MRO Profile: English Field Aviation
English Field Aviation opened its doors in May 2010 and has built its business by “working on whatever comes through the door,” COO Travis Lamance told AIN.
Lamance had worked as a mechanic in a number of places but always wanted his own business. In 2005 he moved to Pampa, Texas, to work at Pampa Aircraft “because the guy who was doing maintenance there wanted to focus on running his FBO business. It provided me with the opportunity to buy the maintenance portion of his operation. I worked for him for two years, then bought the maintenance part of his operation and rebranded it as Allegra Aviation. He kept Pampa Aircraft for the FBO operation and I operated out of his facility,” he told AIN.
Some two years later he heard Tradewind Turbines in Amarillo was looking to sell. “I was doing well in Pampa, but it’s a town of about 16,000 people with a small, rural airport and it was obvious there would be a lot more opportunity in Amarillo with its more than 200,000 residents,” he said.
Tradewind Turbines, located on Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport, had a facility that was set up for maintenance so Lamance bought all the equipment and took over the lease on the facility. “From a maintenance perspective it was fine but the facility in general needed some renovation because it dates back to the 1970s. When I moved from Pampa I had one full-time and one part-time mechanic, both of whom moved with me, as did most of my customers, but we needed a cash infusion to make the change,” he said.
Lamance explored his options, developed a business plan and presented it to Dwight Rice, the owner of a local area pipeline construction company who owned a Citation Excel. Rice recognized the potential and became Lamance’s partner, taking the position of company president.
The MRO’s “name has an interesting history. Harold English originally built the airport in 1929 and named it English Field. It accommodated the early airline industry and saw a period when the military took it over for B-24 training during the World War II. In 1952 it was renamed Amarillo Air Terminal, then in 2003 renamed again to honor of native son Rick Husband, who was commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia, lost on reentry earlier that same year. We decided that English Field Aviation would be a fitting name for our new business,” Lamance said.
The MRO tries to defy being put in a niche, he explained. “While we tend to focus on the jet and turboprop market,” the company will tackle any work that comes through the door and routinely works on a wide assortment of light general aviation aircraft, King Airs, Conquest Is and IIs and Citations.
Shop Takes on Restoration Projects
Since opening, English Field Aviation has grown to 14 full-time employees: 10 production employees (A&P mechanics and avionics techs) and four support staff (administrative, parts clerk, parts runner and shop cleaner). The MRO operates out of a 34,000-sq-ft facility with 20,000 sq ft of hangar space and more than 400 sq ft dedicated to the avionics shop. It is in the process of applying for an FAR Part 145 repair station certificate and Lamance anticipates it will be completed by year-end. The facility currently provides routine maintenance, phase inspections, sheet metal repair, structural work and increasingly refurb of older aircraft.
“We didn’t go looking for refurb work. Initially most of it was generated by owners coming in for an annual and ending up with a list of things that needed to be done such as putting in new cables, new engine mounts, a new engine, replacing wiring, and so on. The customers were always happy when it was completed and they’d talk about us to other owners; it just seemed to grow by itself.
“We’ve worked on everything from a Maule to a Cessna 414. The Maule ground looped, the gear collapsed and had to be replaced, as did the prop as a result of hitting the ground. There was also extensive wing tip damage that required new wing skin. The 414 needed a dual engine change and new control cables, props and fuel bladders and corrosion repair on the ailerons. Restoration business just seems to find us now; there are so many old, neglected aircraft and we’ve built up a reputation for doing it correctly,” he said.
“There have been other shops in the area and they’ve all pretty much failed because they’ve specialized in a given area. We don’t do that, we’ll work on anything, but we’re clear that we’re going to do the project right or not at all. I refuse to cut corners just because it’s an older aircraft. We give customers a written estimate and tell them what they’re up against. A lot of people don’t like to hear that, but the facts are the facts and in the end they appreciate what we’ve done.”
English Field Aviation also provides maintenance support for American Eagle and maintains a 24/7 AOG mobile response truck it will dispatch all over the Texas panhandle.
“We plan to continue building our reputation for King Airs specifically and turboprops in general, with an emphasis on bringing in more work from outside the Amarillo area. Right now we’re doing well and worked on almost 200 aircraft last year, principally from this region and some transients. We currently have enough room to grow by adding a second shift or even going to a 24-hour schedule. We’re still a young company but we’ve already come a long way. We’ve spent a lot on new equipment, sent our guys to FlightSafety and factory schools, and are working on lining up dealerships. As far as I can see we have a bright future ahead of us,” Lamance concluded.