West Coast Maintenance, a division of West Coast Charters, recently opened a repair station in a newly built 30,000-sq-ft hangar on Daugherty Field in Long Beach, Calif.
According to Gary Standel, president and director of operations for West Coast Charters, the new facility expands the company’s maintenance capacity and opens it to the public. West Coast Charters, founded in 1987 and based at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana, has been providing charter service to destinations throughout the Americas and the Caribbean.
“I developed a passion for flying at a very early age,” Standel told AIN. “I never saw flying simply as a means of transportation; every takeoff was a remarkable experience. Aviation was always going to be my career.”
Standel said he began providing charter service for local Orange County developers and businessmen with one turboprop. “In 1989, I was granted a multi-aircraft air carrier certificate and augmented the West Coast Charter fleet with two more turboprops and two new pilots. Later that year, we added our first turbojet, a Cessna Citation V, to the fleet.”
“The company enjoyed steady growth so I kept reinforcing our fleet and hiring new pilots,” Standel explained. “By 1991 it made sense for us to establish our own in-house maintenance department and the benefit of doing so helped us maintain our growth profile. As a result, in 1995, we signed a 20-year lease on our space at the south end of John Wayne Airport.”
In 2001 the company introduced its Fractional Shares Program with an eye toward providing a stepping stone from aircraft charters to ownership. The fractional fleet continues to grow and currently includes four King Air B200s and one King Air 350. Standel said the company saw it as a progressive step that mirrored its expanding role in the industry, but the continued growth required yet more space to support it.
“Last year, we leased a state-of-the-art 30,000-sq-ft hangar in Long Beach,” Standel said. “The new hangar, in conjunction with the John Wayne Airport facility, gave us the capacity we needed. Today, West Coast Charters provides an end-to-end solution including aircraft charter, fractional shares, aircraft sales and acquisition, aircraft maintenance, hangar storage and aircraft management services.”
Standel said the aircraft management business ranges from providing a total turnkey package to specialized, individual services. “We will tailor a program to fit the client’s profile, including obtaining insurance, storage, maintenance, providing flight crews and record keeping,” he said.
“We specialize in making sure your aircraft remains an asset and doesn’t become a burden. As an additional tool to offset some of the cost of ownership, we can charter a client’s airplane, when they’re not using it, to existing clientele,” he said. “We charge only a modest monthly administrative fee to cover accounting, advertising and marketing costs then send the client a monthly report detailing activity along with the charter revenue collected.”
Extending Maintenance Capability
Standel said while the company’s maintenance function began in support of a five-aircraft Part 135 operation, the fleet expanded to 27 aircraft and helped the company build maintenance expertise. “Maintenance helped our aircraft owners reduce the cost of ownership,” he said. “That led to some opportunities opening up during the past two years that resulted in our maintenance expansion and the acquisition of the Long Beach facility.”
The company still maintains a 17,000-sq-ft maintenance facility at SNA, but it is a line maintenance facility for its charter fleet. “We have two technicians there currently, but we’re going to expand that to eight by next year,” Standel said.
Although the company is located in a densely populated, aviation-rich part of the country, Standel sees a need for specialized maintenance facilities that can support flight departments. “Our target area for the Long Beach facility is everything west of the Rockies,” he said. “It is a $2 million investment in personnel, equipment and facilities but it is also a great opportunity for us. There is still tremendous growth potential in this area, and we anticipate this expansion will bring in significant amounts of new charter and parts business.”
Standel said the West Coast Maintenance facility in Long Beach has about 15,000 sq ft dedicated to maintenance. An additional 3,000 sq ft is set aside for an avionics shop, parts storage, office space for personnel, a conference room and a reception area.
“We currently have 15 maintenance personnel in Long Beach of whom about eight are licensed mechanics or technicians,” Standel said. “We are definitely in hiring mode and want to expand to a seven-day schedule offering two overlapping 10-hour shifts per day. The goal is to be open 18 hours a day, all week long. To do that we feel we need to have 20 mechanics.” The company already has an FAA designated authorized inspector on staff.
West Coast Maintenance is an FAA-approved Part 145 repair station. The facility’s long history with King Airs gives it an edge in that market as it does all inspections, five-year items and removes/replaces engines to send out for overhaul. The company also offers aircraft detailing.
“While we’ve been working on King Airs for a long time, we also have a lot of expertise on Learjets, Challengers, Citations (500 and 650 series), Westwinds, Falcons and the Astra. All are on our certificate,” Standel said. “And we’ve just recently sent one of our technicians to school and have begun taking care of a Gulfstream 450.” The company also plans to add Gulfstream GIV capacity by the third quarter of this year.