Midlantic Jet Aviation: maintenance shop plans steady growth

 - September 11, 2006, 11:44 AM

Rick Hendrickson, president of Midlantic Jet Aviation, believes it’s important to be able to deliver on your word. “Our business has grown in a steady, controlled manner since my father started it 24 years ago.” The Atlantic City, N.J., company is a full-service FBO and FAA Part 145 repair station.

Hendrickson said his father owned two Cessna 402s in the early 1980s and leased them to a charter operator. In 1982 his father bought the business from the charter operator and “for the next eight years
my father and my brother ran Atlantic Air Taxi on Bader Field in Atlantic City. At that time we had a small shop geared to do most of our own maintenance, but that was all.”

In 1983 Mike Hodel, Midlantic’s v-p and director of operations, was hired as chief pilot.

In 1986 Midlantic added a Learjet 25B to the fleet, and the company began its conversion to turbine power; in 1988 a King Air B100 joined the fleet, followed by a Learjet 35A the next year and a Hawker in 1990.

“As the company added aircraft we developed the corresponding maintenance capability,” Hendrickson said. “The maintenance function continued to get stronger and more efficient, resulting in excess capacity. Like all charter operators we had a network of other providers we relied upon to help even out demand.
As our maintenance capacity increased, many of them began to look to us to help meet their maintenance requirements, and we continued to expand.”

In 1988 several events affected the company significantly. Hendrickson had recently graduated from college when his brother decided to leave the business for other opportunities. “I suddenly found myself the corporate secretary/treasurer,” he said. “I decided it would be a good idea to dig a little deeper in the business and enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Master of Aviation Management extension program,” he said. In 1996, when his father retired, he assumed the role of president.

Servicing Large Aircraft

Another significant event was the company’s procuring a lease for an FBO on Atlantic City International Airport (ACY). “We decided to change the charter company’s name to Midlantic Jet Charter and call the FBO Midlantic Jet Aviation, but there was a problem: environmental issues at ACY prevented us from building a hangar.”

Undaunted, Hendrickson went to Mill-ville, N.J., bought an existing FBO, renamed it Midlantic Jet Aviation and began operations there. By 1995 the environmental problems at ACY had been resolved and Midlantic built a hangar and office complex. “We kept Millville as a stand-alone FBO until about four years ago, when we sold it,” Hendrickson said. “For several years we were the only maintenance facility on ACY. A lot of transient aircraft were going through our FBO, introducing them to our maintenance operation and resulting in further growth.

“In 1998 Raytheon opened a facility on the airport to work on its products, and for the first time our Hawker and King Air maintenance business had competition,” Hendrickson recalled. “But by then we had an established customer base and found the competition didn’t have a significant impact.”

By 2004 the company had built another 20,000-sq-ft hangar for storage and maintenance. “We were getting an increasing amount of interest from operators of larger aircraft, in particular a Learjet 60 and a Falcon 50, so that September we hired Jim Beresford to be our director of maintenance,” Hendrickson said.

“He was perfect for our operation because he had large corporate aircraft experience and we’d decided it was time to expand into that segment of the market,” Hendrickson said. “Shortly after bringing Jim on board we got a contract to manage a Falcon 900EX and a Gulfstream IV-SP. As we’d add new aircraft we’d spool up our equipment and our mechanics’ training. We were taking it slow, being careful about how we grew, but we were still really beginning to feel a space crunch.”

Last June, after Raytheon decided to close its maintenance shop in Atlantic City, Midlantic purchased the facility. It has a 30,000-sq-ft maintenance hangar and an additional 20,000 sq ft of back shops and office space, bringing Midlantic’s total complex to 90,000 sq ft, including 64,000 sq ft dedicated to maintenance and storage.

Today Midlantic has about 105 employees, nine of whom are dedicated to maintenance. The technicians attend both FlightSafety and OEM factory schools and routinely work on Falcons, Gulfstreams, Challengers, Learjets, Beech/Hawkers and Sikorsky S-76s. In the engine market they also work on the General Electric CF34, Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D and PT6 and Honeywell TFE731 and 36-150 APU.

“Our goal is to develop all the facets of our business from ground handling to charter, but with the most recent facility acquisition, which was designed to be a heavy maintenance facility, we particularly intend to expand that portion of our business but in a steady, controlled manner.”