Teamflys offers a new perspective on the local economy: a bird’s eye view! Based out of the North Adams airport, Teamflys offers scenic flights, aircraft rentals, and professional flight instruction to locals and visitors alike – and they accept BerkShares! “We’re not a typical start-up business,” says manager Trevor Gilman, explaining that the business launched with zero money in the bank. “We found a principal investor who bought the airplane and then we started up the business and began to take on students.”
Gilman and his co-founders Matthew Champney and Michael Sarrouf all have their own careers as pilots – flying corporate jets or working for regional airlines. But for them, flying is more than a job, and that’s what inspired them to launch Teamflys. “I love the community at the airport,” says Gilman. “From my first job instructing to my current role with Teamflys, I’ve gotten to know everyone. Not just at the North Adams airport, but also in Pittsfield, Great Barrington and Bennington.” As he admits, “most people would play golf on their time off, but I find myself getting coffee with the other pilots and helping out.”
Growing up, this North Adams native did not think that he would become a pilot. But flight lessons during college got him wondering if he could make a living from something he loved. At that time there were not many pilot’s jobs available. Now, airlines are desperate for pilots and Gilman and his colleagues are spreading the word. “This is an opportunity to earn six figures a year and commute to work from the Berkshires where it’s beautiful and cheap to live.”
Teamflys’ scenic flights give customers (85% tourists) a special view of all that the Berkshires have to offer. Gilman has been conducting aerial tours since 1996 and continues to be impressed by how far people come to visit the area. A crowd favorite is Mount Greylock, where the plane swoops by only a few hundred feet from the summit, within waving distance of the people at the top of the mountain. Tourists and locals alike are consistently surprised by how insignificant human activity looks from above. “People can’t believe how many trees there are out there. When you get in the air and you see the middle of the valley that’s actually populated and then an entire view of trees as far as you can see – that’s amazing to people.”
Teamflys operates their flight school during what Gilman calls a “dairy bar season,” offering an April-to-October course that includes everything required to get your pilot’s license. “It’s 40 hours of flying and a lot of book work and tests. We want to get as many people as possible to do it, so we do everything we can to pack it in to a short period of time and keep prices low.” Teamflys has recently bought a flight simulator, which will augment the training they offer and perhaps help to attract younger students.
Teamflys is a hybrid business – grounded in the kind of small-town New England life where “you can drive down the road and wave at every car,” but with access to a cosmopolitan clientele that bring their own stories and ideas to the region. Accepting BerkShares is part of their overall strategy to get their name out in as many ways as possible. “We take every credit card, so why not something that’s more local?” Gilman asks. “The local tourist economy is what we’re growing, and we’d like to support as much as take advantage of it so I thought BerkShares were a great connection to the rest of the community.”