At Sky Aircraft Maintenance, Legacy Bizjets a Focus

 - March 1, 2022, 9:50 AM
Sky Aircraft Maintenance has been operating from this 12,000-sq-ft hangar at Davidson County Airport in North Carolina. (Photo: Sky Aviation Holdings)

With more than a year in business operating from a 12,000-sq-ft hangar at Davidson County Airport (KEXX) in Lexington, North Carolina, Sky Aircraft Maintenance (SAM) is planning a 65,000-sq-ft expansion project. It’s one of a few expansion programs underway for parent company Sky Aviation Holdings, president Tom Conlan told AIN.

SAM recently secured a 40-year lease on four acres of land from KEXX, where it plans to construct two 20,000-sq-ft hangars—one dedicated to aircraft maintenance and the other to avionics—and remaining space for offices and shops, including for paint, interiors, and woodworking. SAM also provides aircraft parts sales. Conlan said he hopes to begin construction early this summer with completion by the end of this year or the first of next year. SAM will continue to use its 12,000-sq-ft hangar for an aircraft parting-out operation.

The new facilities will serve two focuses at SAM: provide regular aircraft maintenance services to owners and operators and growing its maintenance and refurbishment business for legacy business jet models such as the Hawker 800 and 900, Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP, Learjet 60, and Cessna Citation V, Ultra, Encore, Bravo, Excel, and XLS. “Business has just been outstanding,” Conlan said. “We’ve had four and five airplanes deep sitting on the ramp waiting to get in.”

SAM, which has 17 employees—“now on the way to 70,” Conlan said—started as an outgrowth of Sky Aviation Holdings, which began as a business buying and refurbishing legacy business jets after Conlan got out of the charter business in 2014. The company later added subsidiary TBO Extension, which is an engine life extension program for the Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5. “We’re getting ready to look at Bravos and a couple of other engines that are similar to the JT15,” Conlan added.

More recently, TBO Extension completed an integrator agreement with Honeywell BendixKing to provide equipment and technology to complete its Skyview 1000 STC. The first phase of the new avionics STC is to update legacy jets equipped with Primus 1000 avionics to include all Cessna Citation Bravos, Ultras, Encores, and Excels that currently are equipped with the original Primus 1000 suite. Conlan said plans call for TBO Extension to do a similar STC for business jets that are equipped with Collins Aerospace’s Pro Line 4.

Sky Aircraft Maintenance recently finished a complete refurbishment of this Citation Ultra twinjet. (Photo: Sky Aviation Holdings)

Conlan said there are 3,000 legacy aircraft that SAM could completely refurbish and sell in a market where there’s a dearth of preowned business jets. Even at 20 percent market penetration, that amounts to 600 airplanes over the course of four years, he added. SAM recently finished complete refurbishments on a Citation Ultra and two Beechjets.

“Our goal is to continue to breathe life in these legacy airplanes much as we did with TBO engine extension,” Conlan explained. “We see a lot of value in them and of course, the marketplace has figured out they’ve become significantly undervalued after the Great Recession of ’08, ’09. They now realize there’s a lot of inherent value to these aircraft and given the right upgrades, the right maintenance, and things of that nature you can continue to [fly] these things for a long time to come.”