Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Wheels in the Sky Keep on Turning

The recent announcement of Charter Air Transport as an associate sponsor of David Gilliland's #71 TRG Motorsports NASCAR entry is exciting for David's fans, but for one of the partners of the company, it is the closing of a circle that started in 1990.

For Paul Kahalley, the summer day at Pensacola Air Center was like any other Florida day, hot and humid, air feeling thick under a blue sky that beckoned pilots to go for a spin in a flying machine. Paul was introduced to a young 29 year old who was at PAC to purchase an airplane. When hearing the name and occupation of the young man, Paul asked him if he was related to Bobby Allison. Laughing, Davey laughingly replied "Yeah, I am related to him a bit." Paul had no knowledge of NASCAR, but meeting Davey Allison was the catalyst for a new career.

Kahalley talks fondly of his early flight experiences. As a teenager, he took flight lessons at every opportunity. A graduate of the University of Alabama, Paul holds a degree in PR, but being young and hyper, hated the thought of flying a desk. After graduation, he took a job with a produce company. "My first job out of college was flying a Cessna Caravan, loaded with bananas, five times daily from St. Croix to a produce hangar in St. Thomas...I had no idea how good I had it! I was done at 1:00 PM everyday, and spent the rest of the day either fishing, or on the beach!"

Paul remembers meeting Davey in 1990. "I was there doing some training, he was there buying an airplane. Sam Manz worked for Pensacola Air Center and handled all of Davey's airplane stuff, and flew for him. Davey and I shared the same flight instructor at PAC, Craig Osburn. I had no idea who Davey was really, as I was not a NASCAR fan." Paul, Davey and Sam would all fly together, working as a team, switching off on piloting and radio duties.

Paul's first race was at Indianapolis Raceway Park, where Davey was entered in the (then) Busch Series for the 1990 Kroger 200. Davey finished 19th at the race, but Paul was fascinated by the sights, the sounds, and the speed! "For a pilot, speed is intriguing. The impact of seeing the speed of the cars on track cannot be reproduced on television." Before Paul knew it, he was recruited into his first pit crew experience as a catch can man. "I was scared to death!" Entranced, Paul became addicted to racing, and claims the aroma of fuel and tires to be better than any cologne!

When Davey died in 1993, Paul drifted away from NASCAR. Continuing to fly random corporate charters, he started to fly PGA Golf players. Eventually, he built enough of a base of clients, aircraft, and destinations to strike out on his own in 1996. Recently, his company merged with Charter Air Transport, owned by Mike Hoyle of Cleveland, Ohio. This merger brought him full circle back to NASCAR.

Charter Air Transport is the contracted charter company for Rusty Wallace, Inc, flying the RWI Nationwide series teams from track to track. The company has a solid business model to offer to race teams. Rather than exclusively using their jets that burn 450 gallons of fuel per hour, they quite often use the more efficient Embraer Brasilia. While this aircraft may need to make an extra stop to pick up fuel, it uses 150 gallons an hour. This savings to the client's bottom line makes up for the extra stop on some of the trips. The business model is one that works for both the client and CAT. "We do it in a way that works for them and for us, and we won't put either of us in debt!" says Kahalley.

While not active in the industry, Paul maintained his interest in NASCAR, watching races on television for years. Because of Davey, Paul followed Robert Yates Racing and his drivers. And because of RYR, Paul started following David Gilliland, and keeps up with David's career on the fan forum at

As an associate sponsor of the TRG #71 entry at the Dover International Speedway, Paul will personally be flying David and Michelle Gilliland to Dover. This will be the first time he has flown a NASCAR Cup driver since the passing of Davey Allison. "There will be some great memories of a great friend that will enter my mind when we fly David, and his wife to Dover" reflects Kahalley. "When Davey died, part of my love for racing died also. Now it is re-kindled with David, and TRG!"

Paul is excited to have his company sponsor David Gilliland. He is also looking forward to returning to the sights, the sounds, and the speed of racing.

1 comment:

calorchard said...

WOW ! thanks Merri !