November 1, 2012
By Thomas A. Horne
Photography by Chad Slattery
For many of those new to turbine flying, the step up can be daunting. Yes, you’ve run the numbers and decided to take the plunge. But then comes the buying process and all that entails. Here’s where some professional help is worth it. And here’s where a firm such as Santa Monica, California-based jetAVIVA comes into play.
Cofounders Ben Marcus and Cyrus Sigari started jetAVIVA in 2006 with the idea of providing personalized sales, brokerage, customer acceptance, delivery, and pilot services specifically tailored to those in the market for light, single-pilot turboprops and jets. To date, jetAVIVA has racked up more than 600 aircraft sales around the world, and the company, with a half-billion dollars’ worth of sales, calls itself the number-one light jet sales organization in the world—and one of the top five brokerage firms. While it now has 15 employees and serves customers around the globe, the jetAVIVA story has humble beginnings.
It began when Marcus and Sigari were childhood friends with an interest in aviation. By the time they were in their teens, they were Civil Air Patrol cadets, and rode shotgun on Angel Flight missions. Then came pilot certificates and Purdue University, where Sigari earned a degree in aeronautical engineering and Marcus a degree in aviation technology. A turning point came when they both went to work for Eclipse Aviation—Sigari as propulsion systems engineer and Marcus as a flight test engineer. But even though Eclipse promised a bright future, Marcus and Sigari wanted to strike out on their own. So they quit Eclipse, without having anywhere to go. They holed up in Sigari’s parents’ house in Los Angeles and figured out their next steps.
jetAVIVA partners Ben Marcus (left) and Cyrus Sigari put a deal together in the aft seats of a Cessna Citation Mustang.
Those steps included forming a sales and management company that advised iFly, a shared ownership company. Then the two managed five Eclipse 500s and offered acceptance services and jet familiarization training. Eventually, the management company was sold to JetAlliance—another company specializing in Eclipse jets—and jetAVIVA began to focus on sales and acceptance services.
The idea was to get away from an Eclipse-only orientation and aim at the Cessna CJ and Embraer Phenom light jets, plus TBM and Pilatus turboprop singles. “We became a customer-focused, manufacturer-agnostic service company,” Sigari says. “But with a single-pilot emphasis.”
Today, jetAVIVA takes customers through a comprehensive process that can lead to aircraft ownership. First, the company evaluates a prospect’s travel needs and helps narrow the choices down to the airplanes best suited for the mission, then begins a search. Once the right airplane is found, jetAVIVA does pre-purchase acceptance checks to make sure the airplane is in compliance with all the necessary regulatory and maintenance requirements. After the sale, jetAVIVA can provide mentor training and let customers build experience using one of its seven staff pilots. Marcus is the Phenom and Eclipse expert, along with Greg Oswald. Sigari is the Mustang and Citation specialist, along with Scott Marti, Matt Stringfellow, and Derek Schmidt. Mario Lucchese is the manager of Embraer sales, and specializes in Phenom acceptance checks and delivery flights (he’s done 35) that take him all over the world. At this writing David Lee was setting up an Atlanta office that will deal in Pilatus PC–12s.
There’s more. The company was central in establishing the Citation Jet Pilots Association and the Phenom Jet Association. At these and other owners’ conventions jetAVIVA also provides companion training to spouses, which includes instruction in contacting ATC and making landings. Through jetAVIVA’s input, Sean D. Tucker’s Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety in King City, California, established its popular Turbine Pilot Confidence Training Course. Its goal is to make turbine pilots familiar with upset-recovery procedures. Marcus and Sigari are occasional contributors to AOPA Pilot’s Turbine Edition.
When it comes time to sell an airplane, jetAVIVA conducts “demo tours” to multiple locations around the nation. “Basically, we take a seller’s fuel card and head out to fly prospects,” Sigari said. “It’s been a remarkably successful program. We’ve sold 15 airplanes on demo tours.”
In six short years, jetAVIVA has built an impressive network—a family, it likes to think—of owners, sellers, and buyers who continually refer new business to the company. Are there any trends jetAVIVA has identified? One is that Cirrus owners tend to step up to Citations and Eclipses. Meanwhile, Eclipse owners move up to Citations; PC–12 and TBM owners move to Phenom 300s; and Piper Meridian owners like PC–12s and Phenoms.
What’s on the horizon for jetAVIVA? Expansion. “In the future, we want to deal in the Bombardier, Boeing, Gulfstream, Hawker Beechcraft, and Dassault Falcon Jet markets,” Marcus said. At the rate they’re going, that future may be soon in coming.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
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