FLIGHT DEPT PROFILE
Stone company sells product with King Air 350 based at private strip near quarry
Richmond-based Luck Stone expands business, saves time, makes money with on-site turboprop.
By Mike Potts
Luck Stone Chairman Charles Luck III (L) and his son, Pres & CEO Charles Luck IV stand near rim of quarry at company's Rockville plant outside Richmond VA. (Inset top to bottom) Luck Stone's original Sunnyside quarry in Richmond VA in the 1930s. Company founder Charles Luck Jr. Luck Stone Center studio outside Richmond. Display samples of high-end decorative stone.
When Charles Luck III signed up for flying lessons in 1969 he could hardly have imagined the impact business aviation would have on his company over the next 40 years.
Today Luck is chairman of Luck Stone Corp, a business started by his father in 1923. His son, Charles Luck IV is president and CEO—the job Charles III had when he learned to fly. Since its inception, Luck Stone has grown into one of the largest producers of crushed stone in the US. Both father and son say their corporate airplane has played a significant role in building the company.
Headquartered in Richmond VA, Luck Stone has facilities and quarries throughout Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina. The company now operates 4 businesses—Luck Stone, Charles Luck Stone Centers, Har-Tru Sports and Luck Development Partners.
Luck Stone produces the crushed stone materials used in most construction today, from single-family houses to superhighways. Aggregates can range in size from fine sand to the large rock called "rip rap" used to prevent shoreline erosion. There are typically 400 tons of aggregates in a modern house, 15,000 in an average school or hospital and 38,000 in a mile of interstate highway.
Charles Luck Stone Centers specialize in ultra-high end decorative stone, aimed at what the company calls purposeful design and responsible practices. Marble and other decorative stone from quarries around the world are available through Charles Luck Stone Centers.
Har-Tru Sports manufactures tennis court playing surfaces and features the Har-Tru and Clay Tech brands. Luck Development Partners specializes in real estate development with a focus on "helping people connect with nature, history and with one another."
A key element in the Luck Stone story is the company's commitment to a "values based leadership" system in which decisions are based on values important to the company beyond financial gain.
Pres & CEO Charles Luck IV lists these values as leadership, commitment, integrity and creativity, and claims they drive Luck Stone in its quest to become one of the world's 5 top companies known for values based leadership.
Luck Stone's flight department is an important element. "Our airplane is a key competitive advantage for us," says Charles Luck IV. "It is a productivity and efficiency business tool that allows us to be more effective with every hour that we use it."
Luck Stone began using business aviation soon after Charles Luck III learned to fly and the company acquired a Mooney. After using it for a couple of years, he recalls, "We were starting to carry a lot of other people. I felt it would be safer if we had a professional pilot."
Using business aviation
Luck Stone flight department reports to Human Resources VP Mark Barth. Barth is proud to provide transportation for all Luck Stone employees.
Charles III recruited his former flight instructor, Jay Coffman, and in another move to enhance safety the Mooney was traded for a Beechcraft Baron. To fill the time when he wasn't flying, Coffman began working in the company's risk department.
Through the 1970s and into the 80s, aircraft utilization increased as Luck Stone's business expanded. To increase cabin space and seating, the Baron was replaced with a Cessna 421. When the 421 was fully depreciated, it was replaced with another 421.
In 1985, the Luck Stone flight department graduated to turbine power, acquiring a used Beechcraft King Air E90. This provided good service until 1997 when it was traded on a new King Air C90B.
By 2006 the C90B was coming due for replacement. Nearly 10 years old, it was long out of warranty and maintenance issues were beginning to increase operating costs. More importantly, the King Air was flying full on almost every trip, and it was clear that more associates would travel if more seats were available.
Accordingly, the C90B was traded on a new Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350, expanding passenger capacity from 5 seats to 9.
The extra seats were quickly filled, and in the first 2 years Luck Stone operated the King Air 350 it carried a total of 457 different people. The need to travel is also growing, and last year the 350 accumulated 396 flight hours. That represents a 41% increase over the 280 flight hours logged in the last year the C90B was operated.
In addition to carrying senior executives and customers, Luck Stone uses its aircraft to transport all levels of employees (whom the company refers to as associates) who have a need to travel in pursuit of the company's business. Over the years, a high percentage of the Luck Stone's 750 associates have flown on the company airplane.
Over the years Luck Stone has conducted a consistently safe operation, logging more than 10,000 flight hours over more than 39 years without an accident.
The Luck Stone flight department operates from the company's private airstrip, located adjacent to its quarry in northwest Richmond. Designated 0VA5, Coffman Field has a 3800 x 75-ft paved runway and is located 21 DME from the Richmond VOR on the 315° radial.
The field is named after Jay Coffman, who retired after 37 years as Luck Stone's pilot and director of aviation, as well as becoming the company's vp of human resources. It appears on the Washington Sectional as a restricted field so it can be available for pilots in an emergency.
There are no published approaches to 0VA5 and no lights—so, when the weather is below VFR minimums, or after dark, Luck Stone flights divert to OFP (Hanover County, Richmond VA), 10 miles east. Luck Stone bases a van permanently at OFP to provide ground transportation.