Craig Sincock | Avfuel Corporation
In 2022, Craig Sincock—owner, president and CEO of Avfuel Corporation—received the William A. Ong Memorial Award, NATA’s highest honor.
Read the following NATA Aviation Business Journal (ABJ) interview with Craig Sincock to learn more about how he got his start in aviation and the path that led him to where he is today.
ABJ: What was the first spark that ignited your career in aviation? Can you talk about any surprising turns along the way?
Craig Sincock: My passion for aviation started early. Growing up in the 60s—the jet age of aviation— I watched in awe as we landed on the moon and was inspired by the way aviation connected our world as the Beatles walked off a Boeing 707 in New York. Then, my college roommates, who were flight instructors, introduced me to flying and I acquired my pilot’s license. For about ten years after graduation, I worked in the financial consulting industry, where one of our smaller clients was Avfuel. I got to know the business and, when I found out the owners were looking to sell, I jumped at the opportunity to marry entrepreneurship with my passion for aviation. With a small crew of three, we began to grow upon Avfuel’s foundation, transforming it into the industry’s first all-encompassing fuel supply and services company. Today, we serve more than 5,500 flight department customers representing 20,000+ aircraft at more than 3,000 global fueling locations and 650+ branded FBOs with a support system of 1,000+ employees. Together, we touch one-third of U.S. business flights daily with our fuel and services—the culmination of nearly 40 years of consistent growth. During those years, I’m proud to say we’ve worked in close coordination with NATA and I’ve seen first-hand the association’s phenomenal work to support general aviation—especially the FBOs we serve throughout the Avfuel Network.
ABJ: Can you share brief stories about any pivotal moments, mentors, teammates, or experiences that helped shape your career?
Sincock: There were a lot of affirmations along the way that our business plan was working. Was it a great business plan? Well, no. We were young and didn’t understand that we shouldn’t compete with the major oil companies. But we were ambitious and it worked! Every time a customer provided its vote of confidence by doing business with us was—and continues to be—a victory. From the smallest to the largest customer, we built the Avfuel Network one by one, motivated each and every time we welcomed a new location on board. Looking at the big picture, a major turning point for Avfuel’s accelerated growth was when we acquired the aviation divestiture of Pride Refining, Inc. Pride had a very strong presence from Texas through Colorado; as a Midwest company, Avfuel was looking to break into that market. I was amazed at the first convention following the acquisition when our new customers were asking when they were going to get their Avfuel signs. The excitement they showed in coming on board the Avfuel Network and their confidence in our team were more than I could have imagined. That was the driving force that took us from a regional entity to a national entity. From there, we dove down into our programs, listened to our customers to discover what they found valuable, and grew our service lines and geographic scope. This occurred by creating some of our own original programs and through more than 30 strategic acquisitions in total, including aviation divestitures from four NYSE publicly-traded companies. Of course, my colleagues and customers have always been my main motivators throughout my career. Their support and their needs continue to fan my flames of passion for aviation, and my desire to continue to evolve the company.
ABJ: Do you have any personal philosophy or business philosophy that you feel has helped contribute to your many successes? Can you briefly explain how and why?
Sincock: At Avfuel, we like to say we’re not in the business of selling fuel. We’re in the business of connecting people, businesses, governments, and cultures. That’s a big mindset shift: a shift from a product-first company to a people-first company. We don’t just focus on transactions; we prioritize relationships and bring a personal approach to business. Over the years, I’ve found people like working with people they like. It’s as simple as that. This mindset—this culture of care as we like to describe it—has been integral to growing our team, retaining talent, and attracting loyal customers.
ABJ: What is special about the team you have assembled?
Sincock: We have some of the best people in aviation. Avfuel’s team members are incredibly talented, dedicated and knowledgeable. They display great ingenuity to view problems as opportunities and dig down to find solutions that make our services better. Above all, they care for our customers and they care for each other. They bring the human approach to business and they have fun doing what they love: supporting aviators on a global scale.
ABJ: In the larger context of the NATA membership and general aviation industry as a whole, what do you hope others can learn from the business you have built, the team you have assembled, and the way you have approached serving your customers?
Sincock: When people look at Avfuel, I hope they see how vision, passion, dedication, and a great deal of listening can shape a business and an industry. By focusing on driving connections and developing relationships, we have taken the company farther than I think any of us could have imagined—and we are certainly not slowing down now. I look forward to years of further collaboration with some of our industry’s greatest minds and dedicated professionals, like those we find at NATA. I cannot overstate the good NATA has accomplished for this industry. For decades, it has been a forum for knowledge sharing, a leader in industry collaboration to solve complex problems, an advocate for general aviation at the legislative level, and a provider of exceptional safety programs.
ABJ: Is there any part of your story that you feel hasn’t been told, hasn’t been told well, or has been misunderstood?
Sincock: Over the past year, I’ve taken some time to reflect on my career. When I do, I feel immense gratitude: gratitude toward my family, friends and colleagues, and gratitude toward our customers and industry partners. Many of these customers and partners have turned into some of my closest friends and part of my aviation family. I’m grateful for the chance to have built something special over nearly 40 years. I’m grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to share that story with others, particularly this past year as I’ve recounted Avfuel’s journey to a number of talented, dedicated industry journalists. And I’m grateful the story isn’t over. Our journey continues as Avfuel evolves to meet the ever-changing needs of this industry. It’s a challenge I love—and I look forward to telling each new chapter of our story as it unfolds.
ABJ: What’s a question you wish people asked in these kinds of interviews around the news of this award? Can you answer it?
Sincock: I always love it when people ask about success—because success, I’ve found, can be arbitrary from one person to the next. People also tend to attribute some semblance of finality to it, as if the work is done once recognition is given or a venture is deemed successful. To me, success is found in the day to day. It means being able to follow my passion in building Avfuel, its people, its customers, and the brand. Success looks like mentoring others, developing relationships, and nurturing a culture of care that has allowed the company and its people to thrive. Success is found in making hard work fun and caring for the people around me, some of whom have been by my side for 30 or 40 years. Success is digging into the details and conducting business the right way. Of course, as a business, we have benchmarks and goals to achieve. But to me, success is much more personal, and by taking a human approach, I’ve found the rest tends to follow.
ABJ: What does the William A. “Bill” Ong Memorial Award represent to you?
Sincock: I am incredibly humbled to receive the William A. “Bill” Ong Memorial Award. To be recognized along with such an influential leader for general aviation is truly an honor. I couldn’t be more appreciative of those who made it possible: my family and friends, colleagues and customers, and industry comrades and organizations, particularly NATA. It’s through my work with such dedicated people that Avfuel has been able to thrive and increasingly serve the industry we love.