Elliot Mintzer idolized Joe Hackett.
Hackett was one of the main characters from the 1990s NBC situation comedy Wings. He was the “nice guy” and a highly responsible pilot.
It’s not a leap to find the resemblance between Mintzer and Hackett.
Mintzer is owner and president of My Sky Aviation, a management consulting and aircraft brokerage, and is president and owner of Tryp Air Charter in Lakeland.
Ten years ago he was in the homebuilding industry. When the market crashed, his whole division was wiped out.
“I had plenty of time on my hands and I decided I was going to learn how to fly,” Mintzer says. “I thought it would be cool.”
As he continued his aviation education, he landed a job dealing with commercial building materials. When his employer found out he was getting a pilot’s license, they started asking if he could fly estimators to job sites, or an architect to a bid meeting. He says a light bulb went off.
“All of these people need to be moved around and they’re asking me to do it. There’s got to be an unserved market here,” he says. “The more I got educated, the more I realized there was a niche not being met, and that was utilizing a small aircraft around Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas to move people to different places rather than having them drive or use commercial air travel.”
This revelation is what led Mintzer to establish his first company, My Sky Aviation.
“You can’t be a pilot receiving compensation unless you have a commercial license, and that takes time, so while I was learning the industry, I still had all of these people asking me to fill this need,” Mintzer says. “I created the company to be the middleman and I started working with other operators that had aircraft that could help move these people around.”
In 2010, he finally got to have his moment.
“It was my turn to be Joe Hackett,” he says with a laugh.
Fast forward to early 2020, when Mintzer, and his family, relocated to Plant City and established Tryp Air Charter in Lakeland.
“My wife and I wanted to start a family and we wanted to slow down our business and spend more time with that family we were starting,” he says.
Mintzer now lives in Plant City with his wife, Victoria, who is expecting twin girls in February.
He also has a bit of a soft spot for helping furry friends, though he admits he was never a “dog” guy until he adopted his first dog, Samson.
“I got this the cutest little puppy ever and I started learning about how many animals, especially in Florida, needed to be moved out of shelters and into foster homes so they would not be euthanized,” Mintzer says.
Mintzer, along with some help of a few others, established Help For Paws, a 501(c)(3)—nonprofit organization—that helps transport rescue animals to other shelters, or foster homes, to keep them alive.
“Pilots love to fly … they want a reason to fly,” Mintzer says. “Why not incorporate that with saving animals? There’s an underground organization of pilots, every day, and every weekend, that are flying animals out of harm’s way to a place where they can live a wonderful life.”
Sadly, he lost Samson last December. He now has a golden retriever named Charlie. He considers himself a converted dog lover now.
He says the last big trip he helped with was during Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Bahamas in 2019.
“We airlifted 50 to 75 dogs out of Nassau to bring them to Palm Beach County where they could be adopted,” he says.
Like everyone else, Mintzer, and his business, was impacted by COVID-19, but, thankfully, he says, it has since rebounded.
“I read a quote the other day that really stuck with me. It said, ‘Starting over is OK, because this time you’re not starting from zero, you’re starting from experience.’ That resonated with me,” Mintzer says. “We were impacted, but now we’re on such a positive growth curve.” ♦
Things to know about chartering a private aircraft
Using private aircraft has its advantages, but if not researched properly, it could put people at risk.
Thanks to changes in travel in 2020, there’s been an increased demand in the private charter market, which has made chartering easier but also increased illegal charter activities. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and legal.
• Use only certified FAA carriers that are regulated under part 135. These are a set of rules that charter companies must adhere to, which include maintenance, training and other safety protocols. Also, ask to see a certificate of insurance.
• It’s a red flag if the company encourages paying the pilot directly.
• Check to see if there is a federal excise tax, or if there are other appropriate taxes included with your fare. Legitimate operators must charge these. “If the price is too good to be true, it probably is,” Mintzer says.
• If there are no safety briefing or passenger briefing cards, or if there’s evasiveness to questions or concerns, that’s another red flag. Legitimate operators should be transparent and helpful.