Fast Five: Advanced Aviation Team's Gregg Brunson-Pitts

Credit: Advanced Aviation Team

Advanced Aviation Team is a charter broker that focuses on clients with complex requirements. Among the company’s highest-profile work has been providing private air travel to U.S. presidential campaigns. Most recently, AAT booked more than 1,000 flights as part of the campaign run by Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The firm was founded in 2015 by Gregg Brunson-Pitts, who built on 10 years of experience as, first, travel manager then later, director of the White House travel office. Brunson-Pitts got his first taste of VVIP logistics working on then-president George W Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004. He lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Working in the White House sounds like a challenging first job, but presumably, it gave you a thorough grounding in all aspects of the industry. How did that prepare you for today?

[The White House] was very fast-paced and very high pressured. However, I was surrounded by an amazing team of people who had a lot of experience working in that environment. I was younger. I was at a low level. I had just graduated college, and that was my first professional experience. It really did set me up extremely well going into my professional career to just be surrounded by such great professionals, and to be working in such a professional environment like that. 

What is it that you feel sets your company apart from its many competitors? 

I’ve been on the flip side of it. As director of the White House travel office I chartered airliners all over the world, and having that unique perspective hopefully gives me a window into what at least some clients’ needs are. There’s a shared language there that I think that I have with at least some clients, and there’s a discernment that brokers need to have, and I think that I possess that discernment. And speaking to clients with authority and with grace - speaking to clients softly, but also with authority. 

One of the gentlemen who works for me, Jonathan [Tasler - vice president], has now done six presidential campaigns, and I think that’s unique also. We’re the only company now that can say that, and we’re really proud of that. 

Despite having all that experience within the company, one imagines your work on the 2020 Biden-Harris campaign would have been a far greater challenge, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. What effect did that have?

A presidential campaign is challenging without COVID, just all the moving parts and people. On the busiest day during the campaign in 2020, we might have done 35 flights. We’re up against a logistics challenge regardless. 

We tested every crew member every day from mid-August through inauguration day, which was a feat. For instance, President Biden’s 737 had multiple crews. They were staying in separate hotels, and they would obviously swap on different days. We would do crew swaps on turboprops or lighter jets if we needed to, so we weren’t sending people on commercial flights.

I think we had two, maybe three positive tests through the whole campaign: and, given the amount of testing that we did, that was a really low level. Everyone got where they needed to be safely, and I’m very proud of that. 

Since you set up the company, have you found any aspect of what you do becoming easier, or more difficult, because of decisions taken by the government? 

We have noticed a difference in availability, but I tie that mostly to the demand surge because of post-COVID travel, and market consolidation. We’re a small, boutique business, and it’s a little bit of a different style than some of the larger brokerages. Some larger providers have a lot of aircraft under management now, so I think that’s why some of the other companies are running into availability issues. 

It might also make it a little bit harder for you to strike competitive deals versus your rivals if there are fewer suppliers to choose from. What have you found?

Right. It’s not a huge concern, but [it does play on my mind] a little bit. A lot of our customers come to us because they know the service they’re going to get; they know me; they know my employees. There are other choices out there in the market - bigger companies that can offer all kinds of snazzy things - but that’s not what we are, that’s not what we do. I do wonder if the larger companies, over time, can provide the level of customer service that people expect. But companies like mine, we always provide that level of service. My commitment when I started the company was to remain small-ish. We’ve grown over the six-and-a-half years, and we’ve definitely taken on more clients than I ever expected during COVID. But we remain committed to that level of customer service.

Editor's Note: The story has been changed to correct the name of the company in an earlier version.  

Angus Batey

Angus Batey has been contributing to various titles within the Aviation Week Network since 2009, reporting on topics ranging from defense and space to business aviation, advanced air mobility and cybersecurity.