I often fly a single engine plane around the west coast to visit companies. Although the majority of my posts are about buying and selling companies, occasionally I write about flying. This post is about the most interesting flight I’ve had in my business of selling businesses.
My client’s company rented emergency communications equipment to the government for fighting wildland fires. This company had a lot of interest from prospective buyers, and I ended up with two very serious buyers – one an individual and one a private equity group (a PEG). Last summer, some large fires were burning for several months in eastern Washington, which provided an excellent opportunity for these buyers to visit the company in action.
I enjoy working with interesting companies, and I also enjoy flying out to meet with clients. So I couldn’t even begin to convince my wife this was going to be another day at the office – I was visibly excited to make this trip.
I flew out of my home base in the California foothills before dawn Tuesday morning, and spent a nervous flight heading to Omak, Washington to meet with my client before the first buyer showed up. Obviously there could be a lot of smoke and I was worried about getting in. They had set up a temporary control tower to handle the fire fighting aircraft, and they brought me right in. It was smoky, but still probably 5 to 7 miles of visibility.
Unfortunately my client’s equipment had been “demobilized” and moved other to Methow Valley. The airport there is deeper in the mountains, and they were reporting 2-5 miles visibility in smoke. That is too much for me, and is technically IFR rules. So I left my plane at Omak and the client was nice enough to drive me over to Methow Valley.
We had a great meeting with the first buyer. This buyer was technically oriented and spent time examining the equipment and talking about technical issues with the business owner. He and I then spent that night tent camping with exhausted firefighters on the lawn of the Cascade Smokejumpers facility. We were able to attend the morning strategy meeting for the fire fighting effort, which was fascinating to say the least.
I was supposed to fly to Spokane and pick up the next buyer the following morning, so I got a ride to my plane and during the pre-flight inspection discovered some oil on the ground and on the belly. Not a lot of oil (the engine wasn’t low on oil), but never a good sign. I spent about 20 minutes finding the leak, and fortunately it was in the oil line that leads to the firewall and eventually to the oil pressure gauge in the panel. That oil line is designed to hold pressure, but not leak much oil if damaged. So I was confident I could fill the oil to the top and make it to Spokane. I got a hold of a mechanic in Spokane that would meet me, and I made the 40 minute flight without incident.