Idaho company focuses on major modifications

 - October 9, 2006, 11:14 AM

Western Aircraft is a company with roots deep in the Boise, Idaho, community. Its founder, the Fortune 500 Morrison Knudsen Construction Company of Hoover Dam construction fame, was using an aircraft to get to job sites as far back as the 1930s.

According to Western Aircraft CEO Allen Hoyt, Morrison Knudsen became an FAA-certified repair station in 1957, but it wasn’t until 1970 that it opened the shop’s doors to the public. Ten years later the FAA-authorized class IV repair station was incorporated as a fully owned subsidiary called Western Aircraft Maintenance. It was eventually renamed Western Aircraft to reflect the company’s expansion into other lines of business such as sales.

In the early 1990s Morrison Knudsen put Western Aircraft up for sale, but a buyer didn’t bite until 1995. “Al Hilde Jr., Tim Hilde and I bought the stock of Western Aircraft,” Hoyt said. “Unfortunately, during the years the company was on the market it slowly lost both customers and employees.”

Hoyt had worked for Western Aircraft for 10 years beginning in 1982 and eventually went to work for Hilde’s FBO in Jackson Hole, Wyo. “Al wanted to increase his holdings in aviation companies, which led to the acquisition of Western Air in July 1995,” he said.

Shortly after the trio purchased Western Aircraft good fortune turned their way and the company was named one of six U.S. Pilatus dealers and service centers. Hoyt said, “It was a really good fit and we just took off with the program. We’re now the leading Pilatus dealer in the U.S. and have sold more PC-12s than anyone else in the world. We currently have more than 100 in our market and also provide service.” Western Aircraft’s region includes the Dakotas, Pacific Northwest, Northern California, Utah, Nevada and north to Alaska.

More than Just Maintenance
The company has also established eight satellite service centers: Fargo, N.D.; Las Vegas; Hillsboro, Ore.; Sacramento and Hayward, Calif.; Burlington, Wash.; Anchorage; and Heber City, Utah. The centers are independently owned and appointed by Western Aircraft to be part of the Pilatus support network.

In 2002 Dassault named the company a Falcon service center. “The Falcon program is the fastest growing portion of our maintenance operation,” Hoyt said. “Fifty percent of our maintenance man hours this year will be Falcon work. By the end of the year we will have completed about 20 percent of the Falcon 50, 900 and 2000 C-checks in the Western U.S.; we’re the largest Falcon authorized service center in the West and one of only two non-owned facilities to be trained to implement the EASy Step 3 cockpit on the 2000.”

The company also has a long-established relationship with the Hawker. “Our ties on the Hawker go all the way back to the British Aerospace days over 30 years ago,” Hoyt explained. “While the Falcon accounts for about half our business, the Hawker and Pilatus each account for about 25 percent. We’ve completed more than a hundred 48-month inspections on the Hawker and we are one of two non-factory-owned Raytheon facilities that has platinum-rated designation.”

The company is also a Cessna turboprop service center and, according to Hoyt, does “a little bit of work on the Conquest and Caravans. Many call us boutique because our focus is almost 100 percent on Pilatus, Falcon and Hawker.”

As an FAA-certified repair station, Western Aircraft maintains, modifies and repairs turbine and piston fixed-wing aircraft. In addition to its extensive experience with the major modification and repair of Falcons, Hawkers and PC-12s, the company is also factory authorized for Beechcraft, particularly King Air modifications such as the Saunders Spar Strap, BLR King Air 200 winglets, Raisbeck products and Aviadesign hydraulic landing gear. It also does Cessna Caravan retrofits. Engine authorizations include Pratt & Whitney JT15D, PT6, PW305 and Honeywell TPE331, TFE731 and ATF-3 and the CFE738.

“In addition to supporting our own maintenance operation, our parts department is about a $12 million business with salesmen based here and in Binghamton, N.Y., making us available the entire business day on both coasts,” Hoyt said. The company sells Falcon, Hawker, Beech, Pilatus and Cessna parts, rotable components and modification kits to aircraft owners and repair stations throughout the world.

Western Aircraft also has an active avionics business. “We’ve developed some STCs for the PC-12 such as the MaxViz enhanced vision system and have recently been working with IS&S on the development of an STC for a flat-panel upgrade to the PC-12 cockpit,” Hoyt explained. “We’re just getting started in that area of the business and have sold five installations, with one already flying.”

Hoyt said the company does subcontract work for Pilatus installing avionics upgrades when the aircraft arrive from Switzerland. “This year we’ll do six upgrades, including MFD, radar, enhanced ground proximity, TCAS and cabin entertainment systems. As an authorized dealer for most major avionics brands, we sell, repair and install avionics packages,” he said.

Western Aircraft also does interior work, including seat recovering, headliners, side panels and other fabric- or leather-covered items, and the company can cut, serge and install carpets. Interior and exterior cleaning and detailing, including washing, waxing, carpet cleaning and bright-work polishing, are available for transient aircraft or aircraft in for service work.

Western Aircraft has five major hangars and office space totaling more than 100,000 sq ft, including one 25,000-sq-ft hangar, with modern fire suppression and air conditioning.

As a full-service FBO the company consists of six departments: maintenance, avionics, fuel, parts sales, aircraft sales and aircraft charter/management.

“We continue to expand the company and are now providing fuel to all the airlines and air freight operators here. This year we took delivery of more than $1 million in new state-of-the-art fuel trucks, and we’ve just finished a $1 million expansion taking us from the old 1,200-sq-ft FBO terminal to a brand-new 3,800-sq-ft modern FBO terminal.”