Five on the Fly: Matt Stringfellow

Five on the Fly: Matt Stringfellow

Five on the Fly: Matt Stringfellow

WHO: Matt Stringfellow

Managing Partner

Chicago Executive Airport (Old Palwaukee, KPWK)


1. Can you describe your introduction to general aviation?  

I took my first flight when I was 13; it was a tour of Boulder, CO, where I grew up. From there, I was hooked and used the money from raising cattle and working as a bellman to pay for flight lessons. Soloing at 15 and receiving my private at 16, I had about 100 hours by the time I started at Purdue University. 

I graduated with a Bachelor’s in professional flight technology and Associates in aviation management. At the time, the pilot market was upside down which led me to a position selling used piston aircraft for Tom’s Aircraft out of Long Beach, CA. This was after quitting my job as a freight dog flying an AC-50 out of Grand Rapids (GRR).

2. What led you and your partners to form SOLJETS in 2015? 

We each had a passionate vision and saw an opportunity to improve the industry. Our energy, creative marketing and agile strengths set us apart. We are developing some new industry tools that should be rolling out in the next six months, which will set us even further apart, and add another technological level of market intel and communication for our clients.  

One other unique factor about David, Greg and myself is we are all pilots. We started our careers in the cockpit, which enables us to take a firsthand approach and speak on some different levels with clients. It’s been an exhilarating four years so far, and we are looking forward to the grand opening of our new office headquarters in Park City, Utah this fall.

3. How has the turbine aircraft market trended in recent years? What do you predict the market will look like ten years from now? 

Each category is cyclical, and each model has its own trends within those categories. The large cabin/long-range market is trading steadily for sub-20-year-old aircraft. Mid- to super-mid values have adjusted down over the last 18 months. Some of these have stabilized, but the older 20-plus-year-old jets are seeing average days on the market close to a year. Many sellers wish they accepted the offer they received six months ago.

Light jets have seen more consistent activity and less of an adjustment. Everything is pointed towards Garmin. As a pilot who started in a steam-gauge 172 and has more than 1,000 hours in a Pro Line, I don’t necessarily agree with the substantial premium being paid for a Garmin 1000/3000 for the identical aircraft in many cases, but there is unquestionably a rising demand for this interface. It’s a proven model for OEM deliveries. 

Overall, efficiency and operational costs are driving most owner-operator and flight department fleet transition decisions. I see this trend continuing over the next ten years. Technology will continue to revolutionize our cockpits, and as always, will be a balancing act between automation and regulation. We also have a very interesting election coming up next year; I expect things to get more volatile before they improve.

4. What areas of the aircraft buying process do you find are most commonly overlooked? 

Quite a few. It’s all the tiny steps in between the major phases (LOI, contract, pre-buy, closing). It takes foresight and experience to skillfully navigate the process. Most owner-operators choose not to hire a broker for an acquisition. I can sympathize with this from a 10,000-foot view as the process doesn’t appear too complicated, and like all pilots, we like to be in control.  

I think it’s mainly dealing with the “problem areas” that inhibit the deal from progressing when something doesn’t go as planned. Corrosion or an incident of some kind that isn’t qualified as “damage history” or “major repair” that comes up in pre-buy can be very alarming. There are also many elements to consider post-closing that are easily put aside and forgotten such as taxes, maintenance, program transfers and registration issues. Consider your broker’s fee more of an insurance policy against stepping in something you don’t ever want to deal with.

5. Can you describe one of your all-time favorite flying memories?

That’s a tough one, but probably landing at Sondrestrom/ Kangerlussuaq Airport in Greenland, where I shot the back course in a 1998 CJ down to minimums. I remember the surface OAT reading -27 degrees Celsius, and for a second, I thought I landed on Mars.  

North Atlantic crossings have a special place in my heart; it’s one of the reasons I focus on European opportunities. I will try to use any excuse to pick up a jet in Europe.  

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