An Interview with Michael Grossmann & Dana Setting
Michael Grossmann (CEO/Owner) & Dana Setting (Marketing Director): Castle Aviation
Castle Aviation sailed (or shall we say, soared) through COVID and three recessions with flying colors, thanks in large part to its partnership with Consumers National Bank. Getting timely help from Consumers to secure a Small Business Association (SBA) SBA 504 loan for their hangar was a significant milestone, and the company continues to make great strides in their industry. Keep reading to find out how diverse cargo such as animals, freight, and people, along with the vision of the company’s fearless leader, has helped shape the organization. This is their success story—the kind of story that all of us here at Consumers love to hear!
Consumers National Bank: To start us off, tell us a little about your business, yourself, and your role in the business.
Dana Setting: I am the new marketing director at Castle Aviation. Prior to moving into marketing in 2018, I was a librarian for 10 years.
Michael Grossmann: I’ve been involved in aviation for a bit longer, and started flying on St. Patrick’s Day in 1979. At 26 years old, that made me a bit of a late starter. Early on, I was fascinated by the Sky King TV show, so maybe that influenced me. Career-wise, I was a firefighter who enjoyed flying as a hobby, on my days off. One day, I got into an accident driving home from work in Grove City, PA, and, while I was laying there, I thought I could run a business better than the guy I was working for. That changed my life.
It took about six weeks for Michael to recover from the accident but from it came the courage to start his own company. He followed his banker, Laura Horovitz, to Consumers National Bank and has never regretted it
About Castle Aviation
Castle Aviation is a Part 135 air carrier (bigger airlines are Part 121). So, the company can handle up to 30 passengers or 7,500 pounds of cargo. For Castle, the focus is primarily on air freight, as passenger transport accounts for only about 5% of the business. Castle offers retail maintenance and service to the public as well. Castle Aviation operates out of the Akron-Canton Airport in a former WWII-themed restaurant, which they extensively renovated and officially moved into in 2020.
Other Key Castle Aviation Team Members
- David Combs- President,
- Dave Scheufler- Vice President and Director or Maintenance
- Dennis Telles II- Director of Operations
- Andrea Vierheller- Director of Administration
Consumers National Bank: What was it that initially got you banking with Consumers National Bank?
Michael Grossmann: “Laura has always taken good care of me, so we followed her to Consumers National Bank. I didn’t like the big bank feel. In my opinion, they're not very personable. You’re just a number; but it’s not that way at Consumers. The bank helps clients create the necessary plans and strategies to achieve their goals; that’s what they continue to do for us”.
Although Laura prompted the move to Consumers National Bank, Michael soon became a fan of the bank’s customer service. Here are a few highlights that will likely keep Castle Aviation at Consumers National Bank for many years to come:
- Personal touch at all levels (Michael has met the bank president which, in his words, would “never happen at a big bank”).
- The bank’s understanding and appreciation of the unique needs of the aviation industry.
- Their banker has championed Castle Aviation’s unique business model.
- They are not a number but instead, a client with a face and a name, and a story that the bank cares about!
Today, Castle Aviation has gradually transitioned all its banking over to Consumers National Bank.
Consumers National Bank: How did a Consumers National Bank team member provide your business with the help it needed to succeed?
Michael Grossmann: Laura became an integral part of our business. At first, we opened a few accounts to test the relationship. Then, it was a line of credit at Consumers, transferred from another bank. Next, we needed a Small Business Loan to construct a larger hangar and build additional hangars with SBA backing. Laura navigated us through a few surprises from the FAA along the way.
Laura Horovitz: The FAA ended up saying no to a new taxiway and we had to shift it, which required a lot more asphalt, and a lot more money. But we figured out how to get it done.
Consumers National Bank: What are some of the challenges your business has faced over the years, and how have they been overcome?
Castle Aviation has faced numerous challenges including:
- 1992 - Castle operated one of the largest flight schools in the area, but when the hangars they were leasing were sold, there was nowhere else large enough to house the fleet of 16 planes. With the termination of the lease, and no other facility available, Grossmann had no choice but to close the flight school. The decision was made to concentrate solely on charter going forward.
- 2007 - decided to downsize hangar space and reimagine the company, with the help from their friends over at Consumers National Bank
- 2008 - amid worldwide economic downturns, went from 35 people to 13 people
Fast forward to 2022. The company now has nearly 80 employees and continues to acquire additional planes. The recent addition of their fifth Saab 340B means creating jobs for three more pilots.
After COVID, Consumers National Bank helped Castle Aviation apply for and receive PPP loans to remain open in uncertain times.
Laura Horovitz: Consumers National Bank helped Castle Aviation navigate the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to compete with bigger banks. But we got our applications in before the SBA was even ready to fund them.
“Every single one of our customers that applied for a PPP Loan got it done. People from other banks were reaching out, asking how we got our applications through. So, we started helping other banks come through for their customers.” – Laura Horovitz
Michael Grossmann: Consumers National Bank, more recently, helped us secure PPP loans to maintain our current staff. We were also in the middle of constructing a new building and adding additional aircraft to our fleet. Those loans helped us grow by 67% last year (2021).
Consumers National Bank: What’s Ahead for Castle Aviation?
Going forward, Castle Aviation’s focus will remain on making the business as strong and as recession-proof as possible. The business began in 1984 and initially transported sick and injured people. Through the years they ran a flight school, operated a private jet charter, and finally established themselves as a Part 135 on-demand cargo operator.
The company will continue serving the cargo needs of clients in a wide variety of industries, from live animals such as puppies, baby chickens and sea turtles, to packages both large and small for Purolator, and other domestic and international freight across the U.S., and into Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
Benefits to customers:
- Castle Aviation is available on demand, offering flexible times and cargo capacity to suit individual needs
- Flexibility is a great feature, their 24-7 customer service means someone is physically onsite at all times, and their leadership is proud to go the extra mile as well
Michael Grossmann: We would like to get into government freight work because they never shut down - but that’s harder than getting an SBA Loan! In fact, getting an SBA Loan would be easy because we have Consumers National Bank on our side!
Consumers National Bank: What’s Next for Castle Aviation?
Michael Grossmann: I want to continue serving veterans through a number of ways. First, we do flights for Veterans Airlift Command (over 140 missions so far). As part of this mission, we fly post-9/11 combat wounded warriors for medical or other compassionate reasons. I never served in the military but have a great deal of respect for all the individuals willing and able to fight for the country. We also employ veterans at every opportunity.
As we continue to expand both the business and our fleet, we look forward to expanding our relationship with Consumers National Bank even further. It’s very personal; my loan officer even knows my wife’s name (Hilda). That doesn’t usually happen with a bank.
Learn More About Castle Aviation
Bankers such as Laura Horovitz tell the story of Consumers National Bank and the dedicated professionals focused on helping small businesses grow and thrive no matter what surprises pop up along the way.
Reach out to Castle Aviation through their website or social media for more information on this dynamic company with a very real sense of mission and purpose:
Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/castleaviation/
We invite you to join the growing list of success stories helped along by the care and attention of dedicated local bankers. Contact the Consumers National Bank team or stop by your local branch office and experience the Consumers difference yourself!