MRO Profile: Reliable Jet Maintenance

 - May 7, 2010, 8:24 AM

With its recent certification as a Venezuelan repair station, Boca Raton-based Reliable Jet Center is adding another maintenance facility in South Florida.

“With the addition of the Venezuelan repair station certification we will be able to assist in importing and exporting aircraft to and from Venezuela. Being in southern Florida, we’ve built a significant amount of South American and European business, and this will help us support our South American customers better,” said Jonathan Burls, president of Reliable Jet Maintenance. “We are truly a multi-cultural facility.” The company is currently working on gaining similar certification from the EASA. 

Reliable Jet Maintenance recently added the Falcon 2000, Beechcraft 400XP and Diamond 300 to its FAA repair station certificate. The additional ratings complement the company’s established Challenger, Learjet, Citation and Hawker core business. It has also entered into an agreement with Rockwell Collins to become an authorized dealer. “This will allow us to support our customer’s Pro Line II and Pro Line 4 equipment as well as the many other Rockwell Collins product lines.” Burls said the company recently completed a 12-/24-/ 36-/72-month/5,000-landing inspection on a GIIB. 

The company also maintains the Honeywell TFE731, Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 and JT15, General Electric CJ610-4/6/8, CF34-1/3, CFE738-1/1B, and Rolls- Royce Spey 511-8 and Tay 611-8. 

The MRO has grown considerably since it was founded in 2005, but Burls recalls that his aviation career–and the South Florida MRO–did not have an auspicious beginning. 

“As a kid I was always building model airplanes. I was scraping by through 12th grade with a D- average and barely got out with a diploma, but I really liked airplanes,” he told AIN

“I really didn’t have the aptitude for or interest in a traditional academic college program. Council Bluffs [Iowa] had a community college with an A&P program, so when I graduated from high school my dad took me there thinking my interest in airplanes would be the motivation I needed. It proved to be exactly what I needed, and I did well.” 

Burls graduated with an A&P in 1984 and immediately got a job as a mechanic for a commuter airline based at nearby Epply Field in Omaha. “I was assigned to the third shift working on the airline’s fleet of Embraer Bandeirantes and Piper Chieftains. It lasted for about a year until the company went bankrupt.” 

Burls relocated to Newport News, Va., to work for Flight International. “We were towing targets for the Navy with Learjets.” Burls was there when the company expanded its fleet to 55 Learjets with multiple military contracts. “The company went into Chapter 11 in 1996 or so and I relocated again, this time to south Florida, where I got a job with Bombardier Aerospace in its Fort Lauderdale service center.” 

Within three months Burls was promoted to night shift lead, and in slightly more than a year he was program manager for the Challenger and Global Express programs. He stayed with Bombardier for about five years before moving to a charter operator in Boca Raton, where he was vice president by the time he left in 2005. 

“I had developed a business model I’d put together for a repair station and in 2005 Richard Schmidt, a business acquaintance, talked to me about implementing it. I told him it would take a million dollars to make it work. Dick and his partner, Mark Gensheimer, owned Richmark Aircraft Leasing, and they agreed to put up the money with my part being the sweat equity of managing the company. Dick told me to think up a name, so I took RJM, the first letter of each of our names, and named it Reliable Jet Maintenance.” 

Inauspicious Beginnings

The company was launched in mid-2005 with five employees in an existing maintenance facility that had been “shut down for quite a while,” according to Burls. “We took possession of it on a Friday, and I remember thinking it was a real mess and couldn’t be worse. I was wrong. On Monday Hurricane Wilma hit.”

The two hangars next to Reliable Jet Maintenance were destroyed and the entire airport seriously damaged. Burls said his company’s hangar lost much of its roof and the building buckled somewhat but basically stayed intact. 

“For three weeks we worked out of that mess because we didn’t have anywhere else to go,” Burls said. “I could see the sky through the roof of my office and we had our computers covered with plastic trash bags to protect them from rain. We were running on portable generators for most of the time and periodically they’d run out of gas and the entire company would go to black. 

“It took about three months to get everything fixed and running normally. We retrofitted the hangar, painted it, installed new lighting and air systems, built offices into the hangar and pretty much stretched the facility to maximum capacity.” The 16,000-sq-ft facility includes an FBO operation and 13,000 sq ft dedicated to the repair station. 

“In only a few years we’ve grown from five employees to more than 40, including 25 A&Ps and five avionics techs who are Rockwell Collins trained. We’ve grown quickly because we are totally dedicated to customer service. We’ve done zero marketing and have relied entirely on word of mouth, which has proved to be effective for us,” he said. 

The company has developed a niche market by providing director of maintenance services for flight departments that can’t afford to have their own director of maintenance. 

“When they leave here after their first time as a customer, our relationship is just beginning. We support them in AOGs and I’ve sent mechanics to Europe and Venezuela to support them. Our clients feel as if we’re their personal maintenance department. We take a specific, long-term interest in our customers. For our core customers we develop a tracking log for each aircraft and we monitor about 30 different items for them monthly. We don’t just work on airplanes; we build professional relationships and work with them closely and regularly,” Burls said. “After four-and-a-half years, with no formal marketing program, we’ve increased our revenues about 300 percent. I thought we’d be a $2 million company and we’ve reached $6 million in revenue. 

“Our diverse experience has made us one of the fastest growing FAA Part 145 certified repair stations in the area; we can provide you with virtually any aircraft inspection, a customized maintenance program, and even pre-purchase evaluations,” Burls said. “We offer a dedicated team that can provide mobile support to your flight department anywhere in the world and have a fully stocked parts department to help ensure that we will be able to present the best quality maintenance to you in a timely manner.”