MRO Profile: Executive Aircraft Maintenance
Jim Nordstrom, president of Executive Aircraft Maintenance (EAM), was enjoying the retired life when several friends enticed him back to the business in 2001 as part of a three-way partnership called Copper State Turbine Engine Company (CSTEC). “I told them that I’d help set up the company but really wanted to go back into retirement as soon as it was practical; that was 12 years ago and I’m still here,” he told AIN.
The three partners–Nordstrom, John Phoenix and Mike Croye–were all Honeywell employees and had all been associated with the TPE331 turboprop program. CSTEC purchased the engine shop of Executive Aircraft Services on Scottsdale Airport and rebranded it Copper State Turbine Engine Company. It was a Honeywell-approved major service center for the TPE331 and a line service center for the TFE731 turbofan.
In 2004 the company acquired the airframe maintenance portion of EAS, which it combined with CSTEC’s existing engine business and branded Executive Aircraft Maintenance. With the expansion the six-person company grew to 11.
The same year EAM decided to expand its airframe operation and hired Rob Louviaux to run the Twin Commander Service Center. Louviaux brought 13 years of experience with Twin Commanders and TPE331s. At about the same time EAM also hired Mark Kaltved to support the turbine shop. Kaltved’s background in aerospace machining with Honeywell was a perfect match for the company, and he subsequently developed several repairs for the TPE331, providing a significant increase in the MRO’s international customer base for repairing components and accessories on the TPE331.
A Business in Growth Mode
The company is divided into six small business units: engine shop; aerospace machining; FBO Glendale Aero Service; avionics; business executive airframe; and the jet business executive airframe. “We pride ourselves on hiring people who have already made a name for themselves in our industry, put them in charge of a business unit and let them do what they do best. Our emphasis is not on vertical integration but rather a horizontal one, which allows each manager to manage his own small business unit,” said Nordstrom.
In 2005 the turbine and machine shop moved off airport into a 22,000-sq-ft facility in Scottsdale Airpark and the airframe shop moved into a temporary hangar at Scottsdale Air Center as that unit’s new hangar was being built. EAM was expanding its Scottsdale Airport facility with a 10,000-sq-ft hangar, 7,000 sq ft of office space and 5,000 sq ft of back shops for sheet metal, ground support equipment storage, a material department and a landing-gear overhaul shop. Since then the MRO also added an avionics shop.
“When I worked for Honeywell I used to travel extensively, including trips to Anchorage, Alaska. I used to say that Alaska was the last, great frontier in America and it was being tamed by a lot of operators using aircraft powered by the TPE331. It seemed to me it would make sense to have a service facility located up there.” In 2005 the company reached an agreement with Honeywell to open an EAM satellite in Anchorage for the TPE331 and TFE731. It is now a stand-alone facility with its own FAA Part 145 repair station certificate.
In 2008 EAM hired Bill Forbes to build its avionics shop, and it has since been named a Garmin platinum installation center for 2010, 2011 and 2012. The significant success of the unit prompted EAM to add another 17,000-sq-ft hangar. Originally designed to accommodate the avionics business growth, it has also covered an expansion of its TFE731 line maintenance business to include phase inspections of jet-powered aircraft, a project spearheaded by Tony Tommasino, who joined the team in 2011.
Also in 2011, EAM purchased the FBO at Glendale, Ariz. Airport and renamed it Glendale Aero Services. The FBO handles primarily piston-powered aircraft and is a designated service center for Cessna, Husky and Cirrus. The facility includes a 10,000-sq-ft hangar with an additional 9,000 sq ft for an FBO operation.
The company, in significant growth mode, established a maintenance base at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport last year working with Swift Aviation out of its 30,000-sq-ft hangar. Swift had decided to concentrate on its FBO and Part 135 operation and contract its MRO activities to EAM. The facility is currently in the application process for an FAA Part 145 certificate.
As of the beginning of this year, the MRO’s aerospace machining unit, which specializes in repair and overhaul of engine parts and components, had experienced so much growth it began to compete for limited floor space with the engine shop. To accommodate the growth the TPE331 engine shop is in the process of moving into a 22,000-sq-ft dedicated building.
Today, the EAM organization employs 107 personnel, including 26 airframe technicians, 12 powerplant technicians, 12 avionics technicians, 23 aerospace machine technicians and 24 support personnel. The MRO had 145 engine events last year and is on track to exceed that number this year, doing everything from repairs to overhauls.
“Our aerospace machine shop has grown significantly due to the Honeywell-approved repairs that the shop is capable of performing on the TPE331. We’ve also seen a significant increase in the number of other shops that send their engines and components to us for repair,” he said.
Nordstrom said the company’s airframe businesses in Scottsdale, Glendale and Sky Harbor Phoenix are divided evenly with one-third Twin Commander work, one-third various aircraft in for avionics installs, and one-third turbofan aircraft, which are, for the most part, TFE731-powered. As a Twin Commander service center, EAM works on all models in the Commander line and can comply with all SBs and ADs dealing with heavy structural repairs and modifications.
The turbofan crew works mostly on the TFE731-powered airframes such as the Learjet, Hawker, Astra and Citation, but when Hawker Beechcraft closed its local service center at Mesa Gateway Airport, Nordstrom immediately hired four of its King Air crew to bolster its capacity in that area. Executive Air Maintenance’s FAA Part 145 repair station also holds EASA and Mexican DGAC certification.
Nordstrom is still looking forward to returning to retirement, he said. “I’m just not sure when that is going to be with so much going on.”