Airshare, a fractional and managed aircraft company based in the Kansas City area, is looking to expand its heavy maintenance facility in Wichita to include third-party maintenance even as it takes on additional aircraft in its fractional fleet. The company, which was founded in Wichita in 2000 and relocated its headquarters to Lenexa, Kansas, five years later, has begun the process of opening maintenance to business aircraft other than the 50 jets in its fractional and managed fleet, CEO John Owen told AIN.
“It is a place in the organization where we think there’s a lot of opportunity,” Owen said of the Wichita maintenance facility. “That’s one of the things we’re looking at right now.” Operating from a 27,000-sq-ft hangar and an adjoining 7,000-sq-ft office at Col. James Jabara Airport (KAAO), the facility opened in 2005 when Airshare brought its maintenance in-house. The operation was originally located in a 20,250-sq-ft hangar at Wichita Eisenhower National Airport until the move to its purpose-built facility at KAAO in 2017.
The facility became an authorized Embraer Service Center in 2012 in large part because Embraer Phenom 100s and 300s account for a majority of its fractional fleet. “It’s really the hub of our entire maintenance team,” Airshare COO Alex Franz told AIN. Augmenting Airshare’s Wichita maintenance base are smaller facilities in Fort Worth, Texas; Buffalo, New York; and Kansas City.
Wichita remains Airshare’s maintenance base because of its central location in the U.S., the Jabara facility, and the talent base in Wichita. Airshare also maintains a large managed and fractional customer base in Wichita. Airshare senior director of maintenance Gary Veer, who is based in Wichita, was Airshare’s first maintenance employee. “Gary has really built a great team there that allows us to continue to use that as our primary maintenance facility,” Owen added.
At any given time, the Wichita facility maintains and inspects an average of five to six aircraft, Franz said. “It is a full hangar all the time,” Franz said, adding that the facility provides heavy maintenance such as 120-month inspections.
Owen noted that even though its fractional fleet of 23 aircraft consists primarily of Embraer models—it has begun taking deliveries of new Bombardier Challenger 350s that it will offer in its fractional program beginning in December—its managed fleet of 27 aircraft consists of Beechcraft King Airs, Cessna Citations, Beechjets, Bombardier Global 5000s, and Gulfstream G450s, which are also maintained by Airshare maintenance technicians. “Those guys have been there a long time and have a lot of experience on different types,” he said.
Since the Wichita facility’s priority remains to maintain Airshare’s fractional and managed fleet, it will need to hire additional maintenance technicians to expand its services to include outside jet customers. “That’s going to require more employees [so] that’s kind of our focus right now,” Franz said.