Stevens Aviation has a long history as a privately held, local business. It began in 1950 as the J.P. Stevens Aviation Department, which operated a small piston-powered aircraft to support the large textile company in Greenville, S.C. The company and its flight department were integral members of the local community, and long-time Greenville residents and employees of Stevens Aviation still talk about the gentle manners and southern hospitality of Ralph Cuthbertson Sr., Stevens’ first pilot and president. Sixty-four years later, with five locations and two satellite facilities, Stevens Aviation prides itself on being a closely held, family-oriented company.
“Our technicians have an average tenure of 15 years and many go far back with the company. One of our employees, Gary Ward, received the 2014 FAA Charles Taylor Master Mechanic Award for his 53 years of excellence. Our roots go deep in the community,” Paul Witt, Stevens Aviation’s executive vice president, told AIN. “While Stevens continues to promote the same family and community values that Ralph Cuthbertson did, and many of our customers think of us as the company that sold and continues to service the Beechcraft they still fly today, we strive to be innovative within the industry and are known for our work on Learjets. Over our 64 years in the general and business aviation community, we have built an excellent reputation for our services.”
Business Thrives at Greenville
According to Witt, the Greenville location continues to grow for several reasons. “I think one of the things that particularly appeals to our customers is we do a considerable amount of work for the military. Our customers know they benefit from the strict oversight the military puts on us with respect to the quality of work and meeting deadlines,” he said.
“We’re looking for more technicians, but it’s increasingly difficult to find seasoned maintenance professionals because many of them left the industry during the lean years and not as many young people are coming into the industry. It’s a challenge considering we are in a significant growth mode, branching into Challengers and Gulfstreams.”
The MRO is also seeing a significant growth in its paint and interior business, an expansion Witt attributes to an increasing number of operators purchasing used aircraft rather than a more expensive new one. “We have a lot of pre-buys coming into our facility, and that naturally feeds into our paint, interior and avionics departments,” he said.
Stevens Aviation’s 200,000-sq-ft Greenville facility is a modern, sprawling campus that includes a military maintenance depot, U.S. and international government services, commercial maintenance, an avionics repair, installation and upgrade shop, a parts department, a sheet metal shop, an engine shop, electrical shop, quality control, a paint (exterior refurbishment) department, completions, engineering, a design center and associated administrative support offices.
The Stevens campus is located in the South Carolina Technology and Aviation Center (SCTAC) on Donaldson Center Airport (GYH) about six miles south of the Greenville central business district. SCTAC is one of a handful of industrial parks that started as an Air Force base but has evolved into an oasis for commercial business development and economic growth. SCTAC’s 2,600 acres include an 8,000-foot-long runway near the I-85 corridor between Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., with access to air, interstate, railways and the major shipping port-of-call in Charleston, S.C. There are currently more than 80 diverse companies with an international presence in manufacturing, trade, technology and aviation.
Since Witt’s arrival the FAR Part 145 and EASA certified MRO has expanded its AOG mobile services as well as its fleet maintenance business. Under his leadership, the Gulfstream and large-cabin programs have prospered and the company has strong Beechcraft, Bombardier, Cessna, Learjet and Pilatus programs. In addition, services are provided to FAA-registered large-cabin jets from the Middle East, and Stevens also is an authorized service center for Embraer, Piaggio and TBM.
“Our strategy at Stevens is to increase the value of the airplane by providing nose-to-tail, inside-and-out premier services. The premier service, in part, includes 20 percent less downtime and the ‘Buddy and Wizard’ process. When your airplane arrives, you are met by a Buddy and a Wizard. The Buddy manages your maintenance event and the Wizard is the technical expert for the airplane. They will lead the effort and provide daily contact for continuous status and schedule updates,” Witt said.
“We believe our customer service is our differentiation. We’re owned by one individual, and given our history, we think of our customers as family. Most MROs do the same things, struggle through the same problems; to be different we focus on customer service and shorter down times. We’re able to do that because of our corporate culture, our experienced mechanics and the diversity of our operations.”