MRO Profile: Western Aviation

 - October 1, 2009, 7:51 AM

Western Aircraft of Boise, Idaho, has done “exceedingly well” despite the poor economy, Al Hoyt, president and COO of the company, told AIN. “During the past couple of years we’ve not had to lay off anyone and we’ve been increasing our market share on Falcons, Pilatus and Hawkers. Our avionics shop has also grown and strengthened. Five years ago we principally upgraded avionics systems in PC-12s. Now we’re doing major Part 25 installations. We just did a $1.2 million installation on a Falcon 50.”

Greenwich AeroGroup acquired the company in July 2007, and the combination has proved a good move for both parties. From the purchaser’s perspective the acquisition broadened its horizons. Jim Ziegler, Greenwich AeroGroup president and CEO, said the company is moving decisively toward the goal of being a major international force in the MRO and refurbishment industry. In addition to Western Aircraft the company had also acquired Banner Aerospace, Atlantic Aero and Summit Aviation.

“We’ve laid out a three-year strategy to expand the business both by acquisition and by adding capability at existing units. When the MRO and refurb market recovers we’ll be in position to take advantage of it,” Ziegler said.

For Western Aircraft the Greenwich AeroGroup added significant capital, personnel and equipment resources.

“Our sister company Banner Aerospace is a good example of how the relationship benefits us,” said Hoyt. “One of Banner’s companies is Professional Aircraft Accessories. We’ve been working on Hawkers for years and they are a reliable source for landing-gear overhaul and exchange. We also do a lot of work with Atlantic Aero in Greensboro; they have a DAS and we don’t. Recently we were overbooked and Atlantic Aero sent five technicians to help us out. We’re all linked together; we know what each of us has in terms of parts, rotables and so on. We shift assets as necessary.”

In 1996 Western had nine maintenance techs; that number had increased to 110 technicians and support personnel in the aircraft services departments before the acquisition. Business grew steadily, and in 2006 the company built a new terminal building. Today the company has 185 employees and added a 21,000-sq-ft storage hangar. Last year the company spent $1 million to expand into the interior refurbishment business and added Mike Slattery and Devin Frizzell to the payroll. The two had previously worked for Savannah Air Center’s refurb business. Western Aircraft has six major hangars and office space totaling more than 120,000 sq ft, including a 25,000-sq-ft hangar that can accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 727.

Greenwich AeroGroup was clearly happy with how Western Aircraft was conducting business and retained the company’s leadership. Hoyt had owned and operated the company since 1995, when he bought it from Morrison Knudsen with partners Al Hilde–owner of Satellite Aero, an FBO in Jackson Hole, Wyo.–and Hilde’s son. In 2004 Hoyt became president of the company, a position he held until Greenwich AeroGroup bought the company.

Western Aircraft is an FAA-authorized Class 4 repair station with heavy maintenance, avionics and interior capability. The parts department sells more than 200,000 line items for Falcon, Hawker Beechcraft, Pilatus and Cessna. It has five full-time sales associates who handle from 100 to 300 parts inquiries a day from all over the world.

The company holds factory authorizations for Falcon, Hawker, King Air and Pilatus. Engine authorizations include Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D, PT6, PW305; Honeywell TPE331, TFE731 and ATF-3; and CFE738. Western Aircraft also has limited rated non-destructive inspection capability, including penetrant testing, eddy current testing, ultrasonic and radiographic.

According to Hoyt, the company has been a Falcon factory-authorized service center since 2001 and has more than 160 cumulative years of experience with Falcon maintenance and avionics. “We have completed more than 25 C checks in the last few years, including 12 in 2008. We maintain more than 80 percent of the Falcon 900s and 2000s in the Western U.S.,” he said.

Hoyt said Western–a Pilatus-authorized service center–has worked on more PC-12s “than any other facility in the world” and has been recognized as service center of the year by Pilatus Business Aircraft. “In 2008 alone we worked on more than 105 PC-12s,” he said.

The company is also a factory-authorized King Air service center and does routine and major maintenance and avionics installations on all the King
Air models