MRO Profile: Valair Aviation
There’s history, and then there’s history; Valair Aviation falls into the latter category. Its two original hangars were part of Aero Commander’s Wiley Post Airport production facility in Oklahoma City. Dating back to the 1950s, they were the finishing center for new aircraft, the place where customers picked up their new piston-, turboprop- and turbojet-powered Commanders.
When the doors shut permanently on Aero Commander’s Oklahoma City facility it was purchased by a local businessman who rebranded it The ServiCenter and during the 1980s it transitioned from a manufacturing, completions and delivery facility to a comprehensive maintenance facility. The shop continued to serve the Twin Commander fleet but gradually expanded into other turboprops and jets. In 2009, AGC (Acorn Growth Companies) bought The ServiCenter and rebranded it as Valair Aviation.
General Aviation and Defense Offerings
“We continue to focus on the Twin Commander legacy business but have also invested heavily in infrastructure so we could expand into other platforms,” Darryl Wilkerson, president of Valair Aviation, told AIN. “In addition, we’ve leveraged the experience of other AGC businesses to launch Valair into the defense side of aircraft maintenance.”
AGC is a Midwest City, Okla.-based private equity firm that manages 13 companies divided into four operating groups: Integrated Defense Group, Composites Group, Financial Services Group and Aero Services Group. Valair is under the Integrated Defense Group and Wilkerson, who joined AGC in 2006 as vice president of strategy, continues to hold that title and is also president of the Integrated Defense Group. He joined AGC by way of the Air Force, then a business development spot with L-3 Communications. AGC brought him in as both vice president of strategy and the operating president of its commuter air technology division–Kirkpatrick Electronics.
Currently Valair’s business is split about evenly between general aviation and defense. In the former category the company does maintenance, repair, overhaul, paint, interiors and heavy structures. Valair Aviation purchased Kirkpatrick Avionics in 2011, giving it the ability to perform avionics modification, repair and upgrades. It is an authorized distributor and installer for Garmin, Honeywell Bendix/King and Rockwell Collins.
The defense portion is heavily involved in the production of modified aircraft for special missions such as medevac, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and maritime patrol. Wilkerson said the company most commonly works on the Beech 1900 and King Air 200 and 350, and the Cessna Caravan.
“Twin Commanders are a big part of our business. We have a significant customer base that spans South and Central America, Mexico, Canada, Western Europe and the United States. Currently there are about 600 Twin Commanders in service and we remain an authorized Twin Commander service center–one of the few in the U.S.,” Wilkerson said.
Despite its commitment to legacy aircraft, Valair Aviation continues to grow into other segments. In addition to the MRO and modification center, the company now has an FBO and has added three more hangars, including a paint facility. The EPA-approved strip and paint facility is 21 feet by 75 feet with a 65-foot door. The facility can perform minor damage repair and can deploy its mobile repair team, which has paint capability for either an entire aircraft or small touch-up jobs. The mobile repair team routinely performs aircraft pre-buy inspections, scheduled and unscheduled maintenance events, aircraft recovery and AOG response.
“We need room for growth, so we’re talking to the airport officials at Wiley Post to find a spot on the airport where we can build an additional hangar and more office space. I intend to retain our legacy general aviation and government defense sector businesses; however, the plan is to build additional facilities large enough to accommodate the modern, much larger aircraft that we’re seeing emerge in both those market segments,” he said. “We’re well known in the turboprop market not only because of our roots with the Twin Commander and early expansion into the King Air market but also because we’ve performed under contract for Hawker Beechcraft and Raytheon Aircraft on the 1900, providing maintenance, overhaul and modifications. We have broad experience in the turboprop and light jet markets.”
Valair Aviation’s combined facilities cover 188,000 sq ft divided among five hangars that include the FBO, a long-term tenant storage hangar, a paint hangar and two large maintenance hangars. The company employs 70 full-time people who are augmented with contract labor to support spikes in workload. “Approximately 80 percent of our technical workforce holds an A&P. That’s a pretty high percentage when you look across the industry. We’re proud of that fact,” Wilkerson said.
The ISO 9100-certified, FAR Part 145 repair station is also an authorized service center for Hawker Beechcraft, Piper, Cessna and Sabreliner.
In the defense industry it is certified to perform maintenance, repair and overhaul on U.S. government-owned aircraft. The company offers maintenance; systems engineering, integration, modification and completions; airframe structural repairs; avionics modifications and upgrades; custom paint; and complete aircraft restoration.
It also has an interior shop providing leather interior and executive cabinetry refurbishment.
“We have extensive experience in aircraft floor plan reconfigurations, including passenger to cargo conversions and specialization in quick conversions. In conjunction with our avionics department, we can custom design cabin entertainment systems to customer requirements. We have experience with Gulfstream, Challenger, Falcon, Learjet, Commander, Westwind and Hawker Beechcraft interior refurbishment.
Supporting Valair’s mission is a $1 million inventory of parts and rotable components. It is also an authorized spares distributor for Cessna, Twin Commander and Hawker Beechcraft.