In 1978, Cessna Aircraft opened a Citation service center in Palm Beach, Fla., and five years later relocated it to a facility on the south side of Orlando International Airport to meet demand for its services. Demand continued to grow, to the point that it exceeded the capacity of the 45,000-sq-ft facility and the MRO relocated for a second time.
In 2004 the service center moved into a new 187,000-sq-ft facility, also located on Orlando International. Cessna named it the Orlando Citation Service Center, positioned to support Citation customers in the Southeastern U.S., Caribbean, Latin America, Central America and South America.
The facility provides 125,000 sq ft of hangar space divided into two 48,000-sq-ft maintenance bays and a 29,000-sq-ft paint bay. It also has an expanded aircraft ramp with underground refueling facilities, environmental control systems throughout the facility, wash bays, customer courtesy offices and a classroom for advanced employee training. The larger facility gave the MRO the room it needed to be more flexible in handling both scheduled maintenance and unscheduled drop-in customers.
Today, the Orlando facility is one of Textron Aviation’s largest and busiest service centers in a global network that includes company-owned facilities and more than 40 mobile service units based in North America and Europe. In December 2012, Dan Grace was appointed general manager at the Orlando Service Center.
Grace, who grew up near Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station, discovered aviation at an early age by watching the Apollo missions on television and fighters taking off and landing at the base.
“I had always wanted to fly, so I joined the Army in 1986 to fly helicopters,” he told AIN. After being commissioned an Army warrant officer and aviator, Grace flew the OH-58 for about five years, at which point he was accepted into fixed-wing school. Upon graduation he flew U-21s and C-12s followed by a stint as a C-12 instructor and eventually moved into VIP operations flying and instructing in the Cessna UC-35, the military version of the Citation Ultra/Encore. During his three years as a C-35 instructor Grace became familiar with factory Citation service centers in Greensboro, N.C., and Wichita. In 2000 he left the Army and went to work for Cessna as a demo pilot on the CitationJet 525, 560XLS and Citation X.
“By then I had a master of aeronautical science in aviation and aerospace management from Embry-Riddle and was promoted to safety supervisor and eventually manager of flight operations safety and security,” he said.
It wasn’t long before he moved into the director of flight operations safety and security spot, a position in which he became even more involved with the company’s service center network.
“At the time my elevated understanding of how the service center functioned and supported customers appealed to me, so in 2012 I joined the Orlando Service Center as general manager,” Grace said. “I quickly realized it was a great place to work. The weather in Orlando is great, the city is a destination location so it has anything you could want, and the facility and working conditions are first class. The result is we have the luxury of attracting the best talent available to work for us.”
10 Years at Orlando
The Orlando Service Center has some 200 employees, 155 of whom are dedicated to maintenance; 35 more are in administration and management. The remaining employees work in parts sales, new aircraft sales and human resources. The average employee tenure is 12 years. Eighty of the employees have worked at the MRO for the full 10 years that the current large facility has been operating in Orlando.
“Our employees love aviation and our customers can tell. Our team routinely works successfully and efficiently with customers from all over the U.S. and Central and South America. Moving into the new facility gave us greater capacity, a dedicated paint booth and two large service bays to accommodate both large- and small-cabin aircraft. We’ve been in business in this area for a long time so there’s not much our team members haven’t seen, and that gives us the competitive edge. We have the space, the infrastructure, the tooling and the depth of expertise to get things done faster and more efficiently. It’s particularly important when it comes to modifications; that’s one of our strengths,” Grace said.
Textron Aviation’s Orlando Service Center offers maintenance, inspection, parts, repairs, avionic modifications, equipment installations, interior and exterior refurbishment and other specialized services.
It holds repair station approvals from the FAA, EASA, Brazil’s ANAC, Chile’s DGAC, the Cayman Islands CAA, Mexico’s DGAC, Qatar’s QCAA and St. Maarten’s CAA; certification by Argentina’s ANAC is under way. The MRO works on all Citations, the Cessna Caravan and Hawker Beechcraft aircraft. It is also approved to work on a range of Pratt & Whitney Canada, Garrett and Williams engines, as well as the Rolls-Royce AE3007C/C1.
“Besides scheduled maintenance we can do modifications, including the popular Wi-Fi, XM Weather, satcom and Waas upgrades. Best of all, because the service center network is so large and offers such diverse talent, we can call on expertise from other locations to meet any customer requirement,” Grace added. “When you add in that we offer ServiceDirect, a mobile service allowing customers to receive service at their jet’s location, we can satisfy all of our customers’ needs and keep them in the air.”