California-based ACI Jet has seen a robust business in the past few years as an FBO, including the construction of an $85 million FBO terminal and hangars at John Wayne Airport (KSNA) in Orange County, and a $20 million, 28,000-sq-ft terminal and an adjacent 25,000-sq-ft maintenance hangar at its headquarters at San Luis Obispo Regional Airport (KSBP). The company's MRO business employs 60.
But the FBO isn’t the only growing segment of its business—so is maintenance. “Prior to what the industry has been experiencing recently with growth, pre-pandemic, our goal was to be a larger supporter for Bombardier in California. We saw that as an opportunity as both a management company and as an MRO to step into that field,” ACI Jet senior v-p of aircraft maintenance Dave Jensen told AIN. “So, I think a lot of that was just building that reputation, getting the Bombardier ASF [authorization], really just building all our capabilities to be comparable to an OEM type facility or a larger facility like a Duncan or a West Star.”
The company recently marked its third year as a Bombardier authorized service facility (ASF) at KSLO, where its maintenance footprint encompasses 60,000 sq ft of hangars: one of which is 35,000 sq ft and the other 25,000 sq ft. Its Bombardier authorization extends to the Challenger 300/600-series and Global jets up to the 6500. On those aircraft, it can perform select heavy maintenance, inspections, warranty, and AOG support. The company also plans to seek authorization for heavy maintenance on the 7500 once the fleet reaches a size that makes sense for ACI Jet to invest in the capabilities to work on Bombardier’s flagship—and largest—aircraft.
Additionally, ACI Jet serves as a parts depot for Bombardier, giving it off-the-shelf access to needed parts. But its MRO activity isn’t exclusive to Bombardier. It also serves as a Part 145 repair station for Cessna Citation jets, including the 500, 525, 560XL, 680, and 750 series. “For our scheduled, heavier maintenance we do limit ourselves to Citation and Bombardier aircraft,” Jensens added. “The reasoning behind that, we didn’t want to be a jack-of-all-trades. We wanted to be experts on the frames we do best. And our history began with Citations. That’s where the company began from a charter and management standpoint. It’s where our maintenance, tooling, and expertise was built up.”
Jensen noted, however, that ACI’s AOG teams can support “pretty much any business aircraft out there.” Its AOG teams consist of four trucks deployed throughout northern and southern California, with a fifth truck expected to come online soon. With the additional AOG truck, three are based at KSNA with eight technicians and the other two will be based out of KSLO with four technicians.
Jensen said one of ACI’s biggest challenges is one familiar to nearly all MROs: finding enough technicians. Even though ACI was “incredibly lucky” in hiring 11 technicians in the first few months of the year, Jensen knows that recruitment is only going to get tougher. It’s why ACI signed on as an industry partner to help nearby Cuesta College develop an airframe and powerplant technician program, the first class of which will launch in January. “The demand is outpacing the ability to bring talent on board,” he said. “As we’re all fighting for talent, that’s going to help our personal situation here in San Luis Obispo.”