A problem confronted by a Nashville, Tennessee, aircraft maintenance shop has led to a new business venture that connects aviators with Class A recreational vehicles.
Mike Harris and Matt Wilkins launched Runway 2 RV earlier this year and say this new business venture not only provides aviators a way to easily travel to and stay overnight at airshows but also helps fellow pilots get more enjoyment out of their aircraft.
“Matt and I are working for Forge Flightworks, an avionics and aircraft interior company in Smyrna, Tennessee, and we had an opportunity to purchase this RV,” Harris said. “Basically, we decided that we would use it during Sun ’n’ Fun and Oshkosh but that it would be a really good idea to make it available to other pilots the rest of the year.”
Ground logistics are often a challenge for pilots flying in for an event.
“You have to catch an Uber or get a rental car to get to the hotel or wherever you are staying,” Harris said. “Both of us liked camping and had camper trailers before, so this made sense for us to do. So, we got the RV and made it available as a concierge service where you can fly into our base of operations at Smyrna Airport (KMQY), and the RV will be sitting right there on the ramp.
“How cool is it that all you have to do is taxi right up next to it and we toss you the keys? You just grab your bags and go. It’s kind of a fun thing [for us] to do, to have the red carpet rolled out for you and have a weekend adventure. Everyone we have talked to has loved the idea and think that it’s great.”
The duo advised that the convenience of their service isn’t only because the RV is located at the airport but also what that means for pilots after they leave. They explained that pilots would avoid tie-down fees by keeping their plane on the Forge Flightworks, where there is also hangar space available. Additionally, they believe the long weekend pilots spend away from their aircraft would be an opportune time for small avionics maintenance tasks, such as software updates and IFR certifications.
“We can handle a lot of details for pilots who rent the RV,” Wilkins said. “If they want the whole thing stocked with drinks and food, we can handle it for them. The sky is kind of the limit on how personal they make this thing, because it’s Mike and me. That makes it a real personal touch. And one of the great things about our RV is that it’s really easy to set up. But we also offer delivery service, if someone doesn’t want to drive it or set it up themselves.”
There are two airports near Music City, as well as plenty to do in close proximity to Smyrna, Harris said.
“Nashville is such a great place to visit,” he said. “People are always talking about how much fun they had here or that they want to come and visit. There is a lake that’s about 15 minutes away from our hangar, which has three or four campgrounds. If you are coming into Nashville, John C. Tune Airport (KJWN) is slightly closer to downtown but not much closer. It’s only 25 or 30 minutes away from Smyrna. There are several campgrounds close to downtown, as well as to the Grand Ole Opry. But if you are wanting to do a lake weekend, Smyrna Airport is the best option. The airport sits right on Percy Priest Lake. There is a marina where you can rent boats, [and it] also has a restaurant. You can literally land, be in the RV, and cracking [open] a cold beer at the lake in 15 minutes.”
Wilkins added that the pair’s mission with the new platform is simple—to connect other pilots with opportunities in aviation that may not otherwise exist.
“The goal behind Runway 2 RV is how do we make pilots that are flying a PA-28 or a Cessna 172, for example, have a really cool experience?” he said. “One where they pull their plane up at the airport and jump into the next vehicle. Prior to being in aviation, Mike had a long career in the [car] rental side, and I have a friend who works for another RV rental company in Nashville. And hearing him talk about the frustrations and complaints around the logistics of having to solve, after landing and getting to the RV, it was clear this was an opportunity to engage people in the aviation community.”
Wilkins also pointed out a baseline principle behind Runway2RV.
“Mike has influenced me a lot on the topic of pilot engagement, but how do we get engaged in aviation?” he said. “It’s more than just ‘here is an avionics shop fly-in,’ or ‘here is a maintenance shop with a breakfast fly-in.’ We have started some things at our shop to engage pilots more during the weekdays, like bringing in a food truck. This is instead of just having the standard Saturday morning fly-in breakfast. We are also thinking about things like this as a way to engage pilots more in general aviation. It’s been fun to see this project come to life with that mentality of getting more people involved in flying.”
The pair advised that the overall goal with this service is to connect pilots to a new way of using their certificates for recreational purposes.
“The way that I look at this overall is that we are pilots providing something to other pilots to live the pilot lifestyle,” Harris said. “This is not our main business. It’s a side, fun thing that we are doing with our RV—so that pilots have something else to do.”