Operation takes flight: Aviation repair facility earns top ranking

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Dave Krogman oversees an operation that provides a wide range of aircraft maintenance and repair services. But the essence of the operation, he says, is building relationships with customers who trust the company to work on their airplanes.

“This is very much a relationship business. Customers want to know the people taking care of their airplanes,” says Krogman, general manager of West Star Aviation in Grand Junction.

Dave Krogman
Dave Krogman

Krogman credits that approach with building a global clientele and repeat business — as well as earning West Star Aviation the top ranking for maintenance, repairs and overhauls in a survey conducted by a prominent trade publication.

That approach will remain important, he says, as West Star continues to expand its facilities and capabilities with a 45,000-square-foot paint hangar that soon will be constructed to accommodate larger aircraft.

West Star Aviation ranked No. 1 for its maintenance, repair and overhaul operations in the latest results of an annual survey conducted for Professional Pilot. The magazine polls its subscribers, which includes aircraft owners, operators, passengers and flight crews. MRO was added as a category for the Preferred Aviation Services and Equipment survey for 2014. West Star beat out Standard Aero, Duncan, Citation Service Centers and Gulfstream in the rankings.

“We were up against some pretty big players, so No. 1 is a pretty big honor,” Krogman says. “It’s a really neat thing for us in Grand Junction.”

With 370 employees and 250,000 square feet of facilities, the West Star operation at the Grand Junction Regional Airport is the largest of six operated by a group that also owns facilities in Illinois, Missouri, South Carolina and Texas. That’s not counting a maintenance support facility at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

In Grand Junction, West Star offers what Krogman calls a “one-stop shop” in providing at one facility repairs, scheduled maintenance, avionics installations, painting and complete overhauls. Because of that convenience, many customers who fly in their airplanes for required maintenance also order such elective work as instrument, interior and paint upgrades, he says. Given their longevity, used aircraft can be refurbished into what are essentially new aircraft at a lower cost than buying new planes, he adds.

In addition to expanding its services over the years, West Star also has substantially expanded the types of aircraft upon which it works, Krogman says. The list now includes most manufacturers of business jets, including Citation, Challenger, Embraer, Falcon, Gulfstream, Hawker and Learjet.

Moreover, West Star has changed operations to accommodate what’s been an industry trend toward larger corporate aircraft.

To that end, construction is expected to soon begin on a paint hanger that will accommodate two large airplanes at once. The hangar will be built near other West Star facilities at the airport and should be completed within about a year, Krogman says.

While the Grand Junction Airport Authority initially had planned to issue $8 million in revenue bonds to finance the project, West Star opted to obtain private financing, Krogman says.

As the new hangar nears completion, West Star will hire 30 to 40 additional employees. Another 100 employees could  come on board in the subsequent three to five years, he says. “These are good trade jobs in a high-tech industry.”

In addition to the economic benefits associated with one of the largest employers in the Grand Valley, West Star derives nearly all of its business from customers outside the region, Colorado and even the United States, Krogman says. That means the company brings new dollars into the local economy.

But it all goes back to building relationships with customers who trust the company to work on their airplanes, he says. And that depends in turn, on the services employees provide.

The top ranking in the Professional Pilot survey reflects the the end result of those efforts. “That’s not me. That’s all 370 people,” Krogman says. “They’re the ones making us popular, making us successful.”