Growth-minded Utah-based Part 91 company sets new standards in personalized private jet management.
By Phil Rose
Park City Aviators was formed in 2008 to provide what Founder & CEO Pete Zaccagnino calls “seamless, affordable, and professional private jet management.” Today, the HCR (Heber UT)-based company manages a diverse fleet of 9 business jets and 2 helicopters based at locations across the US and operated under FAR Part 91.
Most of PC Aviators’ clients are high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) for whom the company acts as a fiduciary. It achieves this by developing close working relationships with clients and through transparent decision-making.
Client-tailored services include aircraft acquisition and management, trip planning and support, and specialized global excursions and tours.
Zaccagnino explains that PC Aviators works with prospective clients to steer them toward the most suitable ownership/management package. He says, “If a customer comes to us and says they want to buy a private jet, we immediately start a conversation with tax attorneys for their benefit.
Next, we go into how they plan to operate their plane, what size and range of airplane they need, the comparative benefits of buying new versus used, and other matters such as depreciation and maintenance costs. Then we discuss with them their financial abilities.
If they’re comfortable with us, we look at the market and do a purely mathematical analysis. It’s not about feelings or likes.” He continues, “Because this is such a personalized industry, and because of what we do – all the things that go on that are non-flying – we have fantastic customer relations.” PC Aviators charges clients a monthly management fee covering all normal costs.
This is the business’s profit center. There is no premium on such items as fuel or pilot hours. Additional expenses, such as hotels for pilots, or car services, are passed on to the client. PC Aviators’ policy of full transparency means that its expense reports show exactly what was charged to the company, eliminating any confusion as to cost sources.
Origins and growth
Pete Zaccagnino has over 24,000 hrs TT, and has flown more than 270 types of aircraft. He is also a successful National Championship Air Races participant, with 5 medals to his credit – 1 Sport Gold Champion (2007), 3 Jet Gold Champion (2013, 2015, and 2019), and 1 Sport Medallion Champion (2018).
In 2019 he was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame. Zaccagnino recalls, “As a kid growing up in Edison NJ, I wanted to design, build, and fly airplanes. It was really that simple. I would ride my bike to the local airport, which used to be called Kupper Airport [now 47N (Manville NJ)].
I just wanted to be around planes and see what I could learn, so I was the classic ‘pump gas, wash airplane’ kid.” As his ambitions crystallized around becoming an engineer, Zaccagnino enrolled in Embry-Riddle’s aeronautical engineering program at DAB (Daytona Beach FL).
“To this day,” he says, “I’m thrilled with that decision, because I’ve never stopped utilizing my engineering degree in flight test. It’s been invaluable to me.”
After working for several years as a flight instructor and flight test contract pilot, Zaccagnino saw an opportunity. At that time, he recollects, “I was also doing private flying for some individuals and companies, and I started to realize that we weren’t just flying their jets – we’d started to manage them. It was just happening organically.
At this point, Utah emerged as an ideal location. Zaccagnino explains, “In 2008, I was doing a lot of flight test work out west, and I was still doing a lot of international flights. I was spending too much time traveling, so I decided to figure out a way to live out west.
I needed a location with good airline access, and there was a little bit of selfish interest because I enjoy the outdoor life and I like to ski. Coming up with the best solution was easy.
I chose Park City because it’s an affluent area, Utah is very pro-business, SLC (Intl, Salt Lake City UT) is a major airline hub, and there are good small airports in the area both for private jets and my race planes and other extracurricular activities.
“I created Park City Aviators as a separate entity for the managed planes. We started doing less flight test and more of the aircraft management, and we got a nice collection of Citation CJs and a helicopter.”
In its first decade, PC Aviators was a relatively modest operation, with Zaccagnino and a small support team handling aircraft acquisitions, sales, and maintenance.
Since 2019, however, the company has modified its business model to become more growth-minded. Today, Park City Aviators manages 3 Citation CJ3s and a CJ4, a Dassault Falcon 50EX, a Falcon 2000LXS and a 2000LX, a HondaJet Elite S, and a Learjet 45XR, as well as a Bell 429 and a Eurocopter AS350B3 AStar. (It also manages 3 more uncommon aircraft – a Grumman HU-16 Albatross, a LET L29 Delfin, and an Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatros.)
The company currently employs 12 full-time pilots, 3 mechanics, and 5 administrative staff. Park City Aviators’ headquarters facility at HCR includes 4 hangars, which can accommodate up to 6 jets and 3 helicopters.
The company also rents hangar space at SLC from Atlantic Aviation and Signature (formerly TAC Air) for 2 of the Falcons. Other US locations include California, Florida, Indiana, and Texas. Significant further expansion is planned.
“We’ve become very aggressive in our pursuit of aircraft,” says Zaccagnino. “And customers. We’re absolutely in expansion mode.”
Spreading the message
Dir of Business Operations Aaron Dobron grew up in Wisconsin but chose to move to Utah to study and enjoy the outdoor activities for which the state is famous. Dobron holds an MBA from the University of Utah as well as a BS in engineering.
He joined PC Aviators in 2020. “I was actually recruited through the business school at the University of Utah for this position,” he recalls. “That was my shot to get into the aviation world, and I’ve been loving it ever since.” He continues, “I work with a lot of remarkable people who are very knowledgeable and connected within the industry.
Obviously, there’s Pete running it, but our pilots, our maintenance, our finance guys have such deep industry knowledge. I think that my favorite part of this is that I’m constantly learning and applying my skills to continue to grow the business.”
Dobron works with the company pilots, schedulers, and maintenance crews, and ensures that the systems in place are as efficient as possible.
This also includes managing and integrating PC Aviators’ new flight scheduling software. “We’ve just switched over to Airplane Manager,” he says. “It’s been a huge benefit for us, and it’s been a great help when it comes to coordinating with our clients.” He continues, “We want to make the company/client relationship as personable as possible.
Here at Park City Aviators, we aim for a tailored boutique style of acquisition and management. We’re always trying to think ahead in terms of the personal touches our clients like. This is a very trust-based industry, and that’s why we like to get our trustworthiness up and running with them from the beginning.
Also, a lot of our clients value privacy, and we respect that.” Dobron has been tasked with exploring “green processes,” including carbon offsets and the use of sustainable aviation fuel. “It’s something that clients have started to bring up,” he notes, “and it’s something that I think is important.”
Many clients have welcomed the fact that PC Aviators is working with Carbonfund.org, a carbon offset foundation that calculates the cost of eliminating carbon emissions, giving users the option of reducing their impact on the environment.
Originally from Boise ID, Dir of Marketing Nash Cantrell earned a BS in economics from the University of Utah in 2017, and completed his MBA 3 years later. He recalls, “Around that time, I was looking for a position that catered to my skill set and what I’d learned in my MBA program, and was able to make a connection with Pete Zaccagnino.
We hit it off instantly. “Pete has this ability to excite people about aviation. And so, despite me having had very little to do with aviation at that point, I was able to jump in and start talking with Pete about it. Everything started to come together – his vision for the company and the growth that he saw – and I saw it as a chance to get in on the ground floor and continue expanding an operation that was already working well.
So Pete brought in the two of us – Aaron Dobron and myself – to handle more of the business operation side of things.” “We all wear a lot of hats here,” says Cantrell, “but I focus on brand recognition, meeting new potential clients, and keeping our client relations strong.
As a smaller management company, we really focus on client satisfaction and flexibility.” For international trip planning, PC Aviators works with several planning companies. It also conducts its own internal international planning, depending on the trip and workload.
Cantrell describes international trip planning companies as “a huge support to us.” Cantrell notes, “The beautiful thing about our operation is that it grows relatively simply, as long as we can find the right people. So, even if a plane needs to be based in Texas instead of here, that’s no issue.
We just find them the hangar space, get a maintenance team that’s able to work on the aircraft in that location, and maybe 1 in-person office manager, and then find the pilots.
From an administrative perspective, a lot of it runs on its own once we’re able to set up the building blocks for it.”
A former New Hampshire native, Chief Pilot Everett Clark is a 7000-hr TT pilot who has been flying now for over 30 years. “It all started as a childhood dream,” he admits. “I took my first airplane ride when I was 10 or 11 years old, but I never knew I could do it for a career until my first year of college.
My mom was a school career guidance counselor, and she asked me, ‘What do you love to do?’ I said, ‘Flying,’ which surprised her, but within 2 weeks I was applying to flight schools. I ended up getting accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University at DAB.” As it happened, Zaccagnino and Clark were classmates at Embry-Riddle.
Clark recalls, “He was in the aeronautical engineering program and I was in the aeronautical science program. But we were in the same fraternity, and we were in the Air Force ROTC together. When we went our separate ways, we just held on to that friendship.”
After college, he says, “I went the straight-and-level route, Pete went the fun route. He’s done a lot in aviation that’s anything but straight-and-level. As time went on, we stayed in touch, and when Pete made the decision to pivot the company from the test flying programs that he was doing in all those unique aircraft to managing corporate jets, he and I started talking.
Then it was just a matter of time before I came out here.” Clark’s “straight-and-level route” included 12 years flying Pilatus PC-12s for Alpha Flying (later PlaneSense) and Part 135 sister company Cobalt Air. When he left in the fall of 2012, Clark was director of operations. He notes, “Every time I took a promotion at PlaneSense, I cut my flight time in half.
By the time I was director of operations, I was lucky if I could fly 50 or 100 hrs a year because of my other responsibilities.” Following a 5-year break from aviation, Clark took a job flying Learjet 40s and 45s for Rectrix Aviation out of BED (Bedford MA).
Eventually, in mid-2021, he took the plunge and relocated to Utah. At PC Aviators, Clark is chief pilot and lead captain on the Learjet 45XR. As such, he manages maintenance on the airplane. He is also a Falcon 2000 captain.
“We have 2 of those that we fly on a regular basis, so I’m dual qualified for both.” Clark notes that, while most Learjet 45XR flights are within North and Central America, the 2 Falcon 2000s do a lot of international travel to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
“These days, I fly about 450 hours a year,” says Clark. “What I like about PC Aviators is that we’re professional but we’re still able to have fun.
For international trips, we usually have 2 or 3 months’ notice – but, generally, we don’t really know where our next trip is going to be. And that’s an adventure.
“We consider it a great privilege to be able to manage elite aircraft. Our owners come to us because of the pedigree that we have, not only in our pilot ranks, but as a management company.” Recruitment and training Salaries and benefits at PC Aviators are in line with industry standards, and the company offers a comprehensive health insurance program. “Right now,” says Clark, “we’d like to have 3 more full-time pilots on staff.
But we don’t want to just put a warm body in the cockpit, so we’ll take our time to hire the right person.” In addition to being what Zaccagnino calls “the right cultural fit,” a candidate would need a minimum of 3000 hrs TT, including 1000 hrs jet PIC, for consideration. Clark continues, “For recurrent training, we’re partnered with FlightSafety Intl on the bigger airplanes.
We do in-aircraft training. Pete used to be in the training business himself, so he has his own approved programs that we’ll use for aircraft upset training, international operations, and so on. “We keep our pilots dual qualified on 2 different aircraft.
That way you don’t get complacent and become so familiar with the cockpit that it’s just rote memory. Ideally, you are captain/PIC on one type of aircraft and you’re SIC on another.”
Falcon 50EX Captain Dallin Anderson has been with PC Aviators since February 2022. He has 3000 hrs TT, including 1300 hrs rotary-wing and 350 hrs each on the Falcon 50EX and 2000.
Growing up in Utah, aviation always held a fascination for Anderson, but it was his first flight in a helicopter that motivated him to start flight training and obtain his helo license.
From 2014 until 2018, while waiting for the right opportunity to fly full-time, Anderson was a dispatcher and operations control specialist (OCS) for Classic Air Medical in Salt Lake City. In 2017, while still working as an OCS, he started flying Robinson R22s and R44s for Utah Helicopters, but by the following year had decided to transition to fixed-wing flying. “I started my flight training in 2018, completed it, and was hired at SkyWest Airlines in 2019,” says Anderson.
For the next 2 years he flew Bombardier CRJ200s, CRJ700s, and CRJ900s. “I met Pete Zaccagnino shortly before I went to to the airlines,” says Anderson. “While I was at SkyWest, I would fly with Pete every once in a while to help him out and to learn and understand the industry on both sides – private and commercial.
Then, one day, when we were flying together, he said, ‘Hey, I have a proposal for you. I’d like to extend an offer, if you’re interested.’ “This was a big move,” admits Anderson, “but I’m very happy I left the airlines to come full-time to Park City Aviators.
It’s really cool to be in control of the operation and to get so much hands-on experience, and to really be able to push your knowledge and limits as an aviator.
PC Aviators is a great place to be because everybody here has different skill sets, and Pete is very knowledgeable and very good at teaching.” Anderson will attend FlightSafety Intl in October for his Falcon 2000 PIC check rides, after which he will be dual qualified on the 50EX and 2000.
“Our main goals are value, safety, and customer service. We try to hold those to the highest level possible, always striving to be better and bring the best products to our customers.”