New planes and old school customer service take MPW Industrial Services to new heights.
Never before has air transportation been as important to MPW Industrial Services as it was post-pandemic. As the US became less consumed with Zoom meetings and remote work, MPW Industrial Services Chairman & CEO Monte Black was eager to return to being in front of customers and employees.
MPW Industrial Services’ “time-saving machines,” as Black refers to the company’s fleet of aircraft, have been critical to the company’s success.
The MPW team’s essential workers kept business moving during and after the pandemic, and since 2016 – when MPW Industrial Services was last featured in Pro Pilot magazine – the company has grown by 1000 people and added 10 locations across the US and Canada.
MPW is now in its 50th year and continues to serve all smokestack industries, including utility plants, pulp and paper, automotive, steel mills, refining, and petrochemical. The company uses its flight department along with all of its resources to maintain efficiency and customer relations through safety, innovation, and service.
MPW has relied on corporate aviation every step along the way of its growth trajectory. “We bought our first aircraft in 1980,” says Monte Black.
“It’s a time-saving machine that has allowed me, our management team and leaders to all get out and accomplish our goal – to meet customers and develop relationships.” Today, MPW is a large, well respected brand throughout North America, with 82 locations and more than 4000 employees.
Monte says achieving MPW business goals would have been far more difficult without the company aircraft. “I don’t know how we could have made all this happen without our dedicated pilots,” he adds. “Our employees know our pilots, who are integral members of the MPW Industrial Services team.”
Flight department roots
In 2018, the MPW flight department was relocated to CMH (Intl, Columbus OH) from its original home at VTA (Newark–Heath OH), roughly 30 miles east of Columbus. To take advantage of a controlled airfield with longer runways and improved approach for year-round flying, MPW built a new 26,000-sq-ft facility for its fleet at CMH.
The MPW flight department recently added a Cessna Citation Longitude, received in 2020, and a new Cessna Citation CJ3+ delivered last year. “Our fleet has evolved as our business needs evolved,” explains MPW Director of Aviation Eric Mitchelson.
Over the years, MPW Industrial Services has flown a wide variety of aircraft, including an Aerostar 601P, Beech King Air C90, Piper Cheyenne II and III, and Cessna Citation V, Excel, CJ3, Sovereign, and Longitude.
“Our aircraft help our workforce develop a work and life balance,” Monte says. He describes achieving this balance as “vital to our success.”
Missions diverse as business itself
MPW Industrial Services Executive Business Manager Mike Ponzani began his career at NetJets before attending law school.
Today, he assists the flight department with everything from aircraft purchases and insurance, to working directly with airport authorities.
“Being a family-owned business, we’re all close-knit and understand how precious time is,” he says. “The aircraft enable employees to be more efficient and productive with their time. Instead of spending a day traveling in an airliner, our employees can be there in a few hours.”
Monte agrees. “Our goal is to accomplish more in 1 day than most people do in 2.” He continues, “The Citation Longitude allows us to get out to the west coast and back the same day, if needed. And the CJ3+ is really efficient and economical for shorter trips.”
MPW’s 82 locations in North America mandate a diverse flight profile. The company recently acquired a business in the western US which has several locations.
This has extended the flight department’s footprint, flying roughly 300 hours per year on the CJ3+ and about 250 hours on the Longitude. Five pilots and one director of maintenance operate the fleet.
The diversity of trip locations appeals to the MPW flight department pilot ranks. “That’s one of the exciting parts about this job – you’re not always going to the same location,” says Mitchelson. “When someone asks where we typically fly, I say, ‘Throw a dart at a map.’ That’s the fun part.
You’re not just repeating the same routes all the time. It’s always changing. And, as we continue to grow as a company, we always add new locations and are always building new relationships with FBOs.” He adds that the company typically uses CAA Preferred FBOs.
Mitchelson began his aviation career as a mechanic, and then moved on to work the line for Showalter Flying Service at ORL (Exec, Orlando FL).
He has about 6500 hours TT, with prior experience behind the stick of King Airs, Beechjets, Hawkers, CJs, Sovereigns, and now the Longitude.
Administrative Assistant to the CEO and Flight Coordinator Jess Farley has handled flight coordination duties for MPW for more than 2 years. She says the company’s goal is to be able to move its leadership and employees around the country as quickly as possible when necessary.
The air travel approval process begins with a flight request e-mail sent to Farley, who then reviews it with Black. “On this request, it states where our employees want to go, who they’re going to take with them, and other general information,” explains Farley. “Mr Black is very hands-on. He knows where his aircraft are, provides input on trips, and approves requests.”
Once a trip is approved, an MPW form goes to the employees requesting the aircraft, which they then fill out with departure time details and closest cities, and then Mitchelson takes it from there.
The right aircraft for the right mission
“With the Citation Longitude, we can go anywhere west of Columbus, such as California, and take on minimal fuel,” says Mitchelson. MPW tankers fuel on west coast trips, which realizes a significant cost savings. He adds, “Along with the efficient CJ3+ for shorter flights, we have a good mix of aircraft to satisfy our business needs.”
“Aircraft and aviation are expensive, but the benefits outweigh the costs if you have the right aircraft suited for the right mission,” says Monte. “The Longitude and CJ3+ really complement each other.”
“The CJ is more of our workhorse,” points out Mitchelson. “If your run is short, the CJ is comfortable at about 2 1/2 hours.” Depending on the number of people and flight distance, the CJ may be the most appropriate, while the Longitude is the preferred jet for longer trips.
Mitchelson goes on to praise the Garmin G3000 avionics suite fitted in his Citation flight decks. “Having the same avionics on both aircraft simplifies crew coordination,” he says. “The Garmin avionics provides great situational awareness and robust functionality with a very simplistic interface.”
Cessna brand loyalty
MPW began purchasing Cessna products in 1985 with a Citation V, and has since relied on Cessna aircraft for several reasons, including dependability and cost of operations. “Cessna has met every MPW need ever since we’ve owned their planes,” says Black.
“In buying our new aircraft, Cessna was easy to work with and they did everything they said they would do. There are many good brands, but Cessna has never given us any reason to look at any other company.”
Mitchelson adds, “We don’t lower our standards for anybody, and Cessna is the same way. They understand our expectations and they don’t deviate from that. MPW has built its business by going the extra mile for its customers, many of whom have been with us for 20-plus years. Cessna has the same passion for customer service.”
MPW does 25 to 30% of its maintenance in-house, and the rest is performed by the full-service Cessna Service Center located at IND (Intl, Indianapolis IN), which is frequently honored with FAA’s Diamond Award for Excellence for maintenance training, and has also received many FlightSafety Intl (FSI) Master Technician awards.
“It’s the ease of working with Cessna that’s great,” remarks Mitchelson. “They have mobile service unit (MSU) trucks all over the place. So, if you do have an issue, Cessna is quick to respond.”
Hiring the best
When hiring pilots, Mitchelson remarks that MPW looks for “someone who can understand our culture. One day, you could have the CEO on board, and the next day there will be truck drivers and mechanical engineers aboard. What’s cool about it is that they all walk and talk the same. There are no egos within this company.”
Pilot training is done with FSI. MPW pilots go annually for each airplane. Each crew member attends every 6 months, for which Mitchelson schedules 2 years out. FSI online courses are also used. International training is conducted with 30 West.
“It used to be that hours equaled quality,” Mitchelson remembers. “But that’s not necessarily the case any more. A pilot who has 10,000 hours could be making 10,000 wrong decisions. A pilot can be a good stick, but if he or she is not willing to take direction, then that’s unacceptable.”
Mitchelson adds, “We fly for a privately held company. When you’re on the road, you represent that company and its family name. You have to find someone who’s honest and cares about what they’re doing. We can teach them to be a professional pilot.”
Fully integrated, never siloed
What does the future hold for the aviation group? Black says his entire flight department has, and will remain, fully integrated within the MPW Industrial Services organization. On any given day, the back of the aircraft could be occupied by just about anyone within the company’s organizational chart.
“We’re trying to get in front of our customers and in front of our employees, because we want to have a competitive advantage over our competition,” says Monte.
If you want to develop relationships, I still believe in the old school – that a handshake and getting to know someone goes a long way. And, we’re doing that on a regular basis, which shows in our business growth.”
Monte sums up, “It would’ve been much more difficult to grow this organization without corporate aircraft. They’ve been a tool to maintain our partnerships with customers and service their needs.”