Alexander Heckman at Nextant Aerospace and Constant Aviation
My experience this summer is one I am never likely to forget.
This summer I had the immense pleasure of interning at not one, but two private aviation sister companies. I am not a fool, I know many students across the country would do almost anything to secure an internship in their desired field at one organization’s corporate headquarters, let alone two. Allow me to add a bit of context as to how I was able to have this opportunity.
I was raised around aviation, there’s no denying that. I am a third generation pilot born into a family where aviation had a huge impact. My aunt worked for Delta, my uncle built a plane in his garage, but most important, my father worked in the world of business aviation. I grew up with pictures of airplanes on the walls of my bedroom and even got to fly in a private jet a few times before I was 10 years old. My dad had a large impact on me and he always wanted to see me mature into a young man with the same passions and successes he had. I only wish he could have seen it. When I was 9 years old he passed away from terminal brain cancer.
He left my life at a time when I was young and just beginning to discover who I would be as an individual. From very early on in my life, I decided I wanted to follow in his footsteps. This internship was one of the biggest steps of finally making that goal a reality. He may have been gone, but there were many people who worked with him and knew him as a friend that had gone on to advance their own careers. When I came to them asking for an internship 12 years after he died and explained to them what I wanted to do, they made it happen.
OK, now about the awesome things this internship taught me:
I had an even split of my time between the two locations, Constant and Nextant, and each one gave me a different set of skills to build upon.
Constant Aviation specializes in aircraft maintenance and parts, based out of Cleveland. The company is especially notable for its mobile maintenance vans that can come to an aircraft needing maintenance, if that aircraft cannot get maintenance otherwise.
At Constant, I worked heavily with its marketing department, dubbed the “creative cave.” One of my very first assignments was writing a press release for the company. This was the first of many press releases I drafted over the summer, ranging in topics from awards the company had won to upcoming deals made with other organizations. I also helped draft social media posts and added creative graphics that would go with them.
My favorite project of the summer was helping with a promotion of the city of Cleveland. I got to spend a day with a camera running around the city with the rest of the marketing team taking pictures and video of anything that they could use for a booklet and video highlighting interesting things to do when traveling to Cleveland. This was happening just as the Cavaliers were entering Game 7 of the NBA Finals, so the energy of the city was palpable as we ran around. I was very excited when they told me I had taken some good pictures and had an eye for interesting visuals to capture on video.
I also worked closely with the inside sales team at Constant and helped with lead generation using a few databases such as Salesforce or Amstat. The sales team was extremely welcoming and made me feel right at home. I had a lot of fun joking around with them, which helped a lot when I felt bogged down in Excel spreadsheets full of contact information. They taught me the importance of cold calling, and even let me sit in on them just to observe.
Nextant Aerospace opened the opportunity for more direct sales training. One of my favorite projects involved making direct calls to firms listing a Beechjet 400A for sale. Essentially, I was calling to make sure that the aircraft was still for sale and to make sure that the price listed within the database I was using was correct. Some of the prices ranged from $750,000 to $2 million. I was pleasantly surprised with how friendly other sales departments and how much fun I had actually seeing a more personal side of the business world. My supervisor also always invited me into his office to listen in on conference calls with other organizations so that I could learn just by listening and observing.
The other major project I helped with at Nextant over the summer was its Beechjet Operators Conference. The conference was a large event, taking place at the Nextant corporate headquarters where I was working. The event brought together pilots, owners and maintenance providers to give a series of lectures ranging in subject and informing all three groups the best practices for the aircraft and how to get the most out of their Beechjet. I was in charge of running all of the presentations from my computer and smoothly transitioning between lectures. The event also featured a large gathering of vendors from different businesses and services for the corporate aviation industry and ended in a cocktail hour. The cocktail hour gave me a great opportunity to introduce myself to the representatives from all of the companies there.
This co-op gave me a lot of opportunities to see both the sales and marketing sides of the corporate aviation industry. I was given a wide variety of tasks, which helped me further discover just what kinds of work I like doing. I learned that I love the personal side of the industry and meeting people.
Splitting time between two organizations ensured a nice change of pace with different projects for each location. On my final day at Constant, I was given a lovely farewell lunch, and each person at the table gave me a notecard with a piece of advice they wanted to give me for this stage in my life.
The very best for me though was another encounter that happened on that same day. My supervisor told me to walk with her and I was led to the office of Constant’s CEO, who invited me in for a short talk. He wanted to thank me for my work, and see if I had any feedback I could give about the experience. He really cared about the fact that I had learned something valuable this summer and he offered me some advice as well. He explained to me that years ago he worked with my father and wanted me to know that if he saw where I was today that he would be immensely proud. He knew that what I was doing had been engrained in me from a young age, but led me to the following conclusion: I do not have to be him. He said that aviation is in my blood and that I act very similarly to the way that my dad did, but I should find my own passions about the industry. I am a completely different person with different hopes and desires. We can be similar, but I can do it my own way.
My supervisor at Nextant invited me to lunch a day later, where I was given additional advice. The aviation industry is non-stop, 24 hours a day. If you want to do well in sales, he said you have to go all out for a sale every singe time. Sometimes this means taking calls at 10 at night or 3 a.m. in the morning. You have to be willing to commit to that level and work hard, not just clock out at 5 and go about your personal life. He saw that I have the potential to do either sales or marketing. I just need to spend this year at school to decide what I really want out of life, even if it means not being exactly like my dad.
This co-op didn’t just teach me about the industry I grew up with, it taught me about myself. My experience this summer helped guide me into a much better position of thought for my senior year. Whatever I choose, I credit this experience, the people looking out for me and my father for helping me to find my place in the world.