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Business aircraft work hard for heavy equipment dealers

Industry leaders explain the long-term benefits of ownership

For heavy equipment distributors, business happens in many places – at branch stores, manufacturers’ factories, equipment demonstrations, customers’ offices, industry meetings and training sessions. Bridging the hundreds of miles between them, often in the same day and from locations not readily serviced by airlines, poses huge challenges.

To avoid the unproductive down time that comes from driving or flying commercially, Stowers Machinery Corporation has operated business aircraft for 55 years. The company's founders realized the benefits early, giving it an edge that has led to significant growth, as well as long-term stability and success.

Why business aircraft work for heavy equipment dealers:

  • They save time and allow for same-day turnaround
  • They provide greater schedule flexibility and control - depart and arrive on your terms
  • They make it easier to gain more face-to-face time with customers
  • They can be more cost effective than airlines, especially with a larger group

Since opening its doors in 1960, Stowers Machinery Corporation has always owned and operated aircraft – starting with a Cessna® 170. With their heavy machinery dealership based in Knoxville, Tennessee, the three Stowers brothers needed to visit manufacturers’ factories in neighboring states. Driving meant long hours traveling back roads and overnight stays in motels. With their single-engine piston aircraft, the entrepreneurs were able fly into small towns quickly and easily to reach factories, remote job sites and customers.

"Aircraft have been a part of our business since the beginning. Two of my uncles were pilots," said Wes Stowers, president.

"In the old days, travel was a lot more difficult, far more so than today. We didn’t have the interstates back then. But, with the little airplane, they could just get in and go."

Stowers Machinery Corporation owns two aircraft, including this Cessna Citation CJ3 for long-range trips.

Today, Stowers Machinery has grown to 355 employees. It sells and services heavy equipment, from large construction and mining machines to small, compact construction equipment, such as skid-steer loaders and mini excavators, in Tennessee’s eastern 38 counties. It also sells a broad line of diesel and natural gas-powered generators and operates a full-service rental division. In addition to being a Caterpillar dealer, Stowers represents Screen Machine, Bandit, GOMACO, Genie, Finn, Sullair, BBA Pumps, Weiler and other product lines.

Aircraft have played such a crucial role in developing and growing the company that Stowers Machinery has owned and operated two aircraft at a time during most of its history. Today, the business operates a Cessna Citation® CJ3® business  jet for longer trips and a Beechcraft® Baron® piston aircraft B58 for short hops. The company employs a full-time pilot, and Stowers is a veteran pilot with nearly 9,900 flight hours.

"We primarily use the airplanes to visit factories or equipment demonstrations throughout the eastern U.S., taking four to eight customers or employees. We can pick up our customers at their hometown airports and go directly to a factory, whether it’s in Illinois, North Carolina, Texas, Arkansas or Indiana. We can be there in an hour and 20 minutes. It saves a whole day of traveling and puts us in total control of the schedule.”Wes Stowers, President, Stowers Machinery Corporation

The aircraft also help employees visit the company’s six stores, attend training sessions and stay active in industry groups.

"A lot of times, we’ll have five, six or seven employees who have to be in another city. It's cost effective and certainly time effective to put them on our airplane," Stowers said.

Comparing a typical day of travel for Stowers Machinery

* Time depends on connecting flights. Time en route does not include 90 minutes to check in and go through security or the delays that are common in connecting cities.

  • Airline
    4 to 7 hours*

  • Citation CJ3
    1 hour 15 minutes

  • Drive
    8 hours 30 minutes
    (one way)

He suggests companies in the market for an aircraft look for the best combination of speed, payload, range and price that fits the company's travel needs.

"Find something that fits your mission," said Stowers, a former fighter pilot for the Air Force. "The CJ3 has been a great airplane for us. It's so fuel-efficient. It burns less fuel in an hour cruising at 40,000 feet than I used to burn in one minute in afterburner in the F-4. It's fast. It has good legs, a great payload and it’s comfortable."

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