Private charter firm offers Part 145 maintenance

 - February 22, 2010, 11:06 AM

Elite Aviation entered the maintenance business as a result of lessons learned from contracting out service work on its charter fleet. “As a Part 135 international operation we did much of our own maintenance. We had control and we did things right, but if we had to send an airplane out for maintenance it would always come back over-budget and beyond the agreed-upon time line; it was frustrating,” said John Wilkins, COO of the Van Nuys-based company.

“We came to the conclusion we could do a better, more effective job by doing everything ourselves, and that led to the realization that we could be a first-class maintenance facility in support of other Part 135 operations. So we obtained an FAR Part 145 repair station certificate, hired Adam Parns as our director of maintenance and opened our doors to the public last October.”

Wilkins’s background is in flight operations. In the past 20 years he acquired experience as a senior vice president of operations, general manager, director of operations, director of training and COO.

In fact, he recently initiated growth of the company’s flight department from three light jets drawing in $3 million in annual revenues with a $2 million annual operating loss to a 16-aircraft worldwide heavy jet program with more than 10 Gulfstreams and Challengers. That fleet generated more than $20 million in revenue, earning $2 million in profit.

The experience “gave me a fresh look at the world of aircraft maintenance,” Wilkins said.

Director of maintenance Parns, an A&P and FAA-certified avionics tech,
has been in the industry since 1998. “I started with Gulfstream in Savannah working as an avionics tech in the service center,” he said. “I then went into the company’s C-37 program, the military’s VIP version of the Gulfstream GV. From 2000 to 2003 I was part of the crew that set up the original C-37 maintenance program for NATO at Chièvres Air Base in Belgium. Afterwards I continued with the C-37 program at Andrews AFB until I left in 2006 to go to work for the Air Group here in Van Nuys. I joined Elite Aviation last year.”

Wilkins recognized Parns as the backbone of Elite Aviation’s Part 145 MRO operation. “What we do differently is look at the maintenance business from the perspective of the end user; is it cost-effective? Doing the job right is the baseline; it’s expected. We go beyond that by giving a customer a time and a price that we intend to abide by. There’s nothing worse for an operator than to sell a flight to someone based on an MRO’s promise to have the airplane ready, and then have to call the customer at the last minute to tell him it’s not available.

“The standard phrase in the maintenance industry is, ‘It’ll be done in a week or two.’ Think about that: a week or two. That’s a 100-percent increase! What kind of deal is that? An operator flies an aircraft to make money. How can you make money with that level of uncertainty? I’ve been that operator in the past; I didn’t like it one bit and I don’t imagine any other operator likes it, either. That’s what we bring to the table; the realization of how important it is to our customer’s business that we do it right, on time, on budget.”

Elite Aviation has a 40,000-sq-ft hangar and 15,000 sq ft of office space, including 4,000 sq ft of office space dedicated to maintenance. The MRO offers an inspection department that incorporates scheduling and planning for services from scheduled packages to AOG needs. The total number of employees, including the company’s FBO, is about 120, of which 10 are maintenance personnel, three of whom in turn are avionics techs.

According to Parns, the MRO works on the GII/III/IV/V, Learjet 30 and 60 series, Challenger 601, Bombardier 700 series, and Hawker HS.125 series from 400A
to the 1000.

“We can currently perform maintenance or preventive maintenance on Rolls-Royce Spey 511-8, Tay 611-8 series and BR710 series engines, as well as Honeywell’s TFE731-5 and Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW305A and B engines,” he said. “We can also service and maintain Honeywell GTCP 36-100 series and RE-220 series APUs and Sundstrand T62T series APUs.”

Wilkins said the next step in Elite Aviation’s expansion into the maintenance field is avionics. “We started by offering aircraft maintenance, then engines and APUs. Now we are adding avionics,” he said.