CompletionAir, Premier Air merge at St. Louis

 - May 19, 2008, 7:27 AM

With the February cash acquisition of Premier Air Center, CompletionAir’s founders and three unidentified investors have captured a major piece of the business aviation market at St. Louis Regional Airport (ALN) in East Alton, Ill.

Premier Air Center, at the north end of the airfield, is a full-service FBO that also offers interior refurbishment and avionics modifications. Facilities include three 25,000-sq-ft hangars capable of holding a Gulfstream IV. Expansion plans will add a larger fourth hangar, which is currently part of the CompletionAir complex but not in use.

CompletionAir opened for business in January last year, taking up seven acres of its 20-acre site at the south end of the airport. The interior completion and refurb center was launched by Herb Ward, his son Mike and partner Bob Rasberry.

Both Wards remain with the company–Herb Ward as president and Mike Ward as v-p and general manager. CompletionAir has FAA Part 145 repair station certification and more recently received JAA certification. CompletionAir partner Rasberry is v-p of marketing for CompletionAir and also serving as president of Premier Air.
CompletionAir specializes in widebody interior refurb work and has just received its first major project involving conversion of a former TWA Boeing 767 from airline to corporate/VIP configuration. Also in the works is a minor refurb on a Falcon 2000. But Mike Ward advised that while the company is growing, emphasis is being placed on “controlled growth” and “not taking on anything beyond our ability to deliver quality work on time.”

CompletionAir will continue to focus on green completion work and interior refurbishment of larger business jets, while Premier Air Center will offer its interior refurb services to the smaller business aircraft market. But while the two companies will operate independently, Premier v-p of sales and marketing Jim Swehla said there will be a sharing of resources, primarily those of aircraft interior completion and refurb. A new down-draft paint booth for cabinetry under construction at CompletionAir will serve both companies.

Swehla said as part of its expansion plans, Premier Air expects to more aggressively market its services to Falcon, Gulfstream and Hawker owners, and eventually receive factory-service center authorization from the manufacturers of all three aircraft types. “This will require an investment in people, training and equipment,” he explained. “We think we can develop that business, but any expansion plans we have will definitely not be at the expense of our Citation core business.” Premier is a Citation factory-authorized service center.

He also expects that CompletionAir and Premier Air will benefit from the presence of another airport resident, Premium Aircraft Painting. Its shop, he added, can handle aircraft as large as a Gulfstream IV, “which makes this airport a ‘one-stop shop’ that includes everything–avionics mods, maintenance, interior completion and refurbishment and exterior paint.”