FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE PROFILE
ProCaps vitamin company generates TWC Aviation
Success in marketing health supplements feeds corporate flight dept along with TWC charter and aircraft mgmt, sales and acquisitions.
By Grant McLaren
TWC Aviation pilots, mechanics, schedulers and management staff at VNY. Recent acquisition of ACM Aviation has made TWC one of the largest charter operators nationwide with a fleet of 65 aircraft at 25 operating bases.
ProCaps Laboratories, the world's largest privately-held manufacturer of vitamins, has developed a unique corporate flight department over the years and successfully morphed this operation into one of the largest suppliers of charter and managed aircraft ops nationwide.
CEO Andrew Lessman left his law practice in 1989 to devote full attention to building his ProCaps Labs vitamin empire. Twenty years later it remains one of the few companies that manufacture the vitamins they distribute.
The product is produced at a solar powered facility in the high desert of Nevada, shipped worldwide and marketed on the Home Shopping Network (HSN). To support ProCaps and other business activities, Lessman takes advantage of corporate aviation—initially with charter and fractional ownership and currently with a fleet encompassing a Gulfstream G550, a Dassault Falcon 2000LX and 2 Cessna Citation Xs.
Missions range from commutes between ProCaps Labs' HND (Henderson, Las Vegas NV) headquarters and HSN studios in St Petersburg FL to a range of international destinations.
Lessman's business extends far beyond the lucrative world of vitamins.
He formed his own construction company—TWC Construction —to build ProCaps Labs' high-tech facility in Nevada and, in the late 1990s, diversified his Part 91 flight operation into charter and managed aircraft activities.
TWC Aviation (named after the original vitamin company banner, "The Winning Combination") has 25 bases and some 150 pilots. Today, more than 700 employees are involved with ProCaps, TWC Aviation and TWC Construction.
ProCaps Laboratories CEO Andrew Lessman parlayed success in global vitamin distribution to build a world class flight operation.
"Andrew was very successful in the vitamin business early on and has used the same business principles to diversify into construction and aircraft management, charter, sales and acquisitions," says TWC Aviation CEO Andrew Richmond. "He pushes all sectors of his business—from vitamins to construction to aircraft charter, management, sales and acquisitions—to grow without sacrificing attention to detail."
After acquiring his first corporate aircraft—a Hawker 800 to support the vitamin business—Lessman soon added a pair of Bombardier Learjet 35s and a Learjet 55 to the mix.
Meanwhile, he diversified into construction and Part 135 charter. TWC Construction managed design of TWC Aviation's 64,000 sq ft corporate aircraft complex at VNY (Van Nuys CA). Today, Lessman uses his G550 to harvest overseas business opportunities, deploys the Falcon 2000LX and Citation Xs on domestic missions and charters out excess capacity.
From vitamins to managed aircraft
Perhaps the most visible face of Lessman's business mix (unless you are a regular viewer of HSN) is TWC Aviation and its VNY flagship facility—16,000 sq ft of offices and 48,000 sq ft of hangar. On acquiring SJC (San Jose CA)-based ACM Aviation in Nov 2010 TWC doubled in size and now has a nationwide presence.
A managed and charter fleet of 65 aircraft includes Boeing BBJs, Bombardier Global Express XRSs, Gulfstream Vs and G550s, Falcon 900EXs, Embraer Legacys, on down to Cessna Citation Mustangs and a Hawker Beechcraft Premier I.
Primary TWC operating bases are at VNY, SJC and HPN (White Plains NY) with smaller satellite operations ranging from a GIV, Citation Bravo and Hawker 800XPi based at CRQ (Carlsbad CA) to a STN (Stansted, London, England)-based Challenger 601 and a BBJ and pair of Legacys supported by 7 locally-based pilots at XSP (Seletar, Singapore).
ProCaps markets more than 100 vitamin products. TWC Aviation pilots and staff members enjoy discounts on vitamins as a vitality-enhancing job benefit.
TWC Aviation employs 150 pilots, 17 charter sales personnel, 14 schedulers and 3 aircraft sales personnel based out of VNY, SJC and HPN and 58 maintenance technicians throughout the system. Hiring of pilots, schedulers and maintenance talent is ongoing, with over 35 pilots anticipated to be hired this year, and the overall managed fleet is in growth mode.
Pilot opportunities at TWC Aviation remain relatively robust with ongoing pilot hiring. "While Part 135 flying involves a lot of on-demand short-notice work it's a good lifestyle here," says Dir Ops Jay Arcemont. "We have a safety culture second to none. We hire pilots to be captains and to be strong contributing members of our team.
Our culture has developed from the knowledge and experience of our flightcrews and operations staff members. We expect all employees to help shape the future of our company. Our focus on training and teamwork has paid us back with employees who enjoy where they work."
Career advancement opportunities can be exceptional at TWC. Alex Joya began as a TWC mechanic in 2003, moved up to chief inspector and then to business operations manager before being promoted to vp business development recently. "Our recent acquisition of ACM Aviation will create new opportunities for us with more exposure to worldwide capabilities and clients," says Joya.
Bizav industry strengthening
TWC Aviation has noted strengthening in charter and managed aircraft markets in recent months. Most of this uptick, however, has been at the supermidsize to heavy iron end. Richmond says, "We've seen 30% growth in the charter market over the past year but we're still down about 10% from the peak.
Demand has rebounded quickest for newer large cabin aircraft but customers are becoming more sensitive about getting into aircraft over 20 years old. We've seen acquisition prices and charter rates firming for G550 and Global Express category aircraft and G550 positions have been selling at a premium. While the GV market is also solidifying, we've seen a softening in demand for older aircraft types."