Al Ueltschi always knew he was going to be a pilot. Neither he nor anyone else could have foreseen that he would become a marketing genius, too.

In the early 1950s, long before anyone else, Ueltschi saw a need for professional aviation training. He drew on his already deep aviation experience and his entrepreneurial spirit, taking out a mortgage on his house to start a little shoestring business-pilot training school at New York’s LaGuardia Airport.

He might have seemed the most unlikely salesman in any other context. Colorful, irascible, extremely self-assured. And yet he was the perfect man for the job. He had the vision to see a need, the conviction that his vision was right and the dogged persistence to never take no for an answer.

Getting the Word From One of Their Own

At the time, not only did fellow pilots not see the value of professional training, they actively scoffed at the idea. But Ueltschi had cred. He was a pilot’s pilot.  He was an early airline pilot and personal pilot to Pan Am founder Juan Trippe.

If he needed training to keep current and to be prepared for the unexpected, then so did everyone else.

Ueltschi also had the savvy to bring in other strong individuals to give his fledgling organization depth and substance. One of his earliest hires was then law-student Bruce Whitman – now FlightSafety president and CEO. When Ueltschi needed something done, he tasked Whitman. When Al couldn’t sell a client, he sent in Bruce.

Together, they invented the concept of OEM relationship-based pilot and maintenance technician training. They worked relentlessly, pounded on doors until they opened, got their name and their service out there among the constituencies that mattered – pilots, manufacturers, flight departments.

Trim Costs, Never Compromise Quality

Most importantly, they insisted that their training services be of the highest quality. While Ueltschi was justifiably famous for his frugality, his FlightSafety quickly became known for its reliable, expert, professional training.

Ueltschi started a culture of excellence, innovation and uncompromising customer service that continues today. Because in the end, the best marketing is superior service. Without that, no amount of strategizing will bring people through your door and keep them coming back year after year.

Backed by the Captains of Industry

As it is, while FlightSafety today pursues a diverse and well-thought-out marketing strategy, it continues to rely on word of mouth and personal testimonials from professionals at every level of aviation. Even though most large corporations have policies against endorsing other companies’ products or services, FlightSafety has for decades successfully recruited the CEOs of some of the world’s largest firms and aircraft manufacturers to lend their names and reputations to champion FlightSafety training.

Al Ueltschi knew there is simply no substitute for being the best. Our hats are off to him, and our hearts are heavy for his friends and family – including the entire worldwide FlightSafety family. Al Ueltschi has touched down for his final landing. It was a magnificent flight.

*This article originally appeared in the October 25 issue of BlueSky Business Aviation News.