Steven L. Yeffa
The adventure of a lifetime, for the kid in everyone. Welcome to FLIGHT.
Fifty years ago, as a child mesmerized by space exploration, Steve Yeffa watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. It was a passion that never waned. Today, as CEO of Flight Adventure Parks, he’s living the dream with FLIGHT, a first-of-its kind indoor entertainment venue rooted in the spirit and adventure of flight—from spacecraft to aircraft, hot-air balloons to helicopters. It all started with a rocket ship trash can, and flew with the culmination of childlike wonder and a mountain of expertise from the brilliant minds of a company that lives and breathes this core value: “We are believers in imagination.”
In August 2022, Steve and this driven group of believers realized their dream with the celebration of the opening FLIGHT’s newly retrofitted, 26,000-square-foot park in Springfield, Virginia, the first in its 13-park network to unveil the reimagined aviation theme. They were joined by famed aviators Captain Hoot Gibson, a former five-time NASA Astronaut and TOPGUN graduate, and Captain Tammie Jo Shults, the renowned hero of Southwest flight 1380 and one of the first females to fly the FA18 Strike Fighter, both of whom are members of the Flight Adventure Park Advisory Board. “This is such an exciting time for FLIGHT,” Steve says. “I work with some of the best people I’ve ever worked with in my life, and together, we made this happen.” From ziplining through the cargo bay of a space shuttle, riding a rocket through takeoff, bailing out of an aircraft into a giant airbag, and descending the evacuation slide of an aircraft, FLIGHT is an adventure built for the kid in everyone—regardless of age.
“Developing a strategy around this has been fun and challenging. We survived the pandemic, and through our retrofits, we’re thriving by offering an optimally safe and fun environment in which our guests can play,” Steve says. If anyone knows how to execute a turnaround, it’s Steve. When he joined Flight Adventure Parks in 2019, he brought with him three decades of experience in international corporate management and finance gleaned from roles as executive VP and CFO of LSI, and as executive VP, CFO, and CEO of SAFE Security. And while, undoubtedly, his strategic and business acumen helped to drive the turnaround success of the companies he’s served, Steve also looked to pioneering aviation figures for guidance. “Again and again, I’ve turned to their examples to illustrate how business leaders can overcome what seem like insurmountable problems to build stronger, more resilient organizations,” he shares. Now, as FLIGHT takes off in its new, awe-inspiring form, Steve gives the credit to the FLIGHT believers who made it happen. “I have been blessed to have very loyal and hardworking teams with whom to develop our strategic objectives,” he says.
We sat down with Steve to hear about how a fateful encounter with a trash can inspired one of the most imaginative entertainment venues in recent history, and learn more about his own journey, his heroes, and his belief in miracles.
FLIGHT emerged from your simple encounter with a trash can. Will you share this story with us?
In 2019, when I joined the company, my wife and I moved to Virginia. At that time, it was called Flight Fit n Fun—purely trampoline parks. I knew the business could be turned around, but I didn’t yet have the vision for what it would become. We were visiting the Air and Space Museum in D.C. and I saw a trash can shaped like a rocket, and said, “That would look great in our park!” As we walked around the museum, we were getting more inspired and starting really thinking what our park could be if it were aviation themed. I thought, “Why don’t we change the name to just FLIGHT?” I started working with graphic artist, and thought “How fun would it be to zipline through the cargo bay of the space shuttle, or jump on the evacuation slide of an aircraft, or ride a rocket through a turbulent takeoff, or climb an inflatable space shuttle?” Our FLIGHT team brought these to life during the COVID shutdown, and they’re all at our newly retrofitted park in Springfield—including the trash can that started it all. When I came home from the grand opening, hanging out with astronauts and pilots, I told my wife, “These are the people we call friends? This is our life? I never believed this would be so much fun, and I never believed it would be me!”
You’ve always admired aviation leaders, some of whom are your close friends. Who are some of your most inspiring mentors?
I was very blessed early in my career and given opportunities that I try to pass on to others now. I have many heroes, and one of them is Arne McDaniel. He hired me right out of college and brought me with him to his next company, and taught me all about finance. He was a major source of inspiration throughout my career. I still visit him, and we swap old stories, and I love sharing with him what we’re doing now at FLIGHT.
You not only believe in the power of imagination, but in miracles—two in particular. Will you share these with us?
I’d love to. I’m a two-time kidney cancer survivor and I’m married to the love of my life, Stacy Eriksson. We were engaged in college, broke up, and spent 37 years apart. She came to my office in August of 2017, and we got married two years later. I’m the beneficiary of miracles, and she’s one of them. Now we pass on the wonderful blessings that we’ve received through our community work with kids.
Steven also serves as chairman of the International Adventure and Trampoline Parks Association (IATP), president of the DeMolay Foundation of California, Inc.; deputy member of the International Supreme Council, Order of DeMolay; and vice chair of the Finance Committee for the Grand Lodge of California, Free & Accepted Masons.
Steven L. Yeffa
CEO — Flight Adventure Park