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AADA Article CFSClaud Holbert, a member of the Arkansas Air National Guard, founded Central Flying Service (CFS) in 1939 to bid on the Civilian Pilot Training program that former President Roosevelt implemented – in anticipation of WWII.  Working on the contract with Little Rock Junior College (now UALR), the CPT programs were converted to War Pilot Training programs once the war began, and trained hundreds of pilots for the services. Starting with just one Taylorcraft, Claud Holbert built a company that would go on to become one of the country's oldest and largest air charter and flying schools.

Following the war, CFS developed the entirety of their services including aircraft sales, charters, aircraft maintenance, hangar, and fueling. Unbeknownst at the time, this systemic business would soon become a vital aviation industry known as an FBO – Fixed Base Operation. In 1940, CFS introduced the first private, commercial multi-engine air service in the state with a Tri-Motor Ford. Other firsts include turbo-prop air charter, jet charter, and turbine helicopter charter in the state. More recently, Richard Holbert, current chairman and CEO of CFS, was present to accept the Milestone award. CFS was the recipient of the Milestone award this year, presented by the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), for having reached 470,000 flight training hours since 1939.

Claud’s sons Don and Richard took over management of the company following Claud’s death in 1983, further developing the company. But before his death, Claud was inducted into Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 1981. Don and Rich were later inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.

By 2002, CFS had grown to be the world’s largest FBO measured by square feet under roof. The company consisted of 22 buildings, and 580, 000 ft2. In 2005, CFS was employing around 300 personnel, but the recession of 2008 had a drastic effect on the company, as with most other business at that time. Employment was cut down to 160 employees. Recently, in 2015, CFS sold its fueling and hangar sections of business to TAC Air. CFS, however, continues to provide all other aforementioned aviation services excluding fueling and hangar storage.

What led CFS to becoming the exceptional FBO it is today? Through thorough application of their principles of course! Striving to provide safe, quality service in an efficient, friendly manner; provide the community a business whose conduct and operation is a source of pride and acclaim; to provide an environment wherein enthusiasm, esteem, quality, and skill flourish; and to promote aviation, its growth and significance not only within the state of Arkansas, but also within the nation. Keeping these standards at the forefront of each business interaction will surely lead to stable, positive growth in the aerospace industry.

Seeing how dedicated CFS is to providing quality aviation and aerospace services, their membership with the AADA is no surprise. In order to ensure a prosperous future, it’s necessary to adequately and thoroughly educate the upcoming generation of workers. Supporting aviation endeavors is paramount to taking the aerospace industry to new heights. Through the networking opportunities available within the AADA, mutually beneficial partnerships are sure to arise. The more each member can work together for a common goal (education, training, connection), the more positive growth everyone can experience.