Naples Jet Center in Florida was born out of the partnership of two Rust Belt FBO owners, according to Bruce Byerly, who describes himself as “a third-generation aviation-family member.” After he received a degree in economics in 1992 from Vanderbilt University, he returned to work at the family FBO, Byerly Aviation on Greater Peoria Regional Airport in Illinois.
By 2007 Byerly realized that the significant consolidation of the general aviation industry was making it increasingly difficult to get ahead as a family- owned FBO.
“Our biggest competitor was a similar FBO in Indianapolis called Eagle Creek Aviation Services. Matt Hagans, Eagle Creek’s owner and CEO, was also a good friend. Matt and I both saw the future was in higher growth markets, such as Florida, so we wanted to move to that area and capitalize on it,” Byerly told AIN.
In addition, Byerly Aviation was more turboprop oriented, while Hagans had developed a desirable relationship with Embraer business aircraft. Byerly said
he “felt the Phenom 100 and 300 were the most exciting new product concepts I’d ever seen.”
The two decided to team up, renovating the existing FBO and maintenance facility Hagans had recently purchased on Naples Municipal Airport, rebranding it as Naples Jet Center.
“We began assembling a diverse group of experienced aircraft professionals in the fall of 2007,” said Byerly, who is now vice president of Naples Jet Center. The facility completed its first inspections on King Airs and Citations that fall and in early 2008, when it also received its FAR 145 status as a satellite of the Indianapolis operation.
Naples Jet Center is not immune to the effects of the economic downturn and has “had to make adjustments accordingly,” reducing its original staff of 36 to 18, Hagans said. Nonetheless, he is optimistic. “We did what we had to do to meet the issues of the economy but we’re not just holding our own; we’re showing growth,” he said.
Hagans, who remains CEO of Eagle Creek, which owns and operates Naples Jet Center, said one of the reasons the company is doing well, and the primary reason he and Byerly moved into the market, is the significant potential they see in southwest Florida. “There are no major players for turbine-powered aircraft on the west coast of Florida, yet people want to come to Naples to live and for vacation,” he said. “It’s an ideal location for an FBO and maintenance operation.”
Hagans said he had been studying the market for several years and noted that from 2005 to 2007 the state of Florida averaged an increase of one turbine-powered aircraft registration per day. The number of turbine aircraft on the Indiana registry remained constant during the same period.
“It was very clear that the Rust Belt was losing ground to Florida in terms of business potential,” he said. “When we made the move we assumed the Naples operation would be in the red for the first two years of operation, yet despite the economy we’re operating in the black. I’m very optimistic about our future; before long the economy will recover and we’re in the right zip code to be focusing on turboprops and jets. We are also in an excellent location to go after the South American market.”
In addition to holding FAA Part 145 repair station limited airframe, limited powerplant, limited instruments and limited radio authorizations, Naples
Jet Center has just been approved as a Venezuelan repair station by the Instituto Nacional De Aeronautica Civil Venezuela. The company offers bilingual (English-Spanish) support.
Of Naples Jet Center’s overall 40,000 sq ft there are two 12,000-sq-ft maintenance hangars. Of its 18 employees, 16 are dedicated to maintenance (12 are maintenance technicians and four are avionics techs).
While the company is heavily oriented toward maintenance, it also offers basic FBO services, including aircraft sales, charter and executive aircraft management through its First Wing division. It specializes in custom travel solutions, aircraft sales and brokerage, partnership development for partial aircraft ownership, aircraft maintenance and consulting.
Naples Jet Center is a Twin Commander authorized service center and specializes in Honeywell TFE731 and TPE331 engine service and support. It is also authorized to provide maintenance and repair work on Citation, Learjet, Hawker and Embraer models. Services include avionics installations and repairs, structural repairs and upgrades, interior refurbishments, and maintenance and inspections. The company is constantly updating its capabilities list, Byerly said.