The British Business Aviation Association (BBGA), has honoured Penny Stephens (pictured above), chief executive officer of Inflite – The Jet Centre, with its prestigious Michael Wheatley Award.
The award was presented by Marwan Khalek, chairman and Marc Bailey, chief executive officer from the BBGA, during the association’s annual conference at Luton Hoo, where more than 140 industry delegates and guests attended.
Bailey said: “This award is in recognition of the remarkable contribution Penny has given and continues to make to our industry. She has successfully helped evolve a family-run, independent business into a thriving, international focused concern in MRO and executive aviation handling for over three decades, without losing any of those family-held values. Her selection for this accolade was unanimous.”
Penny’s interest in aviation began at aged 17, when she learned to fly at the Southend Flying School. Her first role in aviation was with Thurston Aviation in Stapleford, working alongside Eric Thurston, as a secretary. She then moved into administration, before taking on a dual operational role in ATC as a pilot assistant.
After a career break to have a family, in 1992 Stephens joined her husband, Ray Stephens, at his aviation company – Inflite. She took on all aspects of the MRO business and was instrumental in signing up airlines such as Aer Lingus and Lutfhansa to support their BAE 146 regional jets. A strong relationship with BAE Systems saw the 500th C check pass through Inflite’s hangar.
In 2006 business entrepreneur Lord Alan Sugar and Daniel Sugar, managing director of Amsair, contacted Stephens. Daniel Sugar wanted their new Embraer Legacy 600 maintained in the UK rather than Europe.
The Legacy was new to the market, but taking it on and training engineers on the aircraft type proved to be a smart decision by Mr and Mrs Stephens. Today, Inflite Jet Centre is the largest EMEA Authorised Service Centre for the Legacy, Lineage and Phenom family.
In 2012, as chief executive officer, Stephens transformed Inflite Jet Centre into a luxury dedicated FBO and MRO, responding to a gap in the market for larger VVIP lounges to host executive flights.
Alan Barnes, head of customer services, who has worked with Inflite for 20 years, said: “There is an unsurpassed drive to achieve the impossible and offer solutions to this demanding sector. Penny installs responsibility, confidence and exactly the right level of accountability. This award is well deserved.”
The Inflite Jet Centre’s expansion continues with the acquisition of Bombardier Challenger and Global Express specialist – Excellence Aviation of Farnborough, last month, adding capability in Bombardier Global and Challenger MRO, CAMO and aircraft management to Inflite’s activity on Embraer and Boeing BBJs.