Fuelling Connections

posted on 2nd October 2023
Fuelling  Connections

EVA spoke with Avfuel’s Craig Sincock and CR Sincock and, most importantly, two of its long‑term customers, to find out what keeps Avfuel at the top of its game

President and CEO Craig Sincock has steered Avfuel through almost four decades of its 50-year history. He acquired the company in 1985 and while some executives consider a passion for aviation less than ideal for starting out in the industry, Craig has made a combination of passion and good business sense work.
“Acquiring Avfuel was an opportunity to marry my passion for aviation with my entrepreneurial mindset – I started out as a financial consultant. If I didn’t have passion for what I do, I wouldn’t be able to do it every day,” he says.
“Most of Avfuel’s leadership team feels the same way. We’ve made a habit of hiring great people who are passionate about their role in the company, their role in aviation. These leaders have been with the company for decades. A consistent leadership team has most certainly contributed to Avfuel’s success over the last 50 years, not just by providing stability, but also by fostering a positive work environment that attracts new talent with fresh ideas so we can keep growing with and for the industry.”
In the early years of Craig’s stewardship, Avfuel grew almost as its customers demanded. “It was a small aviation fuel supplier serving a handful of Midwest states with a bare-bones crew,” he recalls. “I knew it could be so much more. Our growth started organically with the simple act of listening. With my young son CR in tow, I flew to just about every FBO in the country, asking questions and listening to their needs. What they told me drove Avfuel’s business plan. We took their needs and their problems, put our heads together, and developed a portfolio of services and solutions to surround the fuel and support their operation. No other fuel supplier at the time was doing that.
“We grew our customer network one location at a time and our service lines one solution at a time. However, I knew that to establish a market leadership position we’d need moments of quick expansion. These came in the form of smart acquisitions, some of which earned us a greater geographic footprint in new key markets, others helped us establish new in-house subsidiaries, still others gained greater pipeline access to product.”

Fuelling partnerships
Every business aircraft operator uses fuel, yet it has so far proven impossible to find one with a bad word to say about Avfuel. Long-time Avfuel customer Don Campion, President/Head Coach at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport’s Banyan Air Service, explains. “The Banyan team views Avfuel as a ‘partner’, not just a vendor. From the day they purchased our former fuel supplier in the 1990s they wanted to help us be successful. They assisted with marketing campaigns, supplied state-of-the-art fuel trucks and their representative was constantly in communication. Craig Sincock has always had an open door policy and a spirit of continuous improvement as we have pursued excellence in service, equipment and the employees that work for our companies.”
Banyan has been at Fort Lauderdale since 1979, growing from being a maintenance facility to an FBO in 1986. “We researched fuel suppliers and surveyed colleagues in the business and the recommendation for our little FBO was Avfuel,” Campion says. “Big brand suppliers also drilled for petroleum or refined fuel and often viewed aviation as a small percentage of their business. Avfuel focuses on supporting the FBOs that are ‘Avfuel’-branded and works with corporate pilots and flight departments at the highest level in the industry. From billing to credit cards and other incentives, Avfuel delivers.”
Craig Sincock believes the secret to establishing and maintaining that kind of customer relationship is in taking a human approach to business. “We’re not a product-first company, we’re a people-first company. That means listening to customers and doing right by them. It means being the easiest to work with and the most likeable team. You want people to want to do business with you. You have to build trust in your operation by being dependable, approachable and always ready to lend an ear. In this way, we have nurtured relationships with customers, many of them becoming decades-long partnerships. I am fortunate to call these customers my friends and true members of my aviation family. I’m continuously learning from them and am made better by them. They inspire me and remind me why I love this industry.”

Fuelling sustainability
Throughout Avfuel’s 50 years, turbine-engined aircraft have consumed Jet A and piston-engined machines Avgas. Those fuels are likely to remain dominant in business aviation for decades to come and Avfuel has been especially active in the market for their more sustainable equivalents – SAF and (lead-free) 100UL Avgas.
There are challenges to SAF adoption and, says Avfuel Executive Vice President CR Sincock, “Like any new product, there was mixed reception upon market introduction – this is especially true when you’re talking about an aviation fuel. However, the fact remains that sustainable aviation fuel is aviation’s best solution for reaching its lofty goal of obtaining net-zero emissions by 2050. Furthermore, demand continues to outweigh production.
“We have a home for every gallon of SAF we’re given to distribute, and, comparatively, business aviation is leading its adoption by using more than its ‘fair share’ of the product. In 2022, business aviation consumed approximately 15% of manufactured SAF in the US, between six and eight million gallons of blended product. However, business aviation only uses 5% of total jet fuel volumes in the industry.
“Avfuel supports the SAF initiative through education, including participation in numerous presentation opportunities, on industry organisation committees, communicating directly with its customers, and working directly with trade organisations and the media. Furthermore, Avfuel works daily to secure additional commitments for SAF and communicate supply needs with producers to spur greater production. To date, Avfuel supplies SAF on a consistent basis to 14 of its FBO customers, in addition to numerous corporate flight departments and OEMs.”
The Monterey Fuel Company’s (MFC) Monterey Jet Center (MJC) and Del Monte Aviation FBOs at California’s Monterey Peninsula Airport were the first to take Avfuel-supplied SAF. Matthew Wright, VP for Monterey Fuel Company, explains: “MFC was the launch site for Avfuel and SAF. We were also the first US FBO to segregate our SAF inventory – we don’t dilute or co-mingle our SAF and Jet A – allowing for maximum carbon benefit and, most importantly, ad hoc transactional documentation for customers interested in the SAF option.”
But the relationship between MJC and Avfuel runs far deeper than SAF. Wright continues: “We rely on our partnership with Avfuel from an operational standpoint for their best-in-class access to supply; reliable delivery by vetted hauling partners; complete, accurate and conforming documentation that assures product quality; and industry-leading access to next-generation aviation fuels.
“Equally important, our partnership allows us access to Avfuel’s highly talented marketing team; co-branding opportunities for promotional and branding items; highly competitive rates for transactional processing; and direct access to one of the world’s largest networks of aviation contract fuel users. Further, partnering with Avfuel gives MFC access to their fuel safety programmes; technical support on aviation fuel-related projects; and special support for the unique, large-scale events that we host every year.”

Fuelling the future
Avfuel has set its own bar high. What challenges are posed by a future in which aviation fuels are inevitably going to change? CR Sincock responds: “Will we be a fuel company in 50 years? Possibly. Or, more likely, we’ll be an energy company. That’s what Avfuel is at the core of its operation, it just happens to look like jet fuel at the moment. Whatever the future of aviation, Avfuel will fulfil its customers’ needs with the products, services, education and infrastructure they need to keep global connections soaring.
“We stay at the forefront of these developments and want a hand in it all to lead what’s coming. That means partnerships, supply agreements, research and development, and investment in next-generation companies, including VerdeGo Aero; Air Company; Alder Fuels; Gevo, Inc; and Neste, which provides Avfuel with consistent SAF supply today.”
“Sustainability, in the sense of longevity,” Wright suggests, “is rooted in doing what you love. Aviation business, perhaps more than most industries, is about relationships. Organisational performance is very much about culture. Avfuel, above all other suppliers, represents these core beliefs, aligning closely with, and supporting deeply, what MFC chooses to bring to this aviation market we love.”
Craig Sincock agrees. “Aviation is fun. It’s exciting. It’s important. Avfuel has a crucial role to play in fulfilling aviation’s purposes and goals… to keep fuelling connections, on a global scale, as efficiently, safely and sustainably as possible.”