John Buch has parlayed his marketing background with an entrepreneurial spirit to help Las Vegas-based Maverick Aviation Group achieve success in the airborne tour business.
He grew up in the small town of McHenry, 50 miles northwest of Chicago, and went to college at Indiana State University, where he received a degree in marketing with an emphasis on sales and business-to-business relationships.
Buch came to Las Vegas in 1996 and quickly established a rapport with Maverick Aviation Group owners Brenda and Greg Rochna. From then on, his career with the company skyrocketed. Buch, married and a father of three, serves as president of the Grand Canyon airline and helicopter tour company that flies approximately 250,000 patrons per year and operates the largest and youngest fleet of EC-130 aircraft in the world.
Under Buch’s leadership, Maverick Aviation Group has racked up several awards including Operator Safety Award from Helicopter Association International; Diamond Award of Excellence from U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration; Best Tour Company from Southern Nevada Hotel Concierge Association; “Top 10 Best Helicopter Thrills in the World” from Travel Channel; Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor; and many more.
Q. How did you become apart of Maverick Aviation Group?
A. Maverick started in 1995, but the first flight was in summer 1996. For five years, Maverick asked me to come work for them but I went out on my own and did independent consulting work. In December 2000, the director of marketing for Maverick passed away. I said ‘well let me help you’ and Greg said let’s a have a meeting. He said he had a desire to grow the business outside of the local hotel market. We had a great relationship and he made a longtime arrangement that eventually I would have some ownership in the company. So in February 2001, I quit working from home as an independent consultant and had my first day at Maverick as a sales manager/information technology manager, in addition to doing web design. I was a one-stop shop.
Q. How have you seen the company grow?
A. I was the 32nd employee. We now have 350 employees. When I started with Maverick, the company just received its seventh helicopter and now we are at 44 … along with six planes and multiple locations.
Q. Speaking of multiple locations, what can you tell me about the Hawaii expansion?
A. Hawaii has been on our radar since 2006. It’s where Greg originally got into the tour business and his wife has family there. Hawaii is the second biggest helicopter destination in the country for tourism. So it was the evolution of where we would expand our business. We’ve had several offers and opportunities but Hawaii is really the one that we felt that would really round out our customer base.
Q. What do you hope to achieve in the next five to 10 years?
A. Finish the expansion into Hawaii markets with the first being Maui as well as other islands. On top of that continue to build on our products and services that we have here. For years, we have talked about upgrades that need to take place. Currently we are in our renovation of our new facility which will be done in 12 months which is going to expand the services we offer with private space for weddings and banquets.
Q. Out of all of the tours that Maverick offers, which one is your favorite and why?
A. Under the Maverick Airline side, it would be the Canyon Dream because it’s an all-day tour of the national park which includes a ground tour and helicopter tour. As far as the Maverick Helicopter side, my favorite is the Dream Catcher because it returns at sunset and it highlights the Strip turning from day to night. In addition, it gives you the Valley of Fire, which is a longer sightseeing tour.
Q. What makes the company’s ECO-Star helicopters different than others?
A. The ECO-Star was the original tour aircraft that most call the A Star. There was a sightseeing tour operator in 2001 that went to the factory and said that they needed something for sightseeing and that was the birth of the re-engineering of the EC-130. Maverick operates more hours on the EC-130 than anybody in the country and one of the achievements that the company did was the re-engineering of the aircraft. We added an anti-vibration system, tinted windows and we worked with the factory to upgrade the air conditioning system. If you look at our oldest aircraft, which is a 2005 version and our newest aircraft, the average person could not tell you the difference between the oldest and newest because every aircraft is maintained and are 100 percent the same.
Q. What do you do in your spare time?
A. Coaching and being involved in my kids sports. To me coaching is a way that I can get out of the day-to-day business world and go out and give back to the kids in the community. When I grew up, I used to have coaches that would only play the favorite kids. One of the biggest things that I do is that no matter the skill set of a player, I give them equal time. If you don’t give them confidence at a young age, then when they get older they are going to be beaten down. It’s a reward to see the smile on kids face who thought they were nothing and they got a chance to shoot a goal or something like that.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
A. The biggest thing would be my enjoyment of coming to work everyday because we don’t have a stagnant business. Every customer looks for something different or has a different reason on why they are taking an experience with us. For some it’s a bucket list; for some it’s their dream to see the Grand Canyon. At Maverick, we are truly a team. The “I” is not present in the Maverick team. We all understand that without the support of the other person that we would not be the company we are today.