The Showalter family has been part of the Central Florida aviation landscape since 1945 when Howard Showalter, J. Sandy Showalter, and Ford “Buck” Rogers migrated to Florida after serving in the war effort. Soon after arriving they acquired one hundred acres in Winter Park and built Showalter Airpark. The Airpark was intended to be a mecca for the private pilot offering a country club atmosphere to make flying attractive to everyone. With the advent of the G.I. Bill flight training predictably became a large part of the operation. Early aircraft types operated by Showalter include the venerable J-3 Cub, Luscombe’s, Taylorcraft’s, and even a Fairchild 24.
Throughout the late 1940’s the training business continued to grow and at one time had three locations: The Airpark, today’s Sanford International (KSFB) and today’s Orlando Executive (KORL). However with the advent of corporate aviation the founders saw a need for better infrastructure than could be offered by the grass runways of the Airpark. Thus in 1951 Showalter bid on the FBO concession at what was then Orlando Municipal Airport.
At the time Orlando Municipal had a bad reputation due to poor service provided by the city operated facility, as evidenced by the fact that only three aircraft were permanently based there. Using the premise that good service was the principal commodity pilots sought, Showalter set about changing the airport’s reputation while also building a nationwide reputation for great service and accommodations.
The 1960’s saw the arrival of the jet age and the need for even more robust infrastructure. This change drove the airlines away from Orlando Municipal and towards the long runways of the former McCoy Air Force Base, today’s Orlando International Airport. By 1968 the airlines had completed their move, which served to further drive corporate and private traffic towards Orlando Municipal, now called Herndon Airport, and Showalter. Of course Herndon became today’s Orlando Executive Airport, one of the nation’s busiest GA airports.
Howard Showalter died tragically in 1965, leaving a void both at Showalter and in Florida’s aviation community. Howard was a noted community leader in the formative years of the Orlando of today, so much so that a local high school still plays football on a field bearing his name.
In 1973, a few years after earning an MBA at Rollins College, Howard’s son Bob Showalter joined “Buck” Rogers as a partner in Showalter Flying Service. The pair made a great team with Buck’s thirty years of experience and Bob’s passion for aviation, business acumen, and natural salesmanship.
Bob eventually bought Buck out of the company and led Showalter through a long period of challenges, successes, and innovation. By his side through it all has been his wife Kim, who after spending several years at home with two young children came to work at the company in the early 1990’s. Kim learned every facet of the business, from pumping gas and answering phones to the finances. As her role in the company expanded she also branched out into the industry, serving a two year stint as the Chairperson of the Business Management Committee of NATA among other jobs. In 1994 she assumed her current role as President of Showalter Flying Service.
Bob and Kim’s two kids, Jenny and their son Sandy are now fully immersed in the family business as well. Jenny graduated from Rollins College and in 1996 assumed the role of Customer Service Manager quite by accident. Jenny was contemplating a career in teaching when, just before Showalter hosted their first NBAA convention, their former Customer Service Manager departed for another job. Jenny fit the role perfectly then and continues to do so today. Her involvement in the industry is extensive having served as the Vice-Chairperson of Angel Flight Southeast and as Chair of the NBAA Scheduler’s and Dispatcher’s Committee. Sandy graduated from Texas Christian University in 2001 and after a job outside of the industry joined the family business full time in 2003. Sandy is currently the Vice President Marketing and Sales at Showalter as well as the sitting President of the Florida Aviation Trades Association. Jenny and Sandy each have two sons of their own, so the fourth generation is already hanging around the terminal!
Even with the advent of major competitors, Showalter Flying Service remains the principal general aviation operator in Orlando. Bob, Kim, Jenny and Sandy look forward to meeting you as you arrive in the Orlando area.