Back in 1997, Ken Moon and his five colleagues knew they wanted to move on from their jobs at Innotech Aviation of Halifax, Nova Scotia. So they had a choice: Do they move off into six different directions or do they start up “something new?” With a decided strength in avionics and aircraft maintenance they figured that they just might have the stuff to appeal to corporate clientele.
“We were six individuals who basically wanted to try and do their own thing, who saw how maintenance should be run,” says Moon, the director of technical services for Penta Aviation of Vancouver, British Columbia.
“We started off with one airplane as a customer and built it to where it is today in about seven years.”
“It” in this case refers to Pacific Aero Tech Inc., the maintenance wing of Penta, which was created when Moon and his colleagues joined forces with the known Jens family and their Canada Jet Charters company in Vancouver. The final piece of the puzzle was in place, says Moon, to make Penta, and by extension Pacific Aero Tech, one of the most successful full-service aviation companies in Western Canada.
For proof, he points to sales growth of approximately 20 percent each year for the past seven years. What once began as a shared idea among six ambitious individuals has blossomed, Moon boasts, into maintenance, avionics, and interior shops of 70 employees and an FBO and air charter service of 110 employees — “everyone from administration to bistro staff and pilots.”
“We’ve had truly dramatic growth,” says Moon, “and I don’t expect that to end very soon.”
THE BIGGER PICTURE
Penta Aviation operates primarily in the Pacific Northwest, including the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. Here, the resource industries, agriculture, and high tech drive the local economies.
Not surprisingly, Penta’s customers are those small exclusive corporate entities — oil and lumber executives who utilize their own corporate aircraft — along with the heads of large food and computer companies, who routinely travel between Vancouver and California, and to points in Western Canada, Toronto, and New York.
Moon admits the competition is stiff, mostly from “the Gulfstreams and the Garretts who have facilities all over the U.S.,” but it’s Penta’s expansion plans which he believes will make it an even bigger force in the aviation industry.
“We’re now a Bombardier service center for the Challenger and the Lear. We’re a Raytheon-Hawker service center, which is our primary market, and we’re also now just getting set up to look after the new Chal-lenger 300 when it gets put out in the market later this year. We’re going after the corporate market, the top end corporate operator.”
Penta’s FBO and charter sides also have a lot to offer, Moon adds, from a charter fleet that includes a Lear 55, two Lear 35s, and a Citation 2, to a large hangar, private sleep rooms, and a bistro overlooking an easily accessible ramp.
Like FBOs, maintenance, and charter services elsewhere, Canadian aviation services are heavily regulated, though not so heavily, says Pacific Aero Tech’s general manager Nigel Argent, as companies in the U.S. Argent is particularly intrigued by the U.S. efforts to deal with fractional ownership and with the desire among small charter companies to fly larger aircraft that normally would drop into FAR Part 125.
“They’ve actually made a change in the regs for the Global Express to make sure it fits into FAA 135,” observes Argent. “But the regs have been around for a long time. There’s a lot of changes that have gone on with 9/11 and everything else. It’s interesting.”
The FAA alleges that Corporate Air operated the aircraft on at least 80 flights in spite of continued evidence of excessive oil consumption by the right engine.
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