“I know what it feels like to be sitting on an airport where there’s no maintenance available, staring at a flat nosewheel. I’ve been there,” Mike Hogan, v-p of operations for Santa Clarita, Calif.-based OnCall Corporate Jet Repair, told AIN. “Most of the maintenance facilities in California have so much business they’re not very interested in going to another airport to change a Falcon nose tire, but it still has to get done and we’ll do it.”
Hogan said he began thinking about the concept of OnCall Corporate Jet Repair in late 1999 while doing maintenance for a major flight department in Southern California. “There were times our airplanes would be on the road and it would take several hours just to find someone to put power on one of our aircraft. That’s when I started thinking about a mobile maintenance facility,” he said.
“I eventually went to work for Jet Aviation in Burbank, and they would send me all over the state when one of our airplanes needed maintenance away from home,” he said. “There are a lot of airports in California, but most of the maintenance facilities are so busy they don’t have much time or interest to go off-field to work on aircraft. Worse, if they would go they were very slow getting to you, sometimes a day later, and they always charged a premium rate. Some would send two mechanics even for a one-man, job so you also paid double the labor.”
Hogan said after 9/11 Jet Aviation closed its Burbank maintenance hangar, where he had been managing the maintenance department, and moved him from full to part time. “I was forced into doing contract work, so I started putting my idea together,” he said. “I acquired an enclosed trailer and turned it into a miniature shop with tools, manuals and a small parts inventory. I had business cards printed and a friend put together a brochure for me.”
Once he had a supply of brochures he turned to the Internet and began locating charter companies all over the country. He researched company flight departments to determine if they were operating aircraft in which his team had maintenance competency. When there was a match he would send them a brochure and then followed up with a telephone call.
Today, OnCall has seven FAA-certified A&P maintenance technicians, with an average of 19 years of experience. Collectively they cover Gulfstreams, Learjets, Hawkers, a few Citations and some Falcons. They are currently contract employees on call 24/7, but Hogan hopes to make them full time as his business grows.
“Most of our technicians also hold FAA Inspection Authorization, and all of them are on the FAA random drug-testing program required by FAR Part 135 operators,” he explained. “Our technicians have had OEM factory schooling at high-profile aircraft training facilities, such as FlightSafety, on several types of aircraft, powerplants and APUs.
“We can cover all of the California airports and a few Nevada and Arizona airports as well, but we can go anywhere we’re needed,” Hogan said. He’s been called as far west as Hawaii and as far east as Denver, and has access to a piston single for quick travel, if required. “The only thing is, we do limit use of the aircraft to day VFR flights only,” he said.
“Just as time is important, so too is cost. Our competitors raise their labor rates to service transient aircraft that are not conveniently located on their airport,” he explained. “We don’t, and we send only the number of technicians required for the job. If you compare us with major maintenance facilities in California, we’re probably 25 to 30 percent less on labor because I have a lot less overhead.”
OnCall has a fixed hourly rate of $75, with a four-hour minimum for all calls in California. Use of the aircraft bumps the rate up to $100 an hour. OnCall also has a fixed daily rate outside California. “Everything is clear, simple and straightforward ahead of time–no unexpected charges, fees or confusion afterward,” Hogan said. He did note that the rate is doubled on nine holidays.
“We can also save you money on parts because I can buy them from anywhere rather than just the OEM, so my parts are generally better priced,” he explained. “And we will install customer-supplied parts with no additional markup.”
Hogan also contacted FBOs at California airports, offering them services that were not otherwise available at those airfields. “I’m very specific about not wanting to take business away from their operation but to offer services that were not available,” he said. “For example, some operator might be whiz-bang on Learjet but have no experience on a GIV. That became my niche, offering what they didn’t. It was a good deal for the FBO because it was another service they could offer that was not threatening to them.
“I know what happens when someone’s paying $4,000 an hour to charter an airplane and they have to eat cold sandwiches,” he said. “That’s not a big deal to some repair stations, but it’s embarrassing for the crew, makes for an unhappy passenger and it’s bad for their business. We’ll go out and get a new microwave for someone if that’s what it takes. We can handle most situations because we have a lot of equipment and have access to specialized equipment when required. We can even change tires on a BBJ.”
Hogan said his response time is about five minutes depending on the squawk. “The trailer is with me, so I just walk out my door and I’m en route.” He said he’s in the process of putting together a second trailer and envisions the day that each of his techs has his own rig. Hogan said his technicians can do routine maintenance if a customer asks far enough in advance to schedule the time, but OnCall is primarily in business to resolve AOGs.
“Our real business is helping the operator who’s AOG on some remote airport where there’s no maintenance available,” he said. “Much of what we do is extremely easy stuff, but if you don’t have a mechanic with tools on board you’re out of luck. That’s really our niche. We can handle most breakdown problems that occur, but occasionally I’ll get a call and I’ll know right away it’s not something we can handle. I’ll immediately refer them to someone who can, because I’m building a reputation for taking care of the customer, whether it’s done by OnCall or not. We want our customers to trust us to help them when the chips are down.”