When it comes to getting your aircraft worked on, Millville Jet Center on Millville Municipal Airport in New Jersey has quite an appeal. The nontower IFR airport is open 24 hours a day and has no landing fee, ramp fee, noise restrictions or state sales tax on parts or labor for any aircraft with a max takeoff weight of more than 6,000 pounds.
“Operators are surprised to find out about the tax law and that it doesn’t matter if they’re operating under Part 91 or 135. Saving the seven-percent tax on any job is a good deal, but it can be really significant when you’re having major work done with a half-million-dollar or more bill,” said general manager Mike Woolston.
Woolston’s introduction to aviation was as a Marine helicopter crew chief. During his 10-year stint he converted his experience into an FAA airframe mechanic rating, and when he separated from the Corps in 1990 he finished his powerplant rating at Orange Coast College in California.
“I was pretty fortunate because right after graduation I got a job with a corporate flight department as a flight mechanic on a Challenger,” Woolston told AIN. “I was with them for two years, then moved over to a busy Southern California Part 135 operation as a mechanic. I eventually worked my way into the director of maintenance spot.”
During his 10 years with the Part 135 operation, Woolston helped develop an in-house heavy maintenance capability and had about 40 mechanics working for him.
“We did every inspection there was on every model aircraft we operated,” he said.
It was during that period that he and several friends recognized there was a major need for an MRO that understands the operational needs of an active flight department.
“We found there were a lot of MROs that understood maintenance but not many that were also responsible for operating a fleet of aircraft,” he said. “Operators expect good maintenance, but if the aircraft isn’t available to fly they take a big revenue hit. We had experience on both sides of the house.”
Woolston and his associates decided to open a maintenance facility based on providing quality service at a reasonable price and with on-time delivery.
“We designed and built our new facility five years ago and I was asked to take the role of general manager,” he said. In October 2002 the company moved into a new 35,000-sq-ft hangar with 25,000 sq ft of shop floor space and 10,000 sq ft of back shops and office space. Millville Jet Center opened its doors with 25 employees. Five months later it expanded into another 10,000-sq-ft facility.
“Business started out strong and kept growing to the point that when a 40,000-sq-ft hangar on the airport became available we entered into negotiations with the airport authority. Toward the end of 2005 we moved into 17,000 square feet of that hangar.”
By July 2007 the company was doing so much heavy maintenance and structural repair that it expanded. This time it was a 17,500-sq-ft building for the purpose of moving in an entire machine shop operation it had purchased.
“We decided it made more sense for us to have our own machine shop, so we went out and bought an existing business and moved it to the airport,” he said. The facility also added another 5,000 sq ft of office space.
With the business continuing to expand, Millville Jet Center is now looking at adding another 51,000 sq ft of ramp space to its existing 100,000 sq ft and is in the early stages of negotiating with the airport for the development of another new maintenance hangar. “It will give us approximately another 15,000 square feet of shop space and 40,000 square feet of hangar floor,” Woolston said.
The company has built a significant reputation for heavy airframe inspection and repair, engine line maintenance and repair, and heavy structural repair and modifications. To support the operation, it has 25,000 sq ft of backshops, including the machine shop, avionics installation and repair, composite repair, structural repair, NDT, battery shop and interior shop.
“Few MROs have the breadth of in-house capability that we do,” Woolston said. “Rather than dealing with contractors, travel and shipping issues, we’ve chosen to do things ourselves so we have control. We find we can do them at a lower cost and with faster turn-around times. We just added certified welding and we’re in the process of adding heat treating.”
Millville Jet Center routinely works on the Gulfstream II/III/IV/450/V/550 and Challenger 600/601/604. Engine capability includes Rolls-Royce Spey and Tay, BR710, GE CF34 and Lycoming ALF502. The facility also works on the Honeywell GCTP 36-100, 36-150 and 36-6 APUs.
Woolston said the company is in the process of adding Falcons to its maintenance capability. “We’ve hired some key people from the Falcon community, and we’re building up our training and tooling,” he added.
Millville Jet Center is a full-service FBO and an FAR Part 145 and EASA-approved repair station. Of the 80 employees, 50 are dedicated to maintenance (43 A&Ps and seven avionics technicians). The company sends its technicians to FlightSafety, SimuFlite, Global Aerospace and other appropriate training providers and conducts regular training in its FAA-approved in-house training program.
“What sets us apart from many MROs is we have not only the maintenance expertise but operational expertise as well,” Woolston said. “There’s a great temptation to take any work that comes along but we pride ourselves on not overbooking the shop. A lot of companies will take in too much work and upset their customers when they can’t deliver on time. We want to make sure we meet our commitments and keep our customers happy by giving them a quality product, at a reasonable price, on time.”