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Meet Charley Valera of FCA Flight Center in Fitchburg

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charley Valera.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Charley. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Back in 1997, I was offered a 1/3 share in a flight school. The very same one that I received my pilots license through. My role was to market and grow the business. We had one partner as an investor only and another that ran all the day-to-day operations.

In 2011, the partner doing the operations had succumbed quickly and unexpectedly to cancer—leaving the two of us to either close the business or restructure it with only myself as full owner.

When I first started running the business, the entire operation was a labor of love. There was no room for a salary or benefits. Fast forward 6 years and the business now has hundreds of students learning to fly and full and part time instructors earning their living as FAA Certified Flight Instructors. I’ve basically stopped my marketing more than a year ago as we can only handle so many students successfully. We train in 6 different aircrafts, located in the only space in a new terminal building and have won two consecutive national awards from Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the world’s largest pilots association.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The roads are never smooth when trying to increase business from a model that was not producing enough income. We had been sub-tenants of a conflicting landlord that need immediate attention. How to negotiate a reasonable lease or at the very least a tenant at will situation to keep us in not only in business, but on our way to the black in our accounts.

Once those negotiations failed, we were moved to a much smaller size facility about 1/3 of or previous location. All while adding and changing rosters, students and additional business opportunities without additional financing.

The past year, we moved for a third time in as many years. We are now leasing from a municipality. They have their own full-time attorney, their own set of rules and regulations and nothing even similar to the entrepreneurial spirit I’m accustomed to. Working on a lease alone has been a grueling nine month process.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Running a flight school is a living breathing business. It is full of various personalities and age groups all with common fears, concerns and goals. Aviation business is about these people. The high school kids, the retired empty nesters and the wealthy business owners all working together to overcome the fear of their unknown but desire to learn how to fly. The basic lessons, home study, first solo flight, FAA written exams, oral exams and flight tests. Each step being a milestone and game changer in their lives. I’ve been honored to work with everyone from MIT graduates to high school graduates and in between. Being recognized by aviation’s largest organizations, AOPA, EAA, media, business’ and the local pilots association has been a wonderful experience and opportunity to shine with our students and Instructors.

What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was (am) the youngest of four boys. My mother was always trying to herd her cats home while Dad did mostly his own work and social life. Our father was a WWII veteran, spending 3 years in Europe had to have a major impact on him. He was my inspiration for my award-winning book entitled, “My Father’s War: Memories from Our Honored WWII Soldiers” that is still climbing the charts and taking me on a whirlwind of book signing tours and events.

Back in my early days, I’d say I was more quiet than outgoing. Living in an area of Massachusetts where we learned street smarts at an early age to avoid a dangerous situation. In 1988, I received my real estate license and followed in my mother’s footsteps as a Realtor. Almost 30 years later, I’m still selling real estate and enjoying the people helping business.

I have two wonderful boys and a fantastic wife, we live on a quiet dead-end street on a lake and continue to make our mark on the world in these many ways.

Pricing:

  • Introductory flight lessons start at $99.00
  • My Father’s War book is available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon $30.99

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Charley Valera

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