Cleaning company operates Embraer Legacy 500, Pilatus PC-12, and Cessna 182 out of CSV (Crossville TN) to visit customers across 23 states.
By Brent Bundy
Phoenix Police Officer-Pilot
AS350, AW119, Cessna 210/182/172
As Covid-19 spread across the globe in 2020, cleanliness and sanitation were thrust to the forefront of our daily routines.
From personal habits of regular hand washing to environmental concerns for our homes, businesses, and modes of transportation, every aspect of our lives became focused on sterilization.
However, for one man and the company he founded, cleaning has been a way of life – and business – for nearly 40 years. For Alan Grindstaff, cleaning is his life’s work. And he knows that MasterCorp would not be what it is today if it were not for aviation.
A clean start
Serendipitous is how Grindstaff, MasterCorp Founder, Chairman, and self-proclaimed Chief Housekeeper, describes the company’s inception. “I’m from Knoxville, but I met a Crossville girl and I ended up here,” he states.
After graduating from the University of Tennessee with a liberal arts degree, he followed his future wife to her hometown and found work in janitorial services. “My first job was with another person in 1973,” he says. “We worked all night, stripping and waxing the floors and cleaning the carpets of a building.
We lost money on that job!” While cleaning wasn’t something he envisioned himself doing, it fulfilled 2 of his ambitions – working and traveling. He later went back to school for his MBA, and soon had a family on the way. When the 1981 financial recession hit, he had a few employees working for his carpet cleaning business.
As companies began cutting back, he knew he needed to do something else to keep his small operation afloat. That’s when he approached a timeshare and retirement community about cleaning its carpets.
Looking to save money and consolidate services, the community manager told Grindstaff that he could have the contract to clean the floors as long as he would also handle the housekeeping. Grindstaff agreed to the terms, and MasterCorp officially opened its doors.
“It was a steep learning curve, but we were fortunate that there were very few people in the market of timeshare cleaning. Because of that, we saw some rapid growth,” he explains. To this day, MasterCorp’s core business has not changed.
The company still tackles all facets of timeshare cleaning, including carpets, laundry, stocking, and most everything needed for turnkey operations. “Some 80% of our revenue still comes from timeshares, but we also have laundry and office janitorial services, as well as other related divisions.”
Many of Grindstaff’s clients were in difficult-to-reach locations, and, even if he were to fly commercially, there was still a long drive to the final destination. However, most of the towns to which he was driving had small airports, so he recognized an opportunity, and private aviation entered the picture.
As MasterCorp was growing, so was Grindstaff’s family. “I was driving over 100,000 miles a year, and that was keeping me away from my wife and children. When I first looked into aviation, it wasn’t because I had a desire to fly. It was simply a utility,” he recalls.
His entrepreneurship kicked in, and he bartered a deal exchanging floor cleaning for flight lessons in a Piper Warrior at CSV (Crossville TN). MasterCorp continued to experience rapid expansion far beyond practical driving distances from eastern Tennessee.
“It became clear that, if the company was to grow and I was to stay in Crossville, we would be very dependent on aviation. I’m one of those people who can honestly say that, if it hadn’t been for aviation, we would not have the company we have today. It is that critical for us,” Grindstaff declares.
Foray into flight
When Grindstaff purchased his first aircraft in 1993 – a Piper Navajo – he had taken lessons but had not completed his ratings. That first exposure to corporate flying caused him to readdress his flight lessons.
A couple of years later, he traded the Navajo for a 1979 model Cessna 182, which he still owns, and earned his wings. By then, he had developed his own little “milk route,” as he calls it, flying to locations in Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Florida.
“Then we stretched ourselves and ventured out west,” he says. He later added a Piper Aztec twin and acquired his multi-engine rating.
Grindstaff kept both aircraft for a while, but the pace of MasterCorp’s growth soon exceeded the capabilities of the small planes, so the time had come to take the next step into professional aviation.
By 2002, MasterCorp was experiencing another period of prosperity, which meant more and longer-distance flying. This brought about 2 changes. First was the replacement of the Aztec with a more capable twin – a Cessna 421.
Second was the foundation of the company’s flight department with the addition of a full-time aviation manager. A side effect of the growth was that Grindstaff was pulled away from flying to concentrate on the business. Additional expansion soon saw the Cessna 421 swapped for a Pilatus PC-12 in 2005.
“The Pilatus really opened things up for us out west. The added speed and passenger capacity were a great help. It was a godsend,” Grindstaff explains. The appeal of such a capable aircraft also drew him back to the pilot seat, a role he still fills in both the PC-12 and Cessna 182.
As MasterCorp’s territory continued to broaden, it was time for a jet. 2011 saw the addition of a Learjet 45 to the fleet. “It was a very good aircraft for us, especially for our trips out west, but it was lacking a bit in range,” Grindstaff recalls.
“Some of our longer trips would require a fuel stop.” After 5 years of service, the Learjet was sold to make room for Grindstaff’s most recent acquisition.
“There are a lot of great aircraft out there, but after evaluating all of them, we decided on the Embraer Legacy 500, and we couldn’t be happier,” he remarks.
“The addition of the Legacy was a perfect fit for us. The combination of airfield accessibility, passenger capacity, and range is amazing. It is a magnificent aircraft.” Prior to the shutdowns forced by the pandemic in 2020, MasterCorp staffed 7000 employees across 23 states.
Although the hospitality industry was severely affected, recovery is slowly taking place, and the MasterCorp aircraft continue to play a part.
With the current fleet, the 182 handles local flights, the PC-12 takes care of east coast operations, and the Legacy tackles the west coast, along with any time there is a need for more speed.
“These are work planes for us, and they all have their roles,” Grindstaff explains. “As our company footprint increased, our aircraft capabilities increased, which is why we now have the fleet that we do.”
Flight team formed
When Grindstaff stepped up his aviation aspirations in 2002 with new aircraft, he also brought in Aviation Manager Sean Smith, a Livingston TN native who had always loved aviation, although initially he went down a very different career path.
“I had worked at a Dairy Queen in high school, so when my grandmother approached me about opening one of our own when I was 20 years old, I knew I could do it,” Sean says. “I was very fortunate because, as we know, aviation is not a cheap industry to get into, and that allowed me to be where I am today.”
Smith would soon act on his aviation desires and earn his private pilot’s license (PPL). He then completed his ratings at ATP Flight School in Atlanta GA in mid-2002. More serendipity came into play when his flight instructor introduced him to Alan Grindstaff.
“At the time, I just wanted to build flight hours to someday go to the airlines,” he recalls. That was not to be, as he would find himself flying for MasterCorp before the end of 2002. When Smith signed on, they were flying the 182 and the Aztec.
As if he weren’t fortunate enough to have a corporate position as his first piloting job, when the Learjet 45 was purchased in 2011, it was Sean Smith’s first time flying a jet. He reflects, “Alan put a lot of faith in me and my abilities by putting me in the left seat of that Lear.”
Grindstaff reiterated his faith in Smith when the time came to upgrade the fleet in 2016 by entrusting him with the acquisition process. Smith echoes his boss when asked the reason for choosing the Legacy 500.
“There were a lot of competitors out there, but when we compared the technology, safety features, and performance, the Embraer Legacy 500 was the clear winner.
It suited us perfectly, especially with the 5400-ft runway here in Crossville.” After 5 years of flying the Legacy, Smith and the team are as pleased as they were on day one. “We’ve been very happy with all aspects of this aircraft,” he states.
“From the initial sale to any minor maintenance issues that have arisen to the overall operation, Embraer has been spectacular. Sales Director Chad Williams and Support Representative Tom Richardson have been wonderful to work with.”
With MasterCorp spread across the country and 95% of its flights strictly for business, the fleet is kept quite busy. “We do not use these planes as an executive luxury,” notes Smith. “They are for the advancement of the company.
If there’s an issue that needs to be addressed quickly, we’ll load up any of the aircraft with people or equipment, and get them where they need to be.” Smith also sings the praises of Alan Grindstaff and MasterCorp. “This is a great company.
Anything I’ve ever wanted or needed, they’ve taken care of me. Working here was not my goal 18 years ago, but here I am. I’m still here, very happy and content. It’s been a blessing working for Alan.” Flying family The third pilot on the MasterCorp manifest has a familiar last name.
That’s because his father is the founder. Chief Pilot Jared Grindstaff may have an “in,” but that did not guarantee him a position. “Dad wanted the family to understand the business, so, before we could do anything else in the company, we had to learn the basics.
Everyone had to be able to clean 5 2-bedroom townhomes in 1 day. I’ve been cleaning since I was 15 years old,” Jared remembers. He tells of his father buzzing over their home in his Cessna 182. When Jared was only 9 or 10 years old, his father flew him to a meeting. “That was when I knew I wanted to fly,” he remembers.
He began flight lessons with one of the early company pilots, while en route to cleaning jobs. After earning his PPL at 18 years old, he left aviation for a few years, doing construction work for MasterCorp, but the flying bug never left him, so he was off to ATP Flight School in Lawrenceville GA in 2007.
Within 3 months, he had conquered his ATP rating and was back at MasterCorp, flying right seat with Smith in the PC-12. In 2008, he attended Pilatus training at Simcom in Scottsdale AZ to attain pilot-in-command status.
As aircraft came and went, Jared became proficient in each of them, which led to his chief pilot position in 2017. Jared feels that the current fleet is perfect for where the company is right now. MasterCorp operates Part 91 but has entertained the idea of obtaining a Part 135 charter certificate to expand its offerings.
Jared’s admiration for the Legacy 500 is evident. Jared’s adoration for the Legacy 500 is evident. “It is an incredible aircraft, to fly and to be flown in,” he says. “And, as a company, Embraer has been amazing. We couldn’t ask for any better treatment.”
Purchased new in 2016, the Legacy 500 is powered by 2 Honeywell HTF7500E engines. Up front is the Collins Aerospace Pro Line Fusion flightdeck with 4 15-inch LCD screens and sidestick controls. MasterCorp also added the head-up guidance system (HGS) and enhanced vision system (EVS).
In the back, up to 9 pax have adequate room with the 6-ft-tall and nearly 7-ft-wide cabin. The twin jet flies between 150 and 200 flight hours annually.
The Pilatus PC-12 is a 2005 model that MasterCorp has upgraded. “We added dual Garmin GTN 750s and G600 TXi displays,” Jared explains. It was a great improvement over the stock setup.” The plane is configured for 6 passengers, with the ability to add 2 jump seats.
And it is, of course, powered by the venerable Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboprop. It averages 200–250 hours per year. The Cessna 182Q Skylane is a 1979 model equipped with a short takeoff and landing (STOL) kit for added performance.
It has also been upgraded with Garmin 750 avionics. While it only handles local flights, it is still well liked by the pilots and MasterCorp passengers. “It doesn’t have the capability of the others but it’s still better than driving!” Jared remarks.
The crew puts around 20–30 hours a year on the 182’s Hobbs meter. For maintenance, very little is done at the 2 hangars that MasterCorp owns at CSV. “The 182 will have work done here locally, but the Pilatus heads to Epps Aviation in Atlanta, and the Embraer is sent to either Duncan Aviation or West Star.
All of those service centers take great care of us,” Jared adds. When the aircraft aren’t flying clients or staff, they don’t sit idly by. Over the past several years, Alan, Jared, and Sean have made numerous flights to Puerto Rico and other Caribbean locations to provide supplies and assistance after devastating hurricanes.
“We were happy to assist,” Jared reflects. “It’s a great feeling knowing that we were able to use our resources to help so many people.” No team would be complete without support staff and for MasterCorp, that falls to Flight Attendant (FA) Faye Blose.
While her official title falls under learning and development, the FA position is a role she’s taken on in the past 2 years. “It’s not something I was looking for, but I know how to take care of people, and the company asked me to do it,” she says.
What started as a high school job has turned into a 38-year career with MasterCorp. Although she has not been to formal training, the FA work came naturally. “I’ve been in the hospitality business for most of my life, so this isn’t that much different,” she adds.
For now, it is a part-time position with only a couple of flights per month, but Faye Blose can’t get enough of it. “I handle the catering, concierge services, whatever they need me to do, and I absolutely love it,” she explains. “It feels good to know that I’m providing an appreciated service for a great company like MasterCorp.”
What began 40 years ago as a way to make ends meet for a young man seeking the joys of employment and travel, has flourished into a nationwide company. During that first night of cleaning, Alan Grindstaff never dreamed of what lay ahead for him, his family, and the thousands of lives he would touch.
He also never imagined that his thirst for travel would be quenched by the planes he would own and fly. He recognized early on the advantages that flying would give him and his business. His foresight and business acumen are what turned MasterCorp into an embodiment of corporate aviation.
Brent Bundy served as a police officer with the Phoenix Police Dept for 29 years. He flew with the PHX Air Support Unit for 19 years, and is a helicopter pilot with nearly 4000 hrs of flight time. He has flown Airbus AS350B3s for the helicopter side of Phoenix PD’s air unit, and Cessna 172, 182s and 210s for the fixed-wing side.