Hot section: Western Jet Adds Reno Facility

 - August 2, 2010, 7:37 AM

Later this year, Gulfstream maintenance provider Western Jet will open a new facility at Reno-Tahoe International Airport. The new Reno facility, housed in the former Jet West FBO, will open with 10 people, and that number is expected to grow quickly to 20.

When he founded the company 11 years ago, Jim Hansen never expected his small maintenance shop to become one of the largest independent Gulfstream-specialty service providers on the West Coast.

“It’s hard to believe,” he said. “When I first started out, it was scary.” Western Jet has more than 50 employees at Van Nuys and has expanded into most of a 66,000-sq-ft hangar shared with a Raytheon military program.

Last year the company added avionics capability to its menu of services, opening Western Jet Avionics in June. Western Jet is a Twin Commander turboprop service center and a dealer for Honeywell, Rockwell Collins, TrueNorth Avionics and Universal Avionics. Although Western’s technicians have developed extensive expertise on Gulfstreams from the GII through G550, the company will likely remain independent as Gulfstream doesn’t grant authorized service center status to maintenance companies in the U.S.

Western Jet does compete with Gulfstream’s Long Beach, Calif., factory service center. “There will always be customers who say they want the factory,” Hansen acknowledged. “But there are also customers who know that I can offer something a little bit different.”  In any case, he added, “There are enough Gulfstreams to go around.”

Since Western Jet opened, Hansen has seen striking changes in the Gulfstream market. Whereas the company used to see a lot of GIIs and GIIIs and installed the only Stage III Technologies hushkit, now the airplanes that populate the Western ramp generally start at the GIV and top out at the G550. Plenty of customers still bring GIIIs for service, but GIIs are becoming rarer.  

The new Reno facility will help Western Jet continue growing, according to CFO and co-owner Allen Eggers. “Reno is a great community with a terrific business environment,” he said. “A facility in Reno will help us attract business from Northern California, Oregon, Washington and beyond.”