“I started this business to feed my family,” recalled King Aerospace chairman and founder Jerry King. Twenty years later, the company is successfully feeding an extended family of some 200 employees at facilities in Ardmore, Okla., and Addison, Texas, and that family is still growing.
King Aerospace, with corporate headquarters in Addison, consists of two major divisions. The Addison operation specializes in military and government aviation services, from worldwide support of surveillance aircraft to work as a Northrop Grumman subcontractor for unmanned aerial vehicle subassemblies.
“I started in 1992 at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, supporting [Northrop Grumman’s] information-gathering aircraft for the missile-test program,” said King. “And during the recent recession, government contracts were a key to our continued success.” In fact, there is not shortage of former members of the military employed at the company. “They’re well-trained, disciplined and they have a first-class work ethic,” said King.
But at NBAA 2013 the King Aerospace Commercial division (Booth No. C13049), based in Ardmore, is highlighting its business aviation capabilities, from interior components and installation to exterior paint and minor maintenance. And the company is seeing that business segment “recovering nicely,” according to King.
The involvement in business aviation began in 1993 and has grown steadily with exterior paint and interior completion and refurbishment as the centerpiece. “Midsize to large-cabin airplanes–Citations, Challengers, Gulfstreams,” said King. “We’ve even done some Boeing airliner conversions to VIP.”
The company plans to increase its focus on green completion of both single-aisle and twin-aisle bizliners as part of the long-range strategy. King said maintenance work is just beginning on a green BBJ in the hangar at Ardmore and the company expects an additional contract to do the interior outfitting. King also expects a number of additional contracts to be signed before the end of the year, including one for a VVIP major reconfiguration of a much larger airplane.
These moves are all part of a long-range plan that includes expanding the facilities onto 75 acres of land at Ardmore Municipal Airport that King Aerospace has been acquiring over the past 20 years. The project includes several hangars capable of accommodating twin-aisle airliner reconfigurations and green completions to executive bizliners, one of which will even hold an Airbus A380. The paint shop at Ardmore is already capable of accommodating aircraft as large as the BBJ. Currently, work is proceeding on a new 25,000-sq-ft interior shop and a smaller 5,000-sq-ft shop at Ardmore.
Plans also include King’s son, Jarid, who graduated this year from Oklahoma State University with a degree in business. His résumé at age 24 is short, but impressive: Eagle Scout, pilot, four years as a defensive tackle at Oklahoma State and completion of an introductory Navy SEAL training course. His father recalls not so long ago watching Jarid in an interview when the son was asked what he liked about playing football, the answer was, “It’s about being part of something bigger than yourself.”
“That was the point at which I truly knew I wanted him in the business,” said Jerry King. And to that end, he has ensured that his son has done everything from sweeping hangar floors to pumping gas to helping run the company’s FBO.
Jarid’s answer in that interview fits what King describes as a company philosophy that was developed by mentors and Southwest Airlines luminaries Herb Kelleher and Colleen Barrett. “They said that if you take care of your employees and you take care of the customers, everything else will take care of itself.” And King added, “We’re believers in modern technology, but based on old values. Customers want the latest technology, but they also expect reliability and quality workmanship along with the cabin communications equipment and the elegance.”
It all appears to be working. King said revenue at this point in 2013 is up about 30 percent over last year, and he added, “I think if the projects we’re working on now come through, 2013 and 2014 are going to be fantastic.”