Constant Aviation, a Nextant Aerospace company started by Kenn Ricci and Michael Rossi, was developed when the pair bought FBOs on Birmingham International Airport in Alabama and on Cleveland Hopkins International Airport in Ohio. They separated out both FBOs’ maintenance functions and rebranded them Constant Aviation. The FBOs otherwise continued to operate as always.
“I started with the company in December 2006 after having spent seven years with Flight Options as director of quality,” Stephen Maiden, Constant Air’s vice president of operations, told AIN.
“I’m often asked why we chose Birmingham and Cleveland, but the answer is simple. We did our homework and found two operations for sale in markets we felt we would be successful in.
“From the beginni
ng we wanted to formulate a vision and direction for growth. Our Cleveland operation had ten years’ experience with the Embraer Legacy, so we wanted to leverage it into the country’s largest Embraer Legacy service center,” he said.
In 2007 Constant Aviation captured about 70 percent of the available Legacy maintenance in North America. It is one of only 42 repair stations to hold both Class 3 and Class 4 ratings. A majority of those repair stations are manufacturers.
In March 2007 the company acquired Jet South, another maintenance operator on the field in Birmingham. “We were already on the field and wanted to expand that operation. The idea was to build two parallel businesses, one in Ohio and one in Birmingham, and that has been our focus for the past two years,” Maiden said.
The Cleveland Hopkins Airport facility has been involved with the ERJ 135 since 1998 serving both corporate and commercial operators. It was the first authorized service center to complete a 48-month inspection on a Legacy 600 and the only company to remove and replace a complete Legacy 600 wing assembly as well as three ERJ 135 nose sections. To date, it has completed thirteen 48-month or equivalent inspections and has logged more than 750,000 hours on the ERJ 135 platform.
The Cleveland operation boasts a 60,000-sq-ft, three-bay maintenance facility with access to 35,000 sq ft of additional hangar space. In addition to the Embraer Legacy 600/ERJ 135, the facility works on the Beechjet, Citation X, Piaggio Avanti, Gulfstream II, IIB, III and IV. Constant Aviation also has a third maintenance facility located on Cleveland’s Cuyahoga County Airport.
The Cleveland facility is an FAR Part 145 repair station with Airframe Class 4 and Radio Class 1, 2 and 3 ratings. It is also an Embraer factory-authorized service center.
The 35,000-sq-ft Birmingham facility includes an expansive hangar, two maintenance vehicles, complete laboratory and testing facilities and 15,000 sq ft of long-term storage space. The facility offers full parts distribution of more than 2,200 line items and maintains a $500,000 inventory of aircraft parts and avionics, $300,000 of which are King Air components.
Specialized services available in Birmingham include factory-authorized King Air inspections and avionics troubleshooting, repair and installation, and air-conditioning system sales, service and repair (R-12 & 134). In addition to the King Air, Birmingham focuses on the Beechjet, Diamond, Citation II, Citation V, Hawker 800 and Gulfstream II, IIB, III and IV.
The Birmingham facility is an FAR 145 repair station with the following ratings: Class 3 airframe, Class 1 composite aircraft, and radio class 1, 2 and 3. It is also a Hawker Beechcraft factory-authorized service center.
“If you look at a lot of MROs you’ll see them advertise with the current buzzwords. We don’t use buzzwords; we stick to the three fundamental principles that Kenn and Mike set out from the beginning,” Maiden said. “Employees are the foundation of a service company; we’re here for the long term and pay fanatical attention to detail in everything we do.”
According to Maiden, the company experienced “significant growth” from the beginning in 2006 to 2007. In the 2007 to 2008 period it saw 20-percent growth. “Even today, despite the bad economy, we are still projecting significant growth in 2009 based on what we’re already seeing; 85 percent of our business is repeat,” he said.
Maiden attributes part of the company’s success to its willingness to learn from past mistakes. “Every customer is asked to suggest how we could improve our service. It puts us in a position to learn from our own problems and build processes to solve them so no other customer will have the same experience,” he said.
Constant Aviation has a commercial aircraft division, D.B.A. Air Services, which has been servicing the airline industry in Cleveland since the mid-1980s. It specializes in overnight scheduled maintenance and has a dedicated team that performs everything up to and including heavy structural repairs.
Nextant Aerospace, parent company of Constant Aviation, has launched a Beechjet 400A/XP modernization program to improve what it identifies as three inefficiencies in the aircraft: the Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 engines, certain aerodynamics within the nacelle design and the avionics.
Replacing the JT15D-5 engines with Williams International FJ44-3APs, installing aerodynamically improved engine nacelles, and upgrading the cockpit to the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 package has increased the performance of the aircraft significantly, according to Nextant. The improvements have increased the NBAA IFR range of 1,200 nm to more than 2,000 nm while reducing the operating cost per mile by 27 percent, to $2.67, says the company.
Nextant Aerospace is also developing an STC for the Rockwell Collins Pro Line 21 upgrade package and anticipates completion in April.
As for expanding its FBO business, “We are always looking at other regions of the country for possible acquisitions,” Maiden said. “We are experiencing continuous growth and would like to build upon strengths.”