Some might call it luck, but when you cheat death and live on, fulfilling a life-long dream to create a family-led legacy now into its 59th year, then it might well be divine destiny.
If you doubt the concept of destiny, then a visit to Hill Aircraft at Fulton County Airport (FTY) could change your mind.
One of the newest Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealers, Hill Aircraft may never have existed had a doctor not noticed that Guy Hill, Sr. had a pulse, long after being declared dead from a 1942 Navy training flight. But then Hill was nothing if not tenacious. Hill cheated death, rebuilt his FBO after a fire destroyed his uninsured facility, and even stole his own aircraft back from a Mexican government determined to keep it.
These days, the legacy of a Georgia aviation pioneer is thriving as a full-service FBO strategically located just six miles from downtown Atlanta.
Featuring a charter fleet of Citations, robust maintenance capabilities – and a safety record honored by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) for 50 years of accident-free operation – Hill Aircraft succeeds by focusing on arrivals with something it calls "Sensational Southern Service."
And, 10 years after Guy Hill, Sr. passed, his dream of turning an FBO into a family asset is being led by son Guy Hill, Jr. and son-in-law Larry Westbrook.
"Service is everything," explains Guy Hill, Jr., CEO, Hill Aircraft. "Our service continues to be ranked among the best in the business, with our dedicated employees leading the way. Our slogan of 'Focused on Arrival,' portrays our commitment to servicing our customers' needs.
"Hill Aircraft has always been fortunate to have incredible people, loyal friends and longtime customers."
Providence or hard-headed determination?
"Dad was committed to honesty and providing quality service at a competitive price while working to improve the community," Hill Jr. says. "That commitment to both our employees and our community continues to guide us today."
Hill Aircraft has come a long way since Guy Hill, Sr. took his girlfriend Ann on a date, a flight in his Fairchild PT-19 plane. Hill landed in a pasture and told Ann it was going to be an airport one day. A few years later the couple was married, raising a family – and Fulton County Airport was growing in that very pasture.
Hill set up shop at the fledgling airport, buying and selling aircraft, before making the deal of his young family's life to buy the airport's FBO in 1955. The decorated Navy pilot who cheated death had launched his dream to create a family legacy. But it wasn't easy.
"I had so many hats to wear, I had to do it all," Hill once said in an interview.
"Mr. Hill didn't know he could fail," recalls Westbrook, President of Hill Aircraft. "It wasn't an option. He was stubborn, tenacious, and he was at the right place at the right time."
But he didn't have insurance when a fire in 1962 roared through Hill Aircraft, destroying the FBO's hangar, engine and radio shop. Just not his dream. "We knuckled down, never gave up, worked night and day, seven days a week," Hill explained.
The hard work paid off. Hill not only built a growing business serving corporate flight in Atlanta, he passed it along to his family, just like he planned. Now Guy Jr. – who as a six-month-old was playing in cockpits, turning the yoke – helps steer an FBO that is reaching past the dreams of his father.
Building on those cornerstone values, Hill Aircraft today offers the facilities and services to match its location near some of America's largest companies: NATA Safety 1st-certified line technicians; extensive maintenance expertise as a Cessna service location; parts support; and a facility decked-out with complete pilot and passenger amenities, including security camera monitors and state-of-the-art flight planning.
To get customers where they are going, Hill offers block time charter programs and innovative custom ownership programs for purchasing aircraft. Its charter service is an Argus-approved carrier, and carries $100,000,000 in liability insurance.
About that stolen aircraft
The man who Westbrook says built a reputation for integrity, professionalism and heart; the Navy pilot, airplane mechanic, businessman and civic leader who served 11 years in the Georgia state legislature; that same man stole an airplane out from under the watch of Mexican authorities.
Guy Hill Sr. had leased his Cherokee 6 to someone who, it turns out, may have been hauling band equipment. When the aircraft landed in Mexico City with the seats yanked out of it, suspicious Mexican authorities confiscated the Cherokee. Then kept it. For two years.
Frustrated, with no results from the state department, Hill took matters into his own hands. He flew down to Mexico and talked authorities into letting him do an annual inspection on the aircraft, which had been sitting around gathering dust. Still, they refused to give back the airplane.
As the sun set, Hill handed a guard $100 to find something better to do, then jumped in his Cherokee and flew it across the border.
As Westbrook recalls, "Mr. Hill would say, 'Running a business is like running a race; if you let up on the accelerator, those guys are gonna pass you.'"
Hill Aircraft stands ready to serve your needs when visiting Atlanta. For more about Hill Aircraft, visit www.hillaircraft.com.