Pavco Flight Center celebrates more than 30 years as a family in flight

Business: Service at airport has been chartering flights, training future pilots since 1982

of the GatewayJanuary 22, 2014 

Benton Hendrix checks the engine oil quantity on a Cessna 152 at Pickett Aviation Company at the Tacoma Narrows Airport in Gig Harbor on Tuesday morning. Hendrix is a private pilot who is working to finish an instrument rating at the flight school.

LEE GILES III/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Pavco Flight Center, located at the Tacoma Narrows Airport, is a family run business that folds customers into its family. The company has trained pilots and serviced planes in Gig Harbor since 1982.

Owner Mike Pickett is retired from the Air Force; his wife, Stephanie, runs the books; and his oldest son, Matt, is the head of maintenance.

Then there are the regulars. Those who come in to log flight time and to share stories.

“I like coming to work here,” Mike Pickett said. “All my customers have become friends.”

Pavco is a fixed-base operator. It provides space for jets and charters, rents airplanes, services and fuels planes and trains pilots.

Pilot training is a source of pride for Pickett. One pupil went on to NASA after they spent time at Pavco in high school. Several other students have gone on to fly for commercial airlines such as Horizon.

“We put out pretty good pilots,” Pickett said.

Pavco also has a flight simulator that saves expensive fuel and enables one-on-one time on the ground. If a mistake happens, the simulation can be paused in order to discuss the mistake, Pickett said.

Pickett said he’s blessed with the family aspect. He has three children and seven grandchildren. Photos of his family line the window in his office, and it looks out on an airplane hanger.

Through Pavco, he sees his family often, sometimes daily. His wife organizes student accounts, tracks parts and keeps the books.

“God bless her,” Pickett said of Stephanie. “I wouldn’t be here if she wasn’t doing this.”

Business declined with the economy, he said. On top of that, there’s a tangle of federal regulations that make things difficult. Some people who want to be trained can’t afford to rack up flight time.

In response, Pavco has dropped from 15 pilots on staff to three in the past five years.

Pickett said Pavco offers the freedom to fly. Have someone visiting from out of town? A plane can cover all parts of the state in hours. Doing business in eastern Washington? A flight can avoid bad roads and traffic.

On top of the ease of travel, it’s also a good time.

“We have a lot of fun out here,” Pickett said.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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