Gregg Brunson-Pitts says he gets people “from point A to point B.” It’s a modest way of describing Advanced Aviation Team , the on-demand flight service he started from his Washington, D.C., kitchen counter in 2015. Since then, Brunson-Pitts and his team of five have completed nearly 2,900 flights for clients on light jets, airliners, helicopters, turboprops, luxury “VIP airliners,” and other aircraft.
Like many travel-related businesses, Advanced Aviation Team has had to reinvent itself amid Covid-19 restrictions. After a promising start to 2020 and pandemic-related pop of business “getting people where they wanted to stay for lockdown,” bookings went quiet in March.
“The biggest change has been less international travel—we haven’t had any in the last four months,” Brunson-Pitts said. “And a lot of our business came from people who speak to crowds, events, and conferences. That’s slowed down.”
Brunson-Pitts, 39, a former director of travel in the President George W. Bush White House, stood by a promise not to lay off or furlough staff. Now, he says, customers are trickling back as travel returns in baby steps.
“It’s safer than commercial. You’re traveling in a bubble—the crew is tested and masked, the plane’s safe and sanitized,” he says. “We’re seeing new customers who are thinking about a jet instead of commercial flights. We’re seeing families, executives, sports figures—a broad range of people who’d never considered it, and are now.”
One flyer has been chef Jose Andres , an Advanced Aviation Team client whose global food-relief program, World Central Kitchen , was able to hitch a ride on a flight arranged by Brunson-Pitts in March. The charter delivered personal protective equipment to the Navajo nation in New Mexico.
The aviation company comped “a big portion” of the flight. “It was a no-brainer,” Brunson-Pitts says.
Brunson-Pitts has also given wings to the D.C. office of Best Buddies , a national non-profit that works with high schoolers living with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Brunson-Pitts lives in Arlington, Va., with his husband, Verizon government-relations executive Brooks Pitts-Brunson, and children Thomas and Abigail . “They’re 2 and 4, so that’s made for an interesting lockdown. It’s an adventure. It’s brought us closer.”
The last place I traveled was... Sedona, Ariz. That was a personal trip. My husband and I took our kids to visit my parents in Las Vegas. Then he and I drove to Sedona. I’d never been. It was an amazing drive, and a wonderful getaway.
What I love about where I live... is that we get to take the kids to Washington, D.C., all the time. I’ve lived in D.C. since 2005—most of that’s been in D.C. proper, but we moved to Arlington, a nearby suburb, once we had kids. As a child, I was always transfixed by the Capitol, the White House, the monuments. I’ve always loved D.C.
The most unusual request I ever got from a customer... was burgers. We had a customer on the ground out west. Their departure was in an hour, and they wanted [California-based chain] In-n-Out burgers.… We arranged delivery of 10 burgers, 10 fries, and 10 milkshakes to their Gulfstream. The shakes arrived in a cooler, and the fries were crisp. It was one of those “whatever you want, we’ll deliver” moments.
What I admire most about Jose Andres... is his drive. I’ve followed him closely, and what he’s done at World Central Kitchen is amazing. He will not quit. His tenacity is unbelievable—I wish we all could have it.
I get inspired by... I was fired once, and that’s been a great career motivator. I didn’t let that experience bring me down. Instead, I used it as a driving force to start my own company. I know a lot of great entrepreneurs have been fired at least once, like Mark Cuban , who I look up to. It taught me a lot of vital lessons about how to treat customers and employees.
The best book I’ve read in the last year... is not related to aviation or business. It’s . It’s about the biographies of 21 Presidents and how they renovated the White House. It’s ultra-interesting to me—the evolution of the White House over the years. I like reading that lets me disconnect from aviation. And I try not to read anything business-related at night.
I never travel without... headphones. I have Beats headphones designed to be noise-blocking. I sometimes listen to podcasts— How I Built This is a favorite.
My favorite thing about flying commercial... is that I get to relax, read a book, or get some work done. We actually fly commercial all the time. When I’m on board, I can have some peace and quiet. I have two kids, so sometimes that’s nice.
My least favorite thing about flying commercial is... the TSA.