The beginning of Wisconsin Aviation, Inc., took place during one of the most challenging of economic times, the early 1980's. Only two weeks prior to the nation's first air traffic controller's strike, Jeff Baum and his partner looked at a bankrupt fixed base operator (FBO) and a stagnant municipal airport in Watertown, Wisconsin. However, their futuristic, positive vision overshadowed what they saw. Faced with daunting odds, which included interest rates of over 21%, skepticism on the part of the insurance carrier, and the country facing one of the worst recessions ever, Wisconsin Aviation, Inc., was born.
Two years later in 1983, Wisconsin Aviation was well established and growing. It began operating a second FBO at the Dodge County Airport in Juneau, Wisconsin. This was followed in 1985 with the purchase of an affiliate third FBO, Air Sinclair, in Milledgeville, Georgia, an airport located 70 miles southeast of Atlanta. A corporate maintenance facility was added in 1987 to provide the parts and service for a growing fleet of charter and rental aircraft, as well as customer aircraft. During late 1991, Wisconsin Aviation organized a European affiliate, Wisconsin Aviation-Europe, in Germany, which operates two American aircraft to this day. On January 1, 1994, Madison's Four Lakes Aviation assets were purchased, followed in mid-1995 by the assets of Coldstream Aviation Corporation, also of Madison. Subsequent to 1998, we added avionics and interior repair and installation facilities at Madison. In the fall of 2001, we established a charter operation at Oshkosh to better serve our Fox Valley customers. On December 3, 2002, Wisconsin Aviation dedicated its new $2.5 million, state-of-the-art general aviation terminal on the east side of the Dane County Regional Airport in Madison. This clearly moved Wisconsin Aviation into the FBO leadership for the state of Wisconsin. In 2008 Wisconsin Aviation's growth continued with the completion of a new avionics hangar in its Technical Services Complex.
Since its inception in 1981, the corporation has grown to become one of the Midwest's most progressive aviation service centers. It is now capable of providing a complete line of aviation-oriented services to include: air charter, corporate aviation management, aircraft sales, aircraft maintenance, avionics, aircraft rental, and flight instruction. In addition, hangar rental and fueling services are available for owned, leased, transient, airline, and home-based aircraft at the three airports.
Wisconsin Aviation's personnel has grown from a handful in 1981 to over 140 loyal employees. The meager aircraft inventory of the early years has emerged to an impressive fleet of well over 50 airplanes. These aircraft range from two-seat trainers to luxurious executive jet aircraft. Over the period of the last ten years, Wisconsin Aviation' annual operations averaged almost 19,000 flight hours, while traveling over 3 million miles.
Wisconsin Aviation has received numerous local and regional awards, as well as national recognition for outstanding service. The corporation has been featured in many aviation publications, including Aircraft Technician, Airport Services, Aviation Maintenance Journal, Airport Business, and Midwest Flyer. Its president, Jeff Baum, is a founding member and served as Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Air Charter Safety Foundation. He is also currently on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Business Aircraft Association (WBAA) and the Wisconsin Aviation Trades Association (WATA) and as past chairman of Watertown Area Health Services. He also is a long-standing member of the prestigious Twenty Group, a national organization dedicated to providing outstanding service to air travelers. Previously Jeff has served on the Board of Directors of the General Aviation Task Force, the National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the National Learn to Fly Promotional Team, Inc., and the Governor's Airport Financing Committee. For his superior achievements in Wisconsin's aviation industry, Jeff was named "Business Person of the Year" twice (1988 and 1997) by the Wisconsin Aviation Transportation Association (WATA) and "Aviation Person of the Year" (2003) by the Wisconsin Airport Management Association (WAMA). He was inducted into the Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame in the fall of 2013. Wisconsin Aviation also maintains memberships in the National Business Aircraft Association, Inc. (NBAA) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), as well as many other local, regional, and municipal organizations.