OMW: Remembering Jack Prewitt (in three words)
“Pioneer”, “mentor” and “friend”: The three words used most often when CJI invited memories of the late Jack Prewitt, founder of Jack Prewitt Associates, who died earlier this month at the age of 91. But three words are never enough to cover a life that touched so many and helped to shape the modern world of business aircraft sales.
It all began in 1956, with a call on his cousin at Dallas Aero. After serving as an aeronautics technician in the US Air Force, Jack easily mended a faulty automatic direction finder, which had frustrated the company’s workforce. He was hooked. After joining the company, he was soon running the radio shop. In the early 1960s, Jack was one of three employees at a new division of Qualitron Aero at Meacham Field, Fort Worth, Texas. The company later blossomed to more than 400 employees engaged in modifying government and corporate aircraft. Jack left as senior vice president.
In 1973, he found his footing in sales with Associated Air Center at Dallas Love Field. Five years later, he started his own company, Jack Prewitt & Associates. Along with his dedicated team, he built the business into an organisation that has sold more than 1,200 aircraft and tallied sales topping $4bn, according to the company. He was also a founding member of the National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA), now the International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA).
Behind the detail is a life lived to the full. A life of hard work and even harder play, dedication to family and a passion for people – always tempered by his trademark Texas humour.
Charles ‘Bucky’ Oliver, founder and chairman emeritus, Jetcraft remembers a lot of fun. “I can’t think of Jack without smiling,” Oliver tells CJI. “That Texas sense of humour. He was a visionary who could smell money.” But his business relationships always extended beyond finance, says Oliver, who met him in the early ‘60s. “You always took his call – you always worked towards a deal and you always ended up a friend.” He remembers: “The only thing Jack did harder than work was play.”
Many remember Jack’s willingness to share advice and the loyalty he inspired. Brad Harris, president and CEO, Dallas Jet International knew him for 25 years. Jack was a friend and a mentor. “He was like a grandfather to me, and I will remember him as such,” he tells us. “Jack was a true pioneer, visionary and laid the groundwork for success in transacting business aircraft.”
For Harris, Jack was the “Godfather” of the broker/dealer world. “His impact on the aviation community will live on for generations to come.” Harris particularly values sharing an office building with Jack and his company and their discussions about business and personal life. “I am grateful for the time I had with the one and only, Jack Prewitt. Rest easy my friend.”
Wayne Starling, executive director, IADA remembers Jack as being “bigger than life”. Everyone in business aviation knew or had heard of Jack. “He will be remembered for many things and for many reasons, but most of all, he will be remembered as a pioneer, a trail blazer, and an ambassador for our industry. He always gave more than was expected.”
Johnny Foster, president & CEO, OGARAJETS recalls Jack Prewitt & Associates as perhaps the first true global aircraft dealer. “His name became synonymous with deal making – and big deals. Jack carried a mighty line of credit and was willing to buy and hold big-stakes inventory – and often served as a bank for smaller firms that did not have the financial horsepower, or courage, to make a big inventory play.”
Jack’s partnerships were always fair and transparent at a time when other operators felt less constrained by business morals. “Jack’s word was his bond – Jack lived it,” Foster tells us. “Today, aviation remains largely unpoliced, but back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the industry was truly the Wild West, where most brokers were simply out to take care of themselves.”
Business for Jack was more than making money. “Of course, Jack was a business man – a damn good one – and he made a lot of money during his reign, however, he also aimed to create genuine relationships with his clients and fellow brokers. He helped bring the industry to a higher-level where buyers and sellers felt more trusting of the process and players.”
The last words go to Jack himself. It comes courtesy of his advice to Starling from IADA, the organisation Jack helped launch. “Son, if you want to compete and be successful in this industry, you will have to put in hard work and build relationships based on trust and value.” (Photograph courtesy of IADA).