Sunday, September 04, 2016

About Utah: Meet Utah's Wright Bros.

SPANISH FORK — It was Aristotle who first philosophized that when people work and collaborate together in cooperation and harmony, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Twenty-three hundred years later, the Patey brothers, Mike and Mark, are all about proving him right.

Mike and Mark are identical twins. They entered the world 43 years ago, smack in the middle of Ken and Sharon Patey’s 11 children. Mike was No. 5, and 46 minutes later, taking his own sweet time (“I finally had some room in there”), came Mark at No. 6.

They grew up in Orem, where their dad raised 11 children on a Seminary teacher’s salary, meaning the Patey kids learned self-reliance or bust. When Mike and Mark were 15 they started a deck-building business, talking their neighbor into letting them use his tools by giving him a cut of the profits. By the time they graduated from Orem High School four years later, they had their own tools — and Deck-It had 200 employees.

Ten years later when they sold the business, it was reckoned to be the largest deck- and gazebo-building business in the country.

In the years since, the twins have been in and out of more entrepreneurial enterprises than Mark Cuban. Hot tubs, RVs and motor homes, electrical, health care, pharmaceuticals, engineering. Currently Mark (with Mike as a silent partner) owns a company that designs and sells electronic tugs for moving aircraft, and Mike (with Mark as a silent partner) is in the oil business, removing wastewater at oil facilities in eastern Utah. Mark has become a motivational speaker on the side, although as he points out, “Not by design but request.” English translation: If they’ll pay his fee ($15,000) he will talk about what’s worked for him and his brother, and why.

The short answer to their success: “We’re workaholics,” Mark grins, “we’re addicted to work. We have a problem.”

Their biggest, most enduring, “problem” is flying airplanes. The twin brothers are practically omnipresent at the Spanish Fork-Springville airport, where they store their current collection of seven airplanes and one helicopter.

Aviation was a foreign concept to both of them until what Mike describes as “a weird twin moment” 20 years ago.

It was 1996, they were 24 years old, and Mike tagged along with his father-in-law to an air show in California. Intrigued by what he saw, he got on the phone to call Mark and tell him they ought to start flying airplanes.

On the very same day, Mark had gone to the Spanish Fork-Springville airport and talked to a pilot there. He was about to call Mike and tell him he thought they should take flying lessons when Mike called him.

“I had no idea he was at an air show in California,” says Mark. “I thought I’d have to talk him into it.”

They took to the air like helium, becoming — take your pick — either Utah’s answer to the Wright Brothers, or what their friend Hal Jackson calls “Howard Hughes times two.”

Probably both.

Not only have they owned and flown, between the two of them, more than 30 aircraft over the years, most of them they have designed, engineered and built themselves.

The comparison to Howard Hughes — the pioneering, innovative aviator, not the reclusive, deranged billionaire — was more than symbolic in 2011 when the twins set world records for flying across the country from west to east in a little more than six hours each in a single piston-engine powered plane. In doing so, they etched their name in the record book alongside Hughes, who set the transcontinental record in 1937 when it took him seven hours and 28 minutes to cross the country.

In March of 2011, the Pateys left San Diego side-by-side in their home-built planes. They flew wing to wing until they landed to refuel in Brownwood, Texas. From there, Mike flew to Charleston, West Virginia, to set the northern route transcontinental record, while Mark flew to Jacksonville, Florida, to set the southern route mark.

Five years later, both records still stand.

This year, Mike, adding to the Patey brothers' aviation lore, set a world record for average speed in a single-engine turbo prop plane, averaging 438.02 miles an hour in the sleek, one-of-a-kind “Turbulence” he built from the ground up.

He’s also working on a plane he hopes to land on either Mount McKinley or Mount Everest to set a world record for highest altitude landing.

Mark and Mike routinely donate their aircraft, and their piloting, for search and rescue operations.

Wherever they go, and whatever heights they reach, they credit their synergy for getting them there.

“We’re each other’s biggest support,” says Mike. “We’re always pulling for each other.”

Twindom has been very, very good to them. So much so, that they’re thinking that one of these years they’d like to attend the annual Twin Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, a celebration of all things twin.

They can fly to get there, and set twin records along the way.

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