Corporate and military MRO provider King Aerospace is readying a new facility in Albuquerque, New Mexico to handle aircraft maintenance and flight dispatch operations for the U.S. Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Housed in an existing NNSA hangar on Kirtland Air Force Base with room for two narrowbody airliners, the company-branded facility will begin operation on May 17 to support the NNSA's fleet of three Boeing 737-400 Combi and one DC-9 Combi.
The contract, valued at $28 million over five years with annual renewal options, covers "all aspects" of NNSA flight operations, company founder and CEO Jerry King told AIN, including "fueling, flight following, supply, on-the-road crewmembers who travel with the airplane, and routine maintenance and heavy checks."
The NNSA agreement is the latest in a long series of government contracts for the company over the past 27 years. Other ongoing King Aerospace military support missions include maintaining presidential Boeing C-32 and C-40 aircraft and supporting "information gathering" flights over the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea.
"Before we pursue any new government contract, I ask three questions," King said. "Does the government have a reason to change, can we pay people fairly, and can we make a significant difference?"
The NNSA facility will employ 21 experienced aerospace workers from the Albuquerque area. King emphasized those employees were trained not only in the technical aspects of their jobs but also in the family-owned company's culture, down to a recent "wings" ceremony in which the new employees received their company shirts. "It's not the thread that makes these [embroidered] wings gold," he said. "It's the heart of the people who make it happen and are able to support the high mission rates of our customers.”
King himself spent seven weeks in Albuquerque helping to set up the new facility ("I was cleaning steps on my hands and knees," he said) and hire personnel, a hands-on approach he unapologetically poached from the attitudes of Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher and president emerita Colleen Barrett.
"I've never seen a Super Bowl team without their coach on the field," he concluded. "I really believe it's our job at King Aerospace to touch lives and make a difference in our employees' lives. We just happen to work on airplanes."
The NNSA is charged with maintaining and enhancing the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, providing nuclear propulsion to the U.S. Navy, and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies around the globe.