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Waypoint: All in the family

John Hopkinson is a name recognized in the corporate aviation world and not just in Canada, but around the globe.


January 10, 2014
By Rob Seaman

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John Hopkinson is a name recognized in the corporate aviation world and not just in Canada, but around the globe. Chairman and chief executive officer of the company that bears his name – John Hopkinson & Associates Ltd., formed in 1979 – Hopkinson has taken aircraft brokerage and grown it from an independent, one-man show through to its place today with offices and staff in Calgary and Scottsdale, Ariz.

All in the family  
They have sold more than 4,000 airplanes and average, depending on today’s economy, 50 to 70 airplane sales annually.  PHOTO: John Hopkinson & Associates


 

Today, the company employs 15 staff and four pilots. Since its inception, they have sold more than 4,000 airplanes and average, depending on today’s economy, 50 to 70 airplane sales annually.

John’s Hopkinson’s corporate focus came somewhat naturally. Like many in the industry, he grew up with aviation in the family bloodline. The Hopkinsons’ fixed base operation and charter business was Sky Harbour Air Services in Goderich, Ont. According to John, “My father Keith started the business after the war. He was sent to Goderich as a flight instructor under the conscription program, and was the chief ground school instructor throughout the war. During the 1960s, we had a scheduled charter operation that used Cessna 195s. We were taking people from Goderich to the Toronto Island and Malton (now Pearson CYYZ) to conduct their business. It was a 45-minute flight in the morning with a return later in the afternoon.” That early form of BizAv was used by all the major industries in Goderich, including Champion Road Machinery, Sifto Salt, and Sheaffer Pen to name just a few.

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Champion used two Cessna 195s and a Beechcraft 18, which they sponsored financially, Hopkinson says. On a regular basis, he recalls bringing municipal council members from other areas to Goderich for one-day tours of the Champion plant, lunch, and hopefully acceptance of the product. “The success rate on these trips from a sales perspective was more than 90 per cent,” he says. Hopkinson also says that one of the first light corporate airplanes in Canada was a Cessna 182 owned by Sheaffer Pen and operated by Sky Harbour Air Services.

Sky Harbour’s aircraft refinishing business made a mark on an international level in the ’50s and ’60s. It added to John’s early flying work, building hours and aircraft ratings. At 16, Hopkinson obtained a student pilot permit. By 17, he was licensed private pilot and at 18, held a commercial rating. The firm also operated Beech 18s, Lockheed 12s, Aero Commanders, and Cessna 310s into the mid-’60s

Today, he has some 8,500 hours of flying experience.

John moved to Calgary in the late ’70s. “I felt that western Canada, and specifically Calgary and Edmonton, were ready because of the jet business, for a corporate aircraft sales opportunity. During the ’60s, when we had to demonstrate airplanes, we determined that there was more money and better sales success to be made by sitting in the back, pouring the drinks and getting the order signed versus flying the airplanes.

Hopkinson offers clients the full business aviation experience when they execute sales. The firm employs a company jet to move clients around and make sales calls to non-major market locations. They do this in part to demonstrate the practicality of the approach. Because of the amount of entertaining involved in the sales business, they also have a company car operated by a major Calgary limousine company to move people about. Like he says, it’s about the full business aviation experience.

The Hopkinson name in aviation will not be disappearing anytime soon. John’s sons Andrew and Keith are both an integral part of the firm and each holds a vice-president’s title. Andrew works with clients on acquisitions and sales of new and pre-owned aircraft. He also specializes in establishing flight departments and management company placement for their clients.

Keith specializes in commercial, commuter and all turboprop aircraft. He also manages the overall “inventory” of aircraft, oversees maintenance schedules, movement, registration and refurbishment of the firm’s own fleet.

Hopkinson today represents three generations of BizAv builders in Canada and around the world. It would seem that this family has got aviation in its genes, and by all accounts, plan on sticking around for a good many years to come.


Rob Seaman is a Wings writer and columnist.