Greg Paxson - Director of Maintenance, TWC Aviation
You wouldn’t think that an anatomy/physiology class in high school would lead someone to a career in aviation, but that’s how TWC Aviation director of maintenance Greg Paxson was first introduced to aviation. “I was taking anatomy/physiology, and my teacher was a private pilot,” shares Paxson. “He sponsored the aviation club at the high school. I was enamored with the teacher. He was a fabulous teacher and a great guy. I wanted to join the club because of the teacher. He introduced me to aviation.”
The aviation club included a bit of pilot ground school and exposure to aviation. The club members went flying several times a year. They got a chance to play with the controls and learned about $150.00 hamburgers.
Paxson was a junior in high school and had been bit by the aviation bug.
NBAA Safety Award
TWC Aviation recently earned the National Business
Aviation Association (NBAA) Commercial Business Flying Safety Award for 26,838 hours in 11 accident-free years.
According to the NBAA, the Flying Safety Awards cite exceptional achievement in maintaining safe flying operations. Six TWC Aviation employees also earned NBAA Flying Safety Awards. Greg Paxson received the Maintenance/
Avionics Technician Flying Safety Award for 21 accident-free years. Earning the Aviation Support Services Flying Safety Award for three accident-free years are Cherie Hecker, assistant director of operations, Lori Spevak, lead flight coordinator, Natalie Villareal, flight coordinator, Lauren Bennett, flight coordinator, and Mei Lan Wong, compliance specialist.
“We are very proud of these NBAA awards,” says Andrew Richmond, CEO of TWC Aviation, “and to know that the industry recognizes the company-wide culture of safety we established from the very beginning.
Greg Paxson adds, “The real award, though, is the trust that our clients place in us, a trust we work hard to earn, in every department, every hour of every day.”
Prior to joining the aviation club, Paxson says he had no direction on what he wanted to do after high school. The aviation club changed that. As chance would have it, right down the road from his high school was San Jose State University. The university had an aviation program, and Paxson enrolled in the University after high school. He graduated with a B.A. in Aeronautical Operations with a concentration in Maintenance Management. He also earned his A&P and private pilot certificates while in school.
The Aviation Workforce
Paxson’s first job after college was as a technician for Tower Avionics, an avionics company that performed airframe work. After that, he spent six years working at Pacific Piper, a small repair station. He started as an A&P at Pacific Piper and worked his way up to general manager.
The Transition to Management
In aviation maintenance, the best mechanics on the shop floor are typically promoted to supervisory and management roles. Unfortunately, the skills that make someone a great mechanic don’t make them a great leader or manager. With little to no formal management training, many of them are placed in situations where they are not prepared for their job duties. But because of his college degree, Paxson’s transition was a lot easier. “Having a degree was huge,” Paxson tells D.O.M. magazine. “There was big emphasis on business with the degree. I had a lot of exposure in areas other than technical aspects of an A&P. I wouldn’t say that the A&P part of it was ancillary to the degree, but it was an add-on to the degree. The degree was focused on maintenance management versus the technical side of fixing aircraft. You need to have that hands-on experience to be of any value as a manager of people who repair airplanes.”
At the same time he was working at Pacific Piper, Paxson had purchased some airplanes and put them on the flight school line at the company. During this time He also achieved his instrument, commercial, CFI, CFII, MEI, and ATP flight ratings. His plan at that point was to become a pilot/mechanic.
Paxson ended up landing a job with Silicon Valley Express, a local charter company, where he worked as a pilot/DOM for just over six years. He was able to build hours while expanding his experience as a DOM. We asked Paxson if he felt that having both an A&P and a pilot’s certificate helped him in his career. “Having an A&P got me my first pilot job without a doubt,” he answered. “And the experience I developed and gained as a pilot has definitely helped me relate better to the operational side of the house. We constantly get bombarded with questions that are borderline maintenance and operations questions. I am much better able to help answer those and help the pilots and ops side of the house out because I bridge that gap fairly easily.”
Paxson ended up moving to Southern California at what he says wasn’t a good time to be an out of work pilot. “I got a job at RoigWest, Inc, a repair station, working as a technician,” shares Paxson. “I soon became general manager and Accountable Manager at the repair station. That was the point where I left the pilot thing behind and continued on within the maintenance realm in my career.”
Paxson worked at RoigWest for five years. TWC Aviation brought several of its aircraft to the repair station for pre-purchase inspection and continuing maintenance. In 1998 TWC hired Paxson on a contract basis as a DOM to get its certificate up and running.
Paxson then decided to open up his own maintenance company and Part 145 repair station called Corporate Aircraft Technical Services (CATS). TWC followed Paxson and was CATS’ largest client. Paxson says that after about a year and a half, it made sense to join the two companies together. So TWC purchased Paxson’s company, and they integrated his repair station into TWC Aviation. Paxson stayed on to run TWC’s maintenance department as its director of maintenance. “It was a natural follow on to the developing plans at TWC,” Paxson says. “It was obvious to me that there was a tremendous commitment to quality and a dedication to building something special at TWC. It was something I wanted to be a part of.”
Paxson is DOM for TWC Aviation’s Part 135 operation and is the Accountable Manager for the company’s Part 145 repair station. The company’s Part 135 operation doesn’t do any maintenance. It contracts all maintenance to its Part 145 repair station. The 145 repair station is dedicated to TWC’s owned and managed clients. The repair station does little external work. “That’s a possibility for expansion in the future,” Paxson shares. “But it’s difficult to serve two masters. So to do our clientele justice, we focus on them exclusively. We may service a transient aircraft every now and then or help a local operator out, but we mostly concentrate on our aircraft management clients.”
TWC has a diverse fleet of aircraft ranging from Citation Mustangs to a Gulfstream 550. Having a diverse fleet requires Paxson’s staff to stay on top of their game. “In regards to training, we do a little of everything,” Paxson tells D.O.M. magazine. “We have an in-house training program. We also rely on the manufacturers and FlightSafety a lot. We take advantage of every training opportunity we can get including IA seminars and M&O courses at trade shows.”
Paxson has a fairly lean crew of five mechanics, a chief inspector and a maintenance manager. It is a logistical necessity to have everyone trained on as many different aircraft as possible. “We do a lot of cross training and a lot of on-the-job training. We might have somebody who is specialized in one airframe work alongside other folks to help them get general familiarization training. Everybody has at least general familiarization with all our makes and models.”
TWC has little turnover. “We have a crew that has been here a long time,” shares Paxson. “Three of my guys have been with me for more than 10 years. The average time for the rest of them is five or six years. We have virtually no turnover and a very solid core. When we do need to hire a mechanic, we look for someone with a fair amount of experience. I don’t have the depth to do an internship or hire an entry-level mechanic. We run lean and mean. When we bring someone in I want to make sure they are turnkey. I look for a well-rounded person. They also need to understand the 135 and 145 world.”
Since TWC Aviation has very little turnover, we asked Paxson what the secret to such a stable workforce is. “The company and I are motivated to ensure the working environment is quality,” he shares. “You can’t have dedicated long-term employees without providing a great place to work. And that commitment exists throughout the company. That is one of the great things about TWC.”
What tips would Paxson give to someone starting a career as an aviation mechanic? “Experience is important,” he says. “Get your foot in the door wherever you can and start gaining experience. Learn to recognize quality organizations right away and align yourself with them. Refuse to lower your standards. Set high standards and stick with them. Quality people make a name for themselves in this industry. If you can start doing that right away, you are going to position yourself well. And if your goal is management, then a degree is almost necessary.”