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Aviation Leaders Can Learn from the Legacy of John Rahilly

On May 24, veteran aviation executive John Rahilly took his final flight. After 68 orbits around the sun, he landed safely in the loving arms of family at his home in Southport, N.C.

Known for his dry sense of humor and gentle spirit, John touched many in his life. 

John was at once a husband, father, teacher and counselor. He had a special gift of connecting with people.

John Rahilly died May 24 at age 68. Donations in his memory may be sent to a scholarship fund established in his name.His tours of duty included the U.S. Navy, Canadair, K-C Aviation, Gulfstream Aerospace, BBA Aviation, Mercury Air Centers, Dassault Falcon Jet and Global Jet Services. In his various business leadership roles, John was able to create a harmonious balance of being firm, fair and just. In his presence, you knew there was no hidden agenda. It is this kind of transparency that served him well and a quality we all can learn from.

We had the privilege of knowing John as both a businessman and a friend. He seemed to be able to mingle both with ease. It was invigorating to be around John, for his glass was always half full.

One of John’s endearing qualities was being very frugal. His son Jeff Rahilly, a corporate pilot, says his dad never needed to buy casual shirts because he would collect freebies at trade shows.

We also personally experienced John’s penchant for being thrifty. During one of our many conversations on business trips, John mentioned that he needed to remember to get the free bottles of shampoo and conditioner from his hotel room. We came to find out he never bought these items. He always returned home from trips with the sample-sized bottles and promptly restocked his shower.

Naturally, we could not keep this valuable information to ourselves, so the sales team at K-C Aviation ceremoniously presented John with a lifetime supply of hotel-sized shampoo and conditioner, retrieved over time from many sales trips. For us, it was a good laugh. For John, it was a problem solved!

For us in the aviation industry, modeling our leadership style after someone like John would be a winning recipe for success. The ingredients would be carefully measured and include being honest, forthright, frugal, kind, giving, fair and just.

We who knew John will miss him. For those in the aviation community and FBO industry that missed the opportunity, we can provide this life lesson John would approve: Always remember where you’ve been and the people who helped you get where you’re going. Humble yourself in your approach to business and life.  

As John would often say, “You can’t make this stuff up.”

Well done, John. Happy landings!


John Rahilly’s roots in aviation included being a certified A&P technician. It is in this spirit that his family, through the NBAA, has created a John F. Rahilly Memorial Scholarship for Future A&P Technicians. Donations may be sent to: NBAA at 1200 G St. NW, Suite 100, Washington, D.C. 20005.
Please leave a comment below. If you have any questions, please give us a call or send us an email:, 404-867-5518;, 972-979-6566.


John Enticknap has more than 35 years of aviation fueling and FBO services industry experience and is an IS-BAH Accredited auditor. Ron Jackson is co-founder of Aviation Business Strategies Group and president of The Jackson Group, a PR agency specializing in FBO marketing and customer service training. Visit the biography page or for more background.


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