MRO Profile: Banyan Air Service

 - February 8, 2008, 9:18 AM

Banyan Air Service began as a small company serving the needs of small operators that had no dedicated maintenance department. As the Florida company has grown, president and head coach Don Campion has strived to maintain that small-company feel. “One of my driving forces in building this business is to be good at what we do as opposed to being a bigger company with a lot of branches or a chain,” he told AIN.

Campion takes the “head coach” title seriously; it is the only title on his office door. “We have 150 people and I think our morale is exceptional; we’re heavily invested in our employees. I love putting together a team of people who love aviation and have a passion to be good at what they do.”

Campion was smitten with flying at an early age, when he attended school in Nigeria. “My parents were missionaries so I was born and raised in Nigeria. My mission boarding school picked me up every semester in their airplane and flew me to school,” he said.

Campion went to college in Toronto, obtained multi-engine instrument pilot and mechanic certificates and then moved to the West Palm Beach/Miami area. He landed a job flying VFR charter from south Florida to the Bahamas.

“It didn’t take long to realize most of the Part 135 operators were pilots and hated the maintenance side of the business,” Campion said. “They were too small to be able to afford a full-time director of maintenance so they were at the mercy of whoever happened to be available to work on their aircraft. A few did manage to hire a director of maintenance, but they couldn’t pay much so there was a lot of personnel turnover.”

In 1979 Campion rented a hangar on the airport after agreeing to do the maintenance on his employer’s Cessna 402s and Aztec in addition to flying. He took the name Banyan after the trees he admired when he lived in Africa.

“I had a little generic Banyan Air Service logo made up and put on my truck,” he said. “I started getting calls to work on air conditioners! I eventually added an airplane to the logo, but the reality was that I really had little business experience.”

Campion started with two charter operators, targeting companies with two to five aircraft because they weren’t large enough to be able to justify their own maintenance team. “It was a never-ending litany of engine oil leaks, flat struts and 24-hour phone calls for AOG help,” he recalled.

Maintenance Business Grows
At 24, Campion had a growing company with a lot more work than capacity. “I added people as necessary and found subcontractors to handle specialties such as corrosion that I couldn’t handle myself. Learning to build relationships would become a major part of Banyan’s future success,” he said.

The turning point came in 1986 when Sheltair Property Management, the property manager for local developer Holland Builders, took over an FBO on Fort Lauderdale Executive.

“Sheltair had been leasing land on airports, building hangars then leasing out the hangars as a management company,” Campion said. “One of the properties it took over had an FBO, but what it wanted was the acreage that came with it. Sheltair hired someone to run the FBO, counting on it to bring in aircraft owners who would in turn rent hangars. The people Sheltair hired didn’t have the experience and the FBO was failing.”

Campion offered to lease the FBO from Sheltair. “I didn’t have any experience as an FBO operator either, but Jerry Holland took a chance and rented me the little building. With that came fuel rights so we moved across the field and became a full-service FBO.”

For Banyan, the crucial aspect of that move was the establishment of a relationship with Sheltair. As property became available on the airport Sheltair would build on it and Banyan would find tenants to lease it.

According to Campion, what is now known as the Banyan Complex is some one million sq ft of offices and hangars on more than 85 acres. About 200,000 sq ft is operated by Banyan Air Service, a 24-hour  FBO that offers customer service (ground support and fuel), aircraft maintenance, avionics, aircraft sales, parts distribution and a pilot shop.

“We don’t operate a flight school, charters, air ambulance and so on,” he said. “So anything we weren’t involved in, I’d find a tenant that offered it and built a relationship. The Banyan Complex now offers a large variety of complementary aviation businesses in a single location all interacting and supporting one another.”

In 2006 Banyan built a new 26,000-sq-ft terminal and attached 20,000-sq-ft hangar with a Key West-style exterior and Tommy Bahama interior. “We moved in a year ago last Thanksgiving, and since then our business has increased 30 percent,” Campion said.

Banyan’s FAR Part 145 maintenance operation accounts for 65,000 sq ft–40,000 sq ft for maintenance and 25,000 sq-ft for avionics. The 38-person maintenance team includes 23 A&Ps; the avionics team has 20 people, 13 of them avionics techs. The company also has two interns from Broward Community College who are working on their A&P.

In addition to FAA repair station status Banyan has certification from the EASA, as well as Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. The company offers major and minor
repairs and modifications, scheduled and unscheduled aircraft maintenance and
all types of inspection. It also has NDT and engine repair, hot section and overhaul capability.

Banyan is a factory-authorized service center for Pilatus, Hawker Beechcraft and Twin Commander. The company specializes in King Airs, Citations, Hawkers and Learjets but also provides service for the Caravan, Conquest and Astra. “We can basically handle any turbine-engine aircraft between a Meridian and Astra or Hawker,” Campion explained.

The company also performs field maintenance in remote areas. “We are currently working in Opa Locka, a few weeks ago we were in Jamaica, the Bahamas and Aruba. We’re now looking at going to Ecuador,” Campion said. “We simply do what’s necessary to keep our customers’ aircraft operating safely and efficiently.”