The History of Castle Aviation
While driving home from his co-pilot position at the Grove City, Pennsylvania airport, Michael H. Grossmann, was the innocent victim of a serious automobile accident that laid him up for 6 weeks. While recuperating, he had plenty of time to think about his future and determined that if he ran his own company, he could run a business better than the company he was presently flying for.
Grossmann started his first company called “Air Medical Transport, Inc.” which had a management/pilot service contract for a Piper Navajo, and also did business as the name implies: transporting sick and injured people by air. During the later part of 1985 while driving home from an airport authority meeting in New Castle, Pennsylvania, Grossmann was going to start an FBO called “New Castle Aviation.” During the 20-minute drive home, his chief pilot suggested that New Castle Aviation would not be a good name because it would always associate you with a place. It was quickly decided that Castle Aviation would be a good generic name that wouldn’t tie us to any location.
Castle Aviation, Inc. was formed. Castle Aviation, Inc. ran in conjunction with Air Medical Transport during 1986. Air Medical Transport ceased operation at the end of 1986. All business at that point was done under the name of “Castle Aviation, Inc.” and a trade name of Aeromed was added as a division of Castle Aviation, Inc.
The offices for Air Medical Transport, Inc. and Castle Aviation, Inc. were first located in the Grossmann’s home in Boardman, Ohio until May 1987 when the Grossmann’s purchased their first commercial property located at the Portage County Airport.
The 3600 sq. ft. hanger and 1200 sq. ft. offices was Castle’s 1st home.
During 1988, Grossmann started negotiating with the city of Akron to start a flight school and an FBO at the Akron Fulton International Airport. Castle opened an office at the Akron Fulton terminal building in February of 1990.
Castle Aviation, Inc. grew to be one of the largest flight schools in the area and established itself as a small FBO. During the two years at Akron Fulton International Airport, Castle also leased 12,000 sq. ft. of hangar space on the south side of the airport. These hangars had tremendous history because the Goodyear Corsair was built there. This move was short lived because of the city selling the terminal building and canceling all the tenants’ leases in January of 1992. During the time at Akron Fulton International Airport, Castle grew to have a 4 aircraft charter fleet, 12 aircraft flight school fleet, and 22 employees. With the termination of the lease, and no other facility available, Grossmann had no choice but to lay- off most of his staff, shut down his flight school and FBO and head back home to Portage County Airport. This is when the decision was made to concentrate solely on our core business, CHARTER, which we were quite successful at.
Castle stayed in their original building until February of 1995 when the Portage County Regional Airport Authority bought the building, which was eventually torn down to make room for a new fuel farm and parking area. Castle moved to the north side of the field into a hangar, which is still known as the old Portage County paint shop.
The new hangar was almost twice as big as Castle’s original hangar. This allowed us to put all our airplanes inside when they weren’t being used verses some being parked outside. Castle remained in that building until May of 1998,when it agreed to move to the south side of the airport and occupy the airport authorities hangar, which allowed Castle to grow even more in its new 14,000 sq. ft. home. Castle was housed there for 9 months before having an opportunity to move to the Akron Canton Regional Airport.
The move happened February 15, 1999 where Castle leased 12000 SF on the southeast side of the airport referred to as building 39.
By January 2000 Castle bought and settled into building 10 its new home, a 30,000 sq. ft. hangar and office complex formally owned by the BF Goodrich Company.
This lasted until a decision was made to split charter from the FBO. In early 2007, Castle 1st Class and Castle Air Cargo moved back to the leased building 39 where it was in 1999. Castle Airport Services remained in building 10 as the FBO. Things were great. The charter company reduced its overhead and the FBO was growing monthly. While we were looking for customers for the FBO, a large corporate company came looking for space. First, they just wanted to rent, which quickly turned into leasing half of the hangar and finally, one day they came in and offered to buy the entire hanger complex at a very attractive price. After the shock, Michael and Hilda decided that it was best to sell the hangar and close the FBO. They helped find all the employees’ jobs and all FBO tenants new homes. With the extra time Michael had, he started flying more because of the pilot shortage. One day one of the former FBO customers said they moved to Akron Fulton International Airport and of coarse this sparked some interest from Michael. He went to AKR and saw what he left in 1992; a golden egg with great potential. Michael was hired as a consultant to help Williams Aviation FBO build and develop business. Michael became the General Manager and during the negotiations, Williams, the FBO, convinced Michael to move.
July 1, 2008.
Castle moved its entire charter operations to AKR.
Castle now rents space at Summit Air, which took over Williams Aviation at the Akron Fulton International Airport. They are housed in the 200,000SF building E that was the final assembly hangar for the Goodyear Corsair (FG) in the early 1940’s. It is the hope that this is the last move for Castle. Seven times is enough says Grossmann. We now have plenty of room to grow. Also, on July 1, 2008, Castle sold it’s sister company, Northstar Business Aviation, Inc. By selling Northstar, we have exited the jet charter market because of the high cost of fuel and the extremely high price jets required. Castle Aviation’s new focus is on the lower cost, propeller driven market. Castle is now operating with 2 dba’s: Castle 1st Class, which is dedicated to providing passenger transportation. The other, Castle Air Cargo, which is dedicated to moving airfreight.
November 1, 2009
Castle makes another move back to the Akron Canton Airport (KCAK). The move was necessary because of the increasing costs at KAKR. The only way to survive today is to control overhead. Hopefully this is the last move but we will do whatever to survive.
Castle added a 5th Caravan Super Cargomaster and the Merlin IIIA is back. The Merlin is one of the only 9 passenger planes in located in northeast Ohio. With the addition of these 2 aircraft Castle is back to a 9 aircraft fleet which it has not seen in over 5 years.