Early career success propels businessman
Mark Massey is a small-town Texas boy who will be the first to tell you how blessed and fortunate he is, and he doesn’t take a bit of it for granted. As a new graduate of the University of Texas in petroleum engineering and geology in 1985, he took his first trip on an airplane with a bag full of research that convinced Los Angeles bankers to give him a very large loan to buy two oil refineries in Louisiana. He paid the bank back within 18 months and his good fortune allowed him to semi-retire. “I’m very blessed that those bankers took a chance on me,” Massey said. A little over 10 years later, he was given the opportunity to give back and help save lives, and he’s been flying high ever since.
A life-saving business
In 1992, the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) enforced the “Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals” standard to reduce the high number of hazardous incidents at petroleum and chemical processing facilities. As an appendix to the rule, a compliance guide was produced discouraging the use of portable buildings within plant process areas. At the time, wood-framed trailers were popular because of the ease in placing the structures (and workers) near the work area. Compliance to the OSHA standards meant that oil refineries and chemical plants would have to locate the trailers a safe distance from their facilities as to not harm employees in case of an explosion. This was far less efficient for the industry.
In 1998, Massey met his current business partner, a lawyer with a degree in chemical engineering. The lawyer had been involved in a case where an explosion at an oil refinery had killed and injured several workers because they were in wood-framed trailers with no protection. He thought he could use his engineering education to develop a blast-resistant material to replace the wood-framed construction buildings. “My partner had the idea and I came up with the money to finance it,” Massey said.
In 1999, Massey and his partner launched Hunter Buildings and were the first to design, construct and sell American Petroleum Institute-compliant, blast-resistant modular buildings for use by the refining and petrochemical communities. The company was also the first in the industry to submit its buildings to actual physical blast testing. Hunter’s first customer was Exxon and the business took off from there. The company now has three state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities to meet worldwide demand. The original facility is located with company headquarters in the heart of the energy industry in Houston, Texas; the other two are located where the largest chemical plant and oil refineries are located, in Sharjah, UAE, and Comutov, Czech Republic.
Hunter’s buildings are not only certified to stand up to gas and vapor explosions often caused in the oil and chemical industries, but also forced entry/ballistics, harsh environments and natural disasters. Still, Massey said, 95 percent of Hunter’s current business is serving oil refineries and chemical plants.
When asked about his company’s philosophy, Massey said, “It’s easy, we’re family.” He went on to say, “The employees that work for me help me provide for my family and I realize I am nothing without them, so I take care of them. I am very blessed to have 300 employees who I provide profit sharing, insurance and a 401(k) to, and they love working for us. I’m a simple guy and it’s a simple philosophy: we take care of each other … we’re family.”
Adding a King Air to the family
Massey and his wife, Wendy, just happened to be neighbors in Houston with aviation couple Angie and Jeff Terrell. Jeff flies for the airlines and Angie was instructing at FlightSafety. About three years ago, Massey decided he wanted to purchase an airplane that he could use for his business and personal trips. He and Wendy have seven kids and they like to travel as a family, as well as have quicker means to visit the children who don’t live in Houston.
He asked the Terrells to help him find the right aircraft to fit his needs and asked Angie if she would be the pilot. He offered to pay her more than she was making and provide her all the benefits as an employee of Hunter Buildings. Shortly after she received the job offer, Angie was surprised to find out that she was expecting at age 43. She immediately told Massey and told him she understood if he wanted to get someone else to be their pilot. Instead, Massey offered maternity leave and they worked out a plan for Jeff to fly the aircraft when Angie was off with the baby. Once she was ready to come back to work, she could bring the baby with her. “The baby is part of the family, too,” Massey said.
“It’s a workhorse and me and my family feel safe flying in it. It’s perfect for us. I don’t want another airplane or another pilot for the rest of my life.”
Jeff and Angie studied aircraft that would fit the Massey’s needs, primarily for company travel and secondarily for their personal use. They looked at jets and the Pilatus, as well as the Beechcraft King Air. “In the end, the King Air won on all accounts,” Angie said. Most of the flights for the company would be in Texas and Louisiana, although some trips could be as far away as the Bahamas. Personal trips would include regular flights to Austin (for UT home football games, of course!), Colorado and Mexico. “When we looked at jets, the maintenance costs were three times that of the King Air, and the range, endurance, hauling capability, room in the cabin, quality and excellence of the King Air couldn’t be denied,” Angie explained.
Jeff started looking for King Air 200s and found one that met their performance needs and happened to be painted with University of Texas orange accents – the perfect King Air for the Masseys.
Once they purchased the 1980 King Air 200, the interior was upgraded and designed by Wendy. They also added UT horns to the tail. It still has most of the original avionics and Angie explains that what Beechcraft provided is all that she needs. They named the aircraft Wendy 1 and Angie said, “the old girl doesn’t know she’s a 35-year-old airplane. She is as exceptional around the mountains and icy runways as she is in the heat and on short runways.”
Angie oversees the maintenance and upkeep for the King Air and uses Harco Aviation at Ellington Field in Houston for their maintenance needs. “Skip Harrison, the service center’s owner, is also a King Air pilot and mechanic, and I trust his judgment completely,” she stressed. Jeff flies with Angie on test flights after the King Air has come out of maintenance and also goes on some of the trips. “When he goes along, we have to play rock, paper, scissors to see who gets the left seat,” Angie joked.
The King Air is available for Hunter Buildings’ sales team to visit a project site or clients. Mark estimates they use the airplane 25-40 percent of the time for business purposes and the remainder is for personal use. “The King Air’s safety record was very important to me because I carry precious cargo,” Massey said. He summed it up by saying, “If I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d never get rid of the King Air. It’s a workhorse and me and my family feel safe flying in it. It’s perfect for us. I don’t want another airplane or another pilot for the rest of my life.”
From Microbiologist to Chief Pilot
When she was a little girl, Angie Terrell, chief pilot for Hunter Buildings, dreamed of learning how to fly. At the age of 9, she flew over to Europe with her sister, whose husband was stationed there. “The flight was exhilarating for me and only grew my passion for flying. But my father was a house painter and my mother was a waitress, so I knew taking flying lessons wasn’t financially feasible,” she explained.
When it came time to attend college, she decided she would get into the military and learn how to fly that way, so she attended Penn State and was part of the ROTC program. The summer after her first year, she broke her leg and ankle and fell behind in the ROTC program. She decided maybe that was a sign that flying wasn’t to be part of her life. She ended up getting a degree in microbiology and worked in the genetic research field in Dallas.
A few years later she saw an ad in the newspaper publicizing discovery flights at the local airport. She went up in an airplane with an instructor for a 15-minute flight and instantly fell back in love. “The next Monday, I promptly walked into my boss’ office and turned in my two weeks’ notice. I told her I was going to flight school and at first she thought I was kidding!” Angie explained.
Due to 9-11, it took a bit longer for her to build up her hours because the airlines weren’t hiring, but she was able to instruct at her flight school. She soon found a job transporting freight at night, flying six days a week for $800 a month. But she’s not complaining, “I was able to get my multi-engine rating and build up my time,” she said. “It also taught me to be a very conservative pilot.” She then went on to fly for Continental Express and later worked for FlightSafety training pilots in the ATR.
Although she hadn’t flown a Beechcraft King Air much before being hired as Hunter’s chief pilot, she was well aware of its operating systems. “A lot of my ATR students were transitioning from the King Air, so I studied its systems in order to understand where they were coming from and how I could explain things better,” she said.
Angie can’t say enough about flying for the Masseys and Hunter Buildings. “It doesn’t get any better than what I do! I mean, who gets to take their 2-year old to work with them? I get to fly a great airplane for a great family and business. I do everything I can to take care of them!” she professed.