business matters
From left, Dan Craft, AirQuest Aviation general manager, and Matt Steele, director of maintenance, discuss operations at the Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport.

AirQuest meets needs of flying public

On any given day, AirQuest Aviation is visited by up to two dozen planes, many carrying business commuters.

The Fixed Base Operator (FBO) at Pittsburgh-Butler Regional Airport, AirQuest Aviation can refuel those planes and make repairs if necessary. On-site staff wash and wax the commuters' cars or arrange alternative ground transportation.

They might book the flyer a hotel room or have a passenger's favorite latte waiting on the ground. “We are like a VIP travel service,” said Dan Craft, AirQuest's general manager.

Calling it one of Butler County's “hidden jewels,” Craft said AirQuest's services are not only wide ranging, but also pre-eminent. “This is a service -driven industry with high service standards.”

Like all FBOs, providing fuel for airplanes is the number one function of AirQuest Aviation. At the Butler location alone, AirQuest's staff provides more than 400,000 gallons of fuel a year to aircraft that travel distances ranging from across the field to around the country.Matt Steele, AirQuest Aviation's director of maintenance, said staff is trained to service aircraft ranging from a single-piston engine to a mid-sized business jet. “We can do anything from an oil change to a major inspection,” said Steele, who noted AirQuest is a Cirrus service center and a certified Garmin avionics dealership.

While waiting for service, fuel or passengers, pilots are welcome to use the FBO's pilots' lounge and courtesy car. But you don't have to be a plane owner or pilot to utilize the company's offerings.

AirQuest also offers a flight school that welcomes college students with career aviation plans, but caters to the aspiring pilot with scheduling flexible enough to meet real world demands. AirQuest, which has a sister location in Beaver County, is affiliated with Beaver County Community College's aviation program.

For those who prefer not to be the pilot, AirQuest offers sightseeing trips that could include a fly over of Lake Arthur in the fall when the leaves are changing; laps over Pittsburgh's Point State Park or a birds-eye view of the passengers' own home.

rating pilot's license. “AirQuest Aviation is a good fit for me. It's fast paced with a lot of moving parts and an exciting dynamic.

“I get to come to the airport every day and be surrounded by airplanes and other people who are just as excited about aviation.”“Some people book dates,” said Allison Duchesne, office manager.

Travelers from around the country utilize AirQuest Aviation's own charter service daily because they have business, family or fun planned locally and love the convenience of skipping larger airport lines, Craft said.

“This time of year, for example, we are seeing a lot of people who have plans to golf at Oakmont,” Craft said.

The charter service at AirQuest has three jets that each hold up to eight passengers and a flight crew. Logging about 450 flight hours a year, those jets can travel anywhere in the continental United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

“We can be in Florida in two hours,” Craft said. “There are so many nice advantages … no TSA … you can walk from our lobby to a waiting jet. Catering is already on the plane. We load your bags and land at an airport close to your destination.

“Our travel coordinator acts as a travel agent. You say, 'I'd like to go to this destination and we make the arrangements, get the car and the hotel for you.”

Craft said one of the things he most enjoys about his job are the relationships he builds with clients. Prior to becoming general manager a year-and-a-half ago, Craft was an AirQuest customer.

Craft retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation as special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh office's aviation program.

“From the time I was a little kid, I've always loved flying,” said Craft, who has a multiengine commercial instrument