Profile: A maintenance option for the single aircraft owner

 - December 19, 2007, 11:04 AM

Many operators consider maintenance to be a necessary evil, but a Kennesaw, Ga., company turns that notion on its ear.

Flightworks is an aircraft management company that uses its maintenance services to develop successful business relationships with its customers. While Flightworks is available to owners of multiple aircraft, it is the owner of a single aircraft who will find the relationship most compelling.

“Flightworks provides owners of a single aircraft, particularly owners who might only marginally be able to justify the cost of an aircraft, with large-flight-department opportunities,” Scott Beale, Flightworks’ president and CEO, told AIN. “As an aircraft management company we have a structure found in only the largest flight departments. Our clients benefit from having a chief maintenance inspector, director of maintenance, numerous qualified mechanics and avionics technicians and a parts-purchasing department.”

Tony Raines, director of maintenance, said the company uses maintenance to make the relationship with clients more profitable and efficient for Flightworks and the owner. “With the economy the way it has been, many flight departments have been considering getting rid of their airplane, but we can give them an option. Other management companies see maintenance as a way of making more money off the customer; we make it a way for the customer to save money.”

Beale explained that Flightworks is a charter management company and as such offers an appealing option to a potential corporate jet owner. “It takes about 250 hours of flying a year to justify owning most aircraft,” he said. “Take a company that doesn’t project flying that much but still wants to own an aircraft. We can offer total aircraft management, satisfying their needs and using the remaining time, when the aircraft would just sit in a hangar, to offer it on charter. We can operate an aircraft about 600 hours a year.”

Another advantage of the company’s management service is that owners have access to a large fleet if they need a larger aircraft for a given trip. “Our clients also use first-class passenger facilities that are not open to the public and their aircraft are stored in a hangar where security cameras record everything,” Beale said. “But what makes us different is our approach to maintenance. Our maintenance is not a profit center.”

Controlling Maintenance Costs
Raines verified the company’s philosophy on maintenance. “We shoot to break even in maintenance,” he said. “But more important is that we maintain control over maintenance. As an owner, when you go to a service center for maintenance your priority isn’t necessarily their priority. We share the same priorities as the owner.”

Raines said Flightworks does about 75 percent of all the maintenance in-house. “Many management companies will farm out maintenance to repair stations, but that means losing control over the cost. We do all our maintenance at a reduced rate. For instance, the standard mark-up on parts is 25 to 30 percent but we limit it to 10 to 15 percent. A repair station is more likely to order parts from one source without questioning the price. We have someone in our parts department who shops for all our parts. He won’t buy anything significant without three quotes. As a company we have learned to be efficient to make money. The whole idea is to help offset the cost of ownership of the aircraft.”

While Flightworks sends out about 25 percent of its maintenance, the number can be deceiving. “We don’t do heavy maintenance, but that’s not something that occurs often,” Raines stressed. Not sending aircraft away for maintenance allows the company to control scheduling. “Take something as simple as changing a tire. For a small flight department operating independently, that probably means a ferry flight to a maintenance facility a couple of hours away. For us, it’s no big deal to do it right here,” Raines said.

Raines also explained that Flightworks has long-standing relationships with organizations that do heavy maintenance such as Wing Aviation, Garrett Aviation, Midcoast, Gulfstream and Cessna. “When we do have to send out maintenance we have the track record and volume to be able to negotiate labor rates, parts, turn-around time and so on. They know us; we have a good working relation-ship with them. In addition, we’re a Dallas Air- motive Authorized Service Center and that saves us considerable money on overhauls and hot sections.”

Beale stressed that because of the partnership it has with its clients Flightworks controls the quality, efficiency and timing of maintenance just as if it owned the aircraft. “All of our maintenance personnel are trained by the OEM, FlightSafety or SimuFlite. We are Wyvern recommended, ARG/US Platinum approved and have an incident/accident-free safety record.”

Flightworks has 28,000 sq ft of maintenance and storage hangar space and 4,500 sq ft of office space at its executive terminal located at McCollum Airport (RYY), Kennesaw, Ga. Based at RYY are two GIVs, three GIIs, two Hawker 800s, a Citation 650, a Citation 560, two Citation 550s and a Citation Bravo.

At Manassas Regional Airport, Manassas, Va., the company is building a 30,000-sq-ft hangar for maintenance and storage and a 12,000-sq-ft office complex. Currently based at HEF, in rented space, is a Citation II. Beale says the company expects the new facilities to be completed by the end of this year, at which time it will have room for 15 more aircraft.

In Jacksonville, Fla., there is 22,000 sq ft of hangar space for maintenance and storage and a 4,000-sq-ft administrative complex. A GIV and two Hawker 800XPs are based at that location. Beale said he’s seeing growth in the area and might be adding several aircraft in the future.

Flightworks currently manages 21 aircraft with 89 employees and is in the process of becoming ISO-9000 certified.