The Flying Scholarship scheme gave Tom Perry an early passion for aviation, and he continues to call on that today as he leads sales efforts for Textron Aviation’s iconic Beechcraft and Cessna brands in Europe.
Have you always had a passion for aviation?
Any boy growing up next to a British Airways Concorde pilot was going to be drawn to a career in aviation. In fact, I was surrounded by aviators. On my road were two other houses owned by pilots – one was called “Downwind” and the other “Three Greens”. But I think my own dreams really came true as a schoolboy when I got to fly myself, thanks to the Flying Scholarship scheme and later with Bristol University Air Squadron.
Why did you choose a career in the business aviation industry?
Before joining Cessna, I had been working in Shannon for Guinness Peat Aviation during a particularly buoyant time for operating lessors of 150-seat airliners. GPA owned a Cessna Citation III (EI-SNN) and, though I only flew on it once, when an opportunity arose to join the manufacturer I jumped at the chance.
Tell us about your current role
As vice-president of sales in Europe, I get to lead a passionate team of professionals who, like me, believe in offering our customers the very best in aviation products and services. We have responsibility for the sale of all Textron Aviation’s products throughout Europe and Russia. The products range from the world’s most popular aircraft (the Cessna Skyhawk 172) to the world’s fastest business jet (the Cessna Citation X+). With such a wide range of products, we have a unique and fascinating breadth of customers. At one end of the spectrum, we work with flight schools teaching the world to fly, and at the other end, we have individuals and corporations representing the epitome of drive and success. In between these extremes we have sport and leisure users who enjoy the liberty afforded by our other piston models. Then we have owners of ubiquitous workhorses, such as the Caravan and King Air, who use their turboprops to serve communities, patrol the skies and generate revenue. I can’t think of an aviation company with such a rich variety of products and customers. It’s my responsibility to lead my team in understanding the unique needs and value of these customers.
How are things looking for the Textron product line in Europe?
Even though some parts of the market are tough, we still capture the lion’s share of opportunities. The iconic Beechcraft and Cessna brands are well known and trusted. I think our customers recognise that we can be relied upon to do the right thing for them. The spirit of enterprise is as strong as ever and there is an indefatigable drive among entrepreneurs to develop, grow and explore. Farsighted businesses still see the value in having control of their travel schedules, optimising their time and keeping costs in check. We still enjoy good levels of activity in the core markets such as Germany and the UK, but we are not reliant on just these. In fact, our first transactions of the year were in Scandinavia and Italy and our most recent sales were in Russia and Benelux, so I don’t believe any market can be ignored.
What impact has Textron’s acquisition of Beechcraft had on your role?
The amalgamation of the Hawker and Beechcraft products and those customers into the Textron family has been both refreshing and invigorating. There are not many executives who are lucky enough to be part of such a dramatic transformation in their business. There are more than 1,400 Citation and Hawker jets operating in Europe, Middle East and Africa (more than any other manufacturer by a large margin) and a similar number of our turboprops in the region. Textron Aviation’s top priority is to continue to support these customers and to develop product enhancements and new aircraft models to better serve them in the future.
What are the most challenging aspects of your job?
I try to put the needs of our customers first – making myself available to them is key to doing my job well. Helping them where I can and calling on support from within the business when I need it are the main parts of my daily routine.