Contructing the future of business aviation
Sheltair commands an operation of 19 FBOs and counting. Here’s how a construction company forged in the 1960s laid the foundations to become one of the US’s top rated FBOs. Words: Yves Le Marquand
Smiling in the sunshine at Sheltair's Telluride FBO in Colorado.
Jerry Holland, chairman and CEO, Sheltair
SHELTAIR PROUDLY BOASTS three generations of service to the aviation industry: chairman and CEO, Jerry Holland, his daughter and president, Lisa Holland and her son, Kai Seymour the Florida-based firm’s property manager.
The story begins back in 1963 when Jerry founded his construction business, focusing on the residential and commercial sectors. Through that he found an opportunity to build hangars at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE) in the ’70s, marking the start of his foray into aviation real estate construction.
During the ’80s, Jerry developed and leased hangars at FXE, later expanding to Melbourne International Airport (MLB). FBOs were also built and leased to third-party companies. Eventually, in 1988, he acquired his first FBO at Fort Lauderdale International Airport, followed by a second FBO base at Daytona International Airport. Through the ’90s and 2000s, Sheltair continued to expand. Today, Sheltair is present at 24 US airports where it operates 19 FBO bases and manages over 4.5m sq ft of aviation real estate.
Jerry tells Corporate Jet Investor (CJI) the success of Sheltair can be measured in many ways, including financial growth, expanding footprint and real estate development. “Sheltair has worked relentlessly to establish a well-known industry reputation for going above and beyond since its inception. For this reason, measuring the growth of the company's positive image, both internally and externally, is a must. The company relies on constant feedback from both customers and employees.”
Sheltair was ranked best in business in the AIN FBO survey for 2021, managing to be the only FBO network with seven FBOs in the top 20%, as well as topping the rankings in all regions where Sheltair has a presence.
Jerry says: “Safety is of the essence and it is a core value for the company. Year-after-year, we invest in programmes that help ensure our employees’, customers’ and aircraft safety. Sheltair is currently ISBAH [International Standard for Business Aircraft Handling] certified stage two and NATA [National Air Transport Association] Safety 1st Clean accredited.”
The company also makes a point of measuring its success via the impact on the community across its bases in Florida, Georgia, New York, and Colorado. Sheltair supports non-profit organisations and partners with first responders to help communities in distress after major natural disasters, the most recent being Covid-19 where the company supported ambulance and repatriation flights.
Charitable organisations hold a special place in Lisa's heart and she is continuously finding ways to get Sheltair more involved with various causes. The firm has been a partner and supporter of Racing for Cancer; I Hart Flying Foundation, which aims to encourage women into aviation; and the Aerospace Center for Excellence. Lisa has also organised several 3 mile (5km) runs, most recently raising $16,000 to combat hunger in the US through a virtual run that supported local food banks. She also began a volunteer paid time off policy that allows employees to volunteer for causes of their choice while still getting paid by the company. Another project is dedicated to encouraging a two-year pledge to Adopt a Shore supporting the clean-up of beaches across Florida's west coast.
Wife of Jerry Holland
Chairman and CEO
Wife of Jerry Holland
Chairman and CEO
The firm's Fort Lauderdale base features over 14,000 sq ft of office space alone.
Before being appointed as president, Lisa was Sheltair’s president of corporate strategies which, she says, gave her a great basis for the new role.
“It is vital to lead by example,” says Lisa. “And just like putting on an event, leading a company requires you to roll up your sleeves and do what is required to make the event or the company a success. Multitasking is a must in both roles while always being transparent. No matter what the business is, it is also essential to conduct yourself with integrity while staying true to yourself, showing appreciation to those around you and appreciating yourself. Your event, or company, is only as good as the team you surround yourself with.”
Being family-owned means that Sheltair does not need lengthy board meetings or special commissions to make decisions, improving flexibility too. Lisa added: “Sheltair also enjoys a more profound and closer relationship with its employees, creating a family-like atmosphere and culture where all team members develop a sense of belonging. At the same time, carrying the family legacy is deeply rewarding, especially with three generations that get to work together daily to enrich and grow the brand that Sheltair is today.”
Kai certainly agrees. He told CJI working within a strong family-run aviation company has allowed him to adapt and work within the vision that his grandfather and mother have established over the years. “The family values truly radiate throughout our network, creating a super tight-knit and supportive work culture at Sheltair. I look forward to building on the foundation my grandfather began and watching the Sheltair family grow as we continue developing and expanding our network to support operators across the country."
Sheltair is present at 24 airports.
Sheltair is “a super tight-knit team,” says Kai Seymour.
From turboprops to jets, Sheltair maintains a wide range of aircraft types.
Sheltair's new FBO terminal at Orlando Executive Airport opened in April.
The line between home and working life is often blurred at the best of times in a family-run business. This can make important decisions difficult to make, but this is something Sheltair is aware of. Lisa told CJI that decisions are not just made for the sake of business and profit, but instead, they are made taking into consideration the “deep family values to which we vow to stay faithful”.
Part of family life is personal interaction and this is something Lisa applies to her working role too, ensuring relationships with staff are maintained across the board. From a professional perspective, she said having personal interactions with Sheltair staff at all levels and bases helps her cope with stress. “The relationships I have nurtured with the members of this growing aviation family of 500-plus translate into a sense of mutual trust and understanding.”
It was with the company’s family values in mind that Lisa lead Sheltair through the pandemic. After being appointed in February 2020 she had barely a month before the aviation market plummeted, testing Lisa with what she describes as the biggest challenge of her life.
Lisa Holland proudly holds AIN's award for Best New FBO Facility 2020 for Sheltair’s Rocky Mountain base.
FBO services and more: “Sheltair is more than just an FBO,” explained Jerry Holland. “It is a leading developer of aviation-related properties.”
Rocky mountain home: Sheltair’s newest FBO nestles at the foot of the Rocky Mountains between Denver and Boulder at Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport, Colorado.
“I made it my top priority to find ways to keep everyone employed and we were successful. During these first few months, the company was focused on providing support to repatriation flights and medical flights across the network. Sheltair began to see an uptick in general aviation traffic towards the end of June. The company quickly identified that most of the incoming customers were first-time private aviation users. Research showed that thousands of users across the country felt more comfortable traveling privately as they had full control of their environment on an aircraft. This exposed many people to general aviation, creating a new wave of customers for the industry.”
“Business aircraft continue to get larger in size…”
Jerry Holland, Sheltair
Serving that new wave of customers is part of Sheltair’s business blueprint for the next 10 years. The continuous growth of general aviation has created immense potential for the development of new opportunities. Jerry explained: “As proven through the Covid-19 pandemic, the resilience shown by our industry proves that our future is bright. Sheltair is more than just an FBO. It is a leading developer of aviation-related properties. With a growing number of facility requirements from operators, the company can act on the customers' needs and provide solutions for aviators. Business aircraft continue to get larger in size, and Sheltair has captured the needs of the aircraft we see today and anticipated the needs for future aircraft.”
To any youngster aspiring to a career in aviation Lisa points out “the sky is not the limit”, in fact it is just the beginning. As the Shelter story has proven, if you the lay the foundations right, with creativity and a strong work ethic, anything is possible. “Believe in yourself and continue to remain confident regardless of the challenges that may come across your path. Surround yourself with great people full of ideas, take initiatives, step out of the box often, and be prepared for change,” says Lisa.
“Leading a company requires you to roll up your sleeves and do what is required.”
Lisa Holland, Sheltair