MTJ Aviation Hawker 400
MTJ Aviation operates a small fleet of Hawker 400XPs, although owner and NASCAR driver Martin Truex Jr. plans to transition to Cessna Citations. (Photo: MTJ Aviation)

NASCAR Driver's Charter Biz Used For Lifesaving Organ Transport

Martin Truex Jr.'s company, MTJ Aviation, finds a fulfilling channel for growth in the midst of a business slowdown.

The timing might not have been perfect, but for racecar driver and 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Champion Martin Truex Jr., owning and operating a charter company made more sense than being a charter passenger to travel to races.

Truex acquired a Hawker 400XP in 2014. After having his airplane managed by another company, he brought its management into his holding company, MTJ Group of Companies. “The best option was to do this all myself and hire the right people to run it and at the same time not spend the money I was spending,” Truex told BJT. “I have control over everything, and [I’m] paying for services I felt I could do better myself.”

Last year, he decided to get into the charter business, and in June MTJ Aviation was created. “When we looked across the board at what others were doing in the industry as far as NASCAR and what we were doing comparatively, it was kind of a no-brainer to take the model that we were using and try to spread it around there, get some other drivers involved...not only from a cost perspective but a safety perspective,” he said.

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With three owned or leased Hawker 400XPs, a staff of 20 including pilots, and a director of maintenance, the company focused on flying NASCAR drivers. It's an area of business where Truex sees opportunity for further growth. “I think based on what we’ve been able to deliver the options are there for us to really grow this on the NASCAR side,” he added.

In addition to the NASCAR business, MTJ Aviation also sought corporate and leisure travel clients. However, that business all but dried up when the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, prompting the company to pivot to a new line of work: flying human organs and the surgical teams that retrieve them.

That came about at the suggestion of one of MTJ’s pilots, whose previous employer had done the same work for Transplant Coordinators of America (TCOA). “Not only is it very meaningful for us to be involved in that channel of business, but we really didn’t adjust our rates at all to service organ transports,” Todd Moore, president of MTJ Group of Companies, told BJT. “And what we’ve found is our rates are hypercompetitive in that space and [it’s] really allowed us to grow fairly quickly. I think it’s up to around 50 percent of our business now.”

The organ transplant missions take MTJ Aviation up and down the East Coast and as far west as Texas. Moore estimates the company is flying three to five organ trips a week, and he hopes to increase those numbers. “[Flying these organ missions] was a real blessing and it’s been a great experience,” added Truex. TCOA president and CEO Steve Pitzer described MTJ Aviation as a “No. 1 class-act operation” whose rates really are hypercompetitive. “We do use a lot of other vendors, but since MTJ called, I’ve pretty much been using them exclusively unless we have too many flights going at the same time,” Pitzer explained to BJT.

Longer-term, Truex and Moore would like to expand MTJ Aviation’s operations to include a fleet of 25 to 30 business jets over the next three to four years, although that timeline might have to be extended because of the pandemic. Truex said the company is working with Textron Aviation to transition to Citations