Clay Lacy Aviation is a provider of aircraft management, sales, charter, maintenance, fuel, avionics, interiors and Phenom 100/300 service at its VNY headquarters

Managing more than 75 bizjets ranging from 30-series Learjets and an Embraer Phenom 300 up to Globals, Gulfstreams and BBJs, CLA continues to be one of the most experienced international business jet operators today.

By Mike Potts
Contributing Editor

CEO Clay Lacy has built Clay Lacy Aviation into one of the world's
premier international business jet operators. In addition, Lacy is one of the world's most experienced pilots, with scores of international aeronautical records to his credit.

When it comes to international operations in business jets, there is no substitute for experience. Fly your private aircraft beyond the borders of the USA and you must comply with a wide array of complicated rules, regulations and permit requirements.

These rules for international flying line up and are waiting to trap the unwary or unprepared, each with the potential to delay, add cost or ground the flight. Because the stakes are high and the potential consequences severe, many business jet operators who travel overseas elect to place their aircraft with a management company specializing in international operations.

One of the most experienced international business jet operators today is Clay Lacy Aviation (CLA), based at VNY (Van Nuys CA), with additional locations at SBA (Santa Barbara CA), SNA (Orange County CA), SMO (Santa Monica CA), CRQ (Carlsbad CA), OAK (Oakland CA), BFI (Boeing Field—Seattle), APA (Arapahoe Denver) and TEB (NY Teterboro).

Founded in 1968 at VNY by United Airlines Captain Clay Lacy, CLA soon became the 1st company to offer jet charter services on the West Coast, using a Learjet 24. Over the next 20 years the charter business grew, using an all-Learjet fleet, with international operations limited mostly to Canada and Mexico. In 1990 CLA added a Gulfstream II to its Part 135 charter certificate and international ops became commonplace.

Clay Lacy knows many people and has a lot of friends, but he buddies with 2 other entrepreneurs on a continual basis. Here the threesome cascades down the steps of a GV on the CLA ramp. We see (L-R) Clay, then Joe Clark who is president of Aviation Partners Inc and Bruce McCaw, CEO of the diverse Pistol Creek Enterprises, which includes the PacWest Racing Group.

CLA today is a full service 1-stop shop for business aircraft, offering aircraft management, sales, charter, maintenance, fuel, avionics, interiors and an Embraer Phenom authorized service center. It occupies 14 acres on the east side of VNY, with 5 hangars totaling 80,000 sq ft and an additional 22,300 sq ft of offices.

Additional growth is in the offing, with construction set to begin later this year on a new executive terminal and an additional 70,000 sq ft of hangar space plus another 15,000 sq ft of added offices and training space to be sited on a 6 acre parcel immediately to the south of the company's current facility.

More than 75 business jets are currently managed by CLA, ranging from Boeing BBJs to 30-series Learjets and an Embraer Phenom 300. More than 65% are large cabin executive jets, including 34 Gulfstreams. All of the other major jet manufacturers are also represented in the fleet including Bombardier, Cessna Citation, Dassault, and Hawker.

"When a potential new management customer comes to us," says company President Brian Kirkdoffer, "we can almost always tell him we have experience managing whatever jet he is operating."

For many operators CLA management offers the opportunity to reduce their operating costs and generate income through charter. Of the jets managed by CLA, 49 are available for charter on the company's Part 135 certificate. Approximately 25% of the flight hours logged by the CLA fleet are to international destinations. The most common destination is Western Europe, followed by Southeast Asia. Although Kirkdoffer notes, "We go everywhere in the world except for Antarctica."

CLA's charter business thrives under Brian Kirkdoffer and Tony Kvassay

President Brian Kirkdoffer started with Clay Lacy Aviation 24 years ago as a Learjet copilot.

Kirkdoffer joined CLA in 1990 as a 20- and 30-series Learjet copilot. He also had an interest in marketing and in 1995 when the company found itself with excess hangar capacity, Kirkdoffer suggested to CEO Clay Lacy that the space could be filled by recruiting aircraft management clients.

Kirkdoffer's strategy was highly successful and brought in a significant number of clients with Gulfstream IVs and other large cabin aircraft. With added capacity for long-range flights, CLA's charter business became increasingly focused on international operations.

Tony Kvassay is director of operations. The son of former Learjet salesman and Professional Pilot "Alex Remembers" contributor Alex Kvassay, Tony grew up around aviation but decided to pursue a law degree. He joined CLA as the Director of Ops after deciding he was better suited to aviation than law. Today he remains a member of the Texas State Bar and is responsible for managing the CLA fleet.

When Director of Operations Tony Kvassay joined CLA in 1990 the company was operating just 5 Learjets. Today it operates or manages more than 75 business jets, including 34 Gulfstreams.

"The big thing we bring to the customer is experience. We provide a turnkey product for our managed aircraft customers," Kvassay says. "They get preferred pricing on fuel, both here at VNY and elsewhere in the world wherever we have negotiated fuel prices." CLA maintains a 60,000-gallon fuel farm at VNY, to better serve our clients.

"Managed fleet customers also get preferred pricing at our Part 145 CLA Repair Station," Kvassay says, "And if they put their aircraft on our Part 135 certificate for charter, we provide as much business as they care to have. For some customers that means 10% of their flight hours are charter. For others it's as much as 90%."


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