Lois Reid, CEO and co-founder of flight training school Upper Limit Aviation, acquired a passion for aviation from her father, a World War II Army Air Corps pilot who built planes in the family’s backyard. She went on to marry a pilot, and the couple’s shared passion continued on through their son. In 2004, Reid and her son, Sean, combined their love for aviation into Upper Limit Aviation, a flight school that offers training programs in Salt Lake City, Cedar City and Murietta, California, through a partnership with Southern Utah University.
What attracted you to the aviation industry?
I love flying and some of my earliest memories are of my mother sewing fabric together for airplane wings on her sewing machine. My mother supported my father’s flying habit and love of aviation by helping him rebuild airplanes in the backyard. He would then take us flying. As a young child, my father was always taking me with him to the airport. He had begun flying at 15, was an Army Air Corp pilot during WWII and never lost his love of aviation.
What are some of the rewards of starting your own business?
Everyone who starts a business does so because they see a need and want to make a difference. The main reward of a business that provides education such as ours is the success of our students. Our 55 aircraft fly nearly 35,000 hours per year providing instruction, and we have about 150 employees. Over the past 11 years we have had several hundred graduates. The program currently has nearly an 80 percent retention rate and over 90 percent graduate placement rate. We hope to continue to make a difference and serve a need for many years to come.
How did the partnership with Southern Utah University come about?
My father and late husband both served in the military, so I knew the importance of the GI Bill in providing educational opportunity to veterans. Our alliance with Southern Utah University offers students the ability to receive training as part of a college degree. Many of them are veterans transitioning from a combat arena into a college degree program, which includes flight training. We feel extremely fortunate to be allied with SUU. They care a great deal about the success of their students and their veteran student population, and our mutual interests are aligned in the importance of providing hope and opportunity to students.
How would you describe your leadership style?
My leadership style follows the basic format of hiring great people and collaborating with them to create and continuously improve. Collaboration is my favorite part of business and what I consider the true “human spark” that sets our species apart.
What does the future hold for Upper Limit Aviation? For the aviation industry in general?
The future for the aviation industry will depend on the ability of the industry to provide a workforce to accommodate it. With the huge retirements from baby boomers, the aviation industry is facing a global pilot and mechanic shortage. The industry demand for pilots is not diminishing, and together with our partner alliances we will continue to innovate and provide the best quality training we can to produce positive student outcomes.