After a long stint working for other people, Geno Haggan, president of Englewood, Colo.-based Haggan Aviation, decided to open his own maintenance shop in 1996. He credits his varied experiences with giving him the practical aircraft know-how and the business acumen to make his operation successful.
After graduating from high school in 1980 Haggan enrolled in a local A&P program and worked part time on Denver Stapleton Airport’s flight line for Atlas Aircraft. “In 1982, with a fresh A&P and some practical experience under my belt, I went to work as a mechanic for Manville Corporation,” he said.
“It was a great opportunity because the company was operating two GIIs, two Hawkers and a Bell LongRanger. Over the next two years they sent me to schools for the Gulfstream and Hawker. Just as important, I learned invaluable skills needed to run an elite Part 91 operation.” But two years later the company closed its flight department.
“I was a 23-year-old unemployed A&P. While looking for a job I worked as an independent contractor,” he said. “I got a contract to work for Combs Gates in its TFE731 engine shop and was painting aircraft parts out of my own place. As the demand for contract maintenance increased I hired people to work for me to fulfill the contracts.”
When Haggan was offered a full-time maintenance position for a check-hauling company he took it and found himself on the road.
“They were operating 12 Learjets, a mixture of 35s and 25s, and they would dispatch me all over the country to work on them and do inspections. After three years I had gained an incredible amount of experience, but constantly being on the go was getting old,” he said.
Haggan was offered a position with Mayo Aviation to set up a Learjet program for the company. “After about four years of working on the company’s Learjets we decided to take in outside work,” he said. “I did that for four more years, but business was so good I found myself putting in 70-hour weeks, and that really was too much. By September 1996 I had come to the conclusion it was time to start my own small business.”
Hitting the Ground Running
Haggan left Mayo Aviation and opened his own operation on Centennial Airport. “My intention was to have an aircraft battery shop and take life a lot easier. There was a company on the field that had six Learjets and they agreed to give me space in return for technical advice and troubleshooting help.” Haggan’s easier lifestyle didn’t last long.
In less than a month one of his old customers called and asked Haggan if he would work on their Learjet. “I agreed to do it and the word got out,” he said. “In no time at all several other old customers were calling. I talked it over with my wife and we agreed we’d go into the repair business again. I trained my brother-in-law to run the battery portion of the business and I was back working as a Learjet mechanic.” Soon after, the company he’d been consulting for ran into financial problems and he took over the lease on its 12,500-sq-ft hangar and 1,800-sq-ft office space.
“My friends thought I was crazy. My wife was pregnant and we had about $10,000 to our name,” he said. “Everyone told me it was impossible to open a jet repair facility with so little financial depth and when I did, people would say I had been really lucky.
“It wasn’t luck at all; it was simply hard work and sticking with it,” Haggan said. “I worked on aircraft during the day and did log entries and billing at night. Many times I’d wake up in front of the computer at three in the morning but I never lost sight of my motto: provide the highest-quality maintenance possible on time and within budget. It remains our company motto and I instill it in every employee.”
In 2001 Haggan Aviation added two more hangars, expanding the operation by 25,000 sq ft. The company had 12 employees at the time and has since added 29.
Last year the company worked on 1,230 aircraft. “The only way a company with 42 employees can do that is if it has experienced and motivated people,” Haggan told AIN. He said the average technician’s experience level of the company is more than 12 years.
“Our return-to-service rate is incredible,” Haggan said. “When we say a job will be done in three weeks, you can count on it. We’re not a huge operation, but we are productive. We have heavy repeat business and our customers tell us it is because
we offer excellent service and we keep in contact with them so they know what’s going on with their airplanes.”
The FAR Part 145 repair station currently occupies 37,500 sq ft of hangar space.
Haggan Aviation is open seven days a week, with two shifts daily, and specializes in small to midsize business jets, including 20/30/40/50/60-series Learjets, 400/700/800/1000-series Hawkers, the Beech 400, Westwinds and Citations.
The company is a Honeywell TFE731 line service center, HTF4000 line service center and Pratt & Whitney Canada PW305 Eagle service provider; offers Honeywell and Sundstrand APU service; and will work in partnership with the client’s vendor of choice for heavy engine maintenance.
It is a Raisbeck dealer for Learjet products and an avionics dealer for Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, Universal, Shadin, Aircell, ICG Com, Rosen, Flight Display and Chelton.
“We’ve done AOG work on everything from Citations to Global Expresses,” Haggan said. “We provide a 24/7 AOG service and, because of our proximity to the mountains and the major ski resorts, it is a big part of our business. We have a van with a trailer full of equipment that we can dispatch. We’re only about two hours from Vail and three hours from Aspen.”
Looking ahead, Haggan says he’s in the process of expanding his services. “We’re adding an interior shop and planning on increasing our avionics capacity because we’ve been doing a lot of installations and entertainment packages. But I like working with the small to midsize business jet market. We’re going to stay in that niche; it’s what we do best.”