time in the aircraft. There are no hourly fees, and the owner just buys his or her own fuel.

Another aspect of the program is flight training, which is included in the cost of the share purchase.

“New student pilots fail to complete traditional training programs close to 80% of the time,” Matthews said. “One reason is because they have no real incentive to do so unless they can own an aircraft at the end of the process. Another is because of a revolving door of flight instructors, many of which are building time to qualify for airline jobs. We fix those issues.”

West sums it up when he states, “The A.A.P. model focuses on excellent training, community-building and distribution of costs. For a large segment of the market, aircraft partnerships like this make sense. I also know the A.A.P. guys love the Upstate of South Carolina market due to the population demographics and the quality operation here at Greenville Downtown Airport. To us, it is a natural way to grow the pilot population and increase access to flying.”


Mitchell West and his daughter Madison.

West grew up in Union, S.C., and earned a B.S. in Construction Science and Management with a minor in Business Administration from Clemson University.

When not working on A.A.P., he is a Project Manager for a general contractor, where his career has been focused on construction of data center and healthcare projects. He is married and has a 3 year old daughter. Find out more about him here.

Aviation Access Project was formed as a result of the 2010 study on pilot training commissioned by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. Headed by veteran fractional sales and service executive Rick Matthews, A.A.P. is made up of a group of aviation and educational professionals who desire to double the number of active pilots and cut by half the dropout rate for new pilots by building a community of aviators built around an economical shared ownership model. Other locations are under development nationwide. Go to AviationAccessProject.com for more information.

The Greenville Downtown Airport (GMU) is the busiest general aviation airport in South Carolina and is a self-sufficient entity with financial strength that doesn’t rely on local taxpayers for funding. GMU is home to Greenville Jet Center, the largest FBO in the state, as well as more than 25 other aviation-related businesses creating 453 jobs that annually contribute more than $35.2 million to the Upstate economy. For more information: GreenvilleDowntownAirport.com


  1. says

    Thank you for sharing the information about our new Flight Center! We look forward a successful operation with the great folks at KGMU, as we provide a simple and affordable option for aircraft ownership to everyone in the Upstate of SC!

  2. says

    Congrats Mitchell! The more people who have access to affordable flying, the better it is for our industry. One location, one airplane, one pilot at a time. I have said it many times before, collaboration, outside-the-box thinking, effective marketing to the right audience, and following best practices light he way to a rebirth of private aviation. Oh, and folks, if you have not been there, make a point to fly in to KGMU. First class operation. They literally roll out the read carpet for you. That place has it going on!

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