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Advising The Skies Pentastar

Advice from 30,000 ft with the Vice President of Advisory Services

For anyone who owns or flies private, few things matter more than making sure you have chosen the right aircraft—and that aircraft is equipped with the right capabilities and amenities to get you where you need to go in safety and comfort. And because owning or chartering a private plane represents a significant investment, identifying, purchasing, and modifying an aircraft to meet your needs involves a number of extremely complex consequential decisions.

Fortunately, Aviation Advisory Services professionals can help new and existing clients make those decisions in a thoughtful, informed, and strategic manner. Pentastar’s Vice President of Maintenance Operations & Advisory Services, Doug Levangie, brings nearly four decades of industry experience and insight to his work, providing aircraft owners and buyers valuable guidance on technical evaluations, valuation estimates, and aircraft selection. We spoke with Doug to learn more about his professional journey and the role of Advisory Services in private aviation.

Could you start by telling us a little bit about your own story: how you got started in the industry and when you joined Pentastar?

I started all the way back when the company was still Chrysler in 1985, and I’ve held several different positions over the years. I began as a mechanic, then a lead mechanic, then a supervisor. I was promoted to Director of Maintenance in 2001, then moved over to the Customer Care Group, where I began managing all of our acquisitions, doing things like working with brokers to facilitate transactions and picking up new aircraft. I had the opportunity to take over as VP of Maintenance in 2015, and I’ve been in this role ever since.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities like?

As the accountable supervisor for our maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, I work closely with our MRO team on hiring, sales, customer communication, and coordinating operational dynamics. At Pentastar, our MRO capabilities set us apart from a lot of the competition, and so that’s something we take a lot of pride in. I attend industry events, evaluate aircraft, oversee modifications, and handle pick-up and delivery for new or refurbished aircraft—as well as managing any acceptance flights required for those aircraft.

I suppose it goes without saying that you need to have a lot of knowledge about a wide range of aircraft to do this work?

Most definitely. The experience helps, for sure. I’m also a Senior Certified Aircraft Appraiser, credentialed by the Professional Aircraft Appraisal Organization (PAAO). But you need more than just technical knowledge to be an effective advisory services professional—you also have to be good with people. Whether our clients are considering the sale or acquisition of an aircraft or weighing their options for aircraft modifications, upgrades and refurbishments, our job is to assess all feasible options and provide those clients with a detailed recommendation. That means we are communicating regularly with customers about aircraft selection, refurbishment planning and oversight, valuation estimates, and operational and maintenance budget projections and scheduling questions.

Almost like a private aviation consultant or concierge?

Absolutely—while we do have a lot of technical insight, that advisory component is hugely important, and our role as advisors also means that we serve as our clients’ representatives, making connections to financiers and aviation legal and tax experts and making sure each client’s interests are protected throughout the acquisition and/or refurbishment process.

Speaking of refurbishment, I understand that can be a time-consuming process, correct?

It can. We are always looking to find ways to schedule efficiently and partner with experts who can make things happen in a timely manner, but the reality is that these can be enormously complex endeavors. Depending on the size of the aircraft and the nature of the upgrade or overhaul, a project can take months. Overhauling the interior might be something taken care of in one part of the country, while a new paint job means transporting the aircraft somewhere else entirely, and a new avionics package goes in at yet another site. A recent refurb for a 737 required something around 5,000 man-hours of work to complete. Sometimes, even the off-site hangar or facility where the aircraft will be maintained and serviced needs an upgrade, and we may oversee that process, as well.

Are there any new opportunities or challenges in the Advisory space? Any noteworthy trends that are influencing your work?

One consistent thread across all of private aviation is the impact of technology. Starlink and other connectivity innovators are doing exciting things, and aircraft owners and operators have definitely taken notice. Apart from that, the biggest thing I’m seeing is just the sheer volume of work we have going on. Private aviation is more popular than ever, and places like Pentastar that have a great reputation are busy as a result. Our FBO has been voted #1 in the U.S. for four consecutive years, and our MRO is solidly booked until late this fall. That’s a sign that the industry is healthy, and that Pentastar is delivering the kind of service people want more of.

Are you able to keep up with that demand? What does the hiring landscape look like out there?

It’s definitely a challenge to find high-quality mechanics in a challenging labor market. But we are very fortunate here at Pentastar that we have low turnover, and we’ve done a really nice job finding and training up aspiring young professionals. Our team members tend to stay with us for a long time, and we make that an easy decision to make with competitive compensation and an outstanding work environment.