Cutter Aviation maintains a high profile at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport with its many offerings of aviation services — including GSE maintenance, writes Michelle Garetson
By Michelle Garetson/p>
By Michelle Garetson
Look up the definition of "full service" in the dictionary and you may find a reference to Cutter Aviation. Cutter, a family-owned FBO based at Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona, has continually added services for its customers for over 70 years. Anything from line services to charter flights to parts distribution to a full-fledged Ground Equipment Repair facility with 24-hour coverage to Sky Harbor International Airport is available. Cutter Aviation is continually vigilant in keeping their customers in business.
"We’re an FBO, and we challenge anyone to say they’re older than us," explains Angelo Tedeschi, Vice President and General Manager. "In 1928, Cutter started in Albuquerque, New Mexico and expanded over the years to four different states."
"We’re the oldest Phillips 66 dealer in world — we’ve
been with them about 70 years. As we evolved over years, started selling
different types of aircraft and a Raytheon for many years."
"In 1994, there was a dual operation opportunity here in Phoenix – a GSE and ‘jetway-type’ program – and the previous company was having some difficulties so we took over the GSE side," says Tedeschi. "Soon after, we took over what they called the ‘jetway side.’ It’s all combined now — we purchased the assets and kept the people. It sure has taken off over the years and since then, it’s really evolved with passenger boarding bridges and getting into electronics. We became a licensed electrical contractor as well as a licensed building equipment contractor to support what’s here at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and the outlying areas."
Photo courtesy of Cutter Aviation
that fuel trucks have been another big business for Cutter, partly because of
the background Matt Rozanek, Cutter’s GSE/Facility Maintenance Manager
and his personnel with repairing trucks.
"We started with 7 people in 1994," says Rozanek. "I’ve always been a mechanic. My father was a mechanic and I helped him a lot when I was growing up. You don’t find too many people around anymore that have good, common sense in the mechanical skills. The old style skills are going away fast."
Since the opening of the Cutter Aviation GSE Maintenance Department in 1996, several items have been added to the menu of maintenance services on offer at the Phoenix Sky Harbor facility that have really helped to grow that department in profile and profits. When asked if Cutter has opened other GSE Maintenance Departments at other facilities, Tedeschi explained that Phoenix was unique. Cutter apparently tried a similar venture at its El Paso, New Mexico facilities, but it wasn’t as well received as in Phoenix.
"Matt’s done a really good job with it," says Tedeschi, "and over the years, it has really kicked off and become a nice profit center — it’s about a million dollar a year business for us. The airport is dependent on their support and on-time repairs. There is some outside influence, some outside competition; but day-to-day, 24-hours-a-day, Matt and his crew are here and available."
12 FOR 24/7/365
Rozanek explains that his crew of 12 people include an administrator, a full-time parts person, mechanics, facility maintenance mechanics, and a painter. The GSE facility boasts a two-bay shop plus full wash rack, a good-sized parts room. A 1,000-sq.-ft area holds the tire machines and lathes, etc., and the paint booth is a full-sized truck booth next to the building.
"The bulk of my business is outside work," says Rozanek. "There are several airlines that we work on their equipment on the field as well as on their facility maintenance. We have a contract with the City of Phoenix for on-call maintenance — we take care of their passenger boarding bridges. We also take care of many of the airlines’ passenger boarding bridges, conveyor systems, pushbacks, tugs, air conditioning units, and heaters. We maintain a little bit of electric equipment, but not too much — mostly gas and diesel. We do equipment painting as well —there’s nothing we don’t do. We provide 24/7 on-call service to all of our customers. Anything from pushbacks to fuel trucks to towbars, passenger boarding bridges, conveyor systems, — it’s all there."
Tedeschi adds, "A lot of what we’ve been doing here is painting. A ground equipment gets repainted and we have certified vehicle paint booth on premises." RESCUE EFFORTS
Sometimes, calls to Cutter GSE Maintenance crew require them to repair equipment off-site.
"The fuel vendors will call on occasion for us to repair their trucks," says Tedeschi. "That’s when Matt goes off-site to go repair their trucks there or bring them back here for repairs."
the kinds of
repairs needed out in the field vary and Rozanek crew need to be ready for
anything from fuel leaks nozzles not working valves opening closing.
They change tires starters as well troubleshoot engine problems.TRAINING
One of the critical issues in the GSE industry is training. Many times, adequate training cannot be accomplished due to constraints in time and budget — it costs money to send people for training and by sending them to training, there will be fewer people back at the shop to handle the day-to-day business.
Fortunately, Cutter knows the value of training its personnel and schedules employees for courses throughout the year. Much of the training involves boarding bridge education as the Cutter GSE crew maintains, as well as installs, many of the new bridges at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. "A lot of it is hands-on experience, but we also have people have attended and others lined up for school at FMC Jetway in Ogden, Utah for classes and bridge schooling," says Rozanek. "We’ve sent others to FMC in Florida for commanders and pushbacks. Training lasts about four days at FMC."
Safety training is also critical for the group and monthly meetings are held to reinforce commitment safety. Discussion items include OSHA (Occupational Safety Health Administration) rules regulations, City Hazard Storm Water as well EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulations. >"You have to go through a security and driving license test to be on this airport as well as required hazmat training," Tedeschi explains. "The airport has regular runway incursion meetings. The big issue here is there’s a lot of airline traffic and the mechanics do a lot of driving across the field to support the airlines."
BRIDGE MAINTENANCE AND INSTALLATION
The Cutter GSE Maintenance group has increased their involvement in the maintenance as well as installation of passenger boarding bridges at Sky Harbor Airport. It is quite an undertaking — installations of new bridges can take up to four or five days per bridge to complete. Subsequent maintenance of the installed bridges can be time-consuming as was evident the day GSE Today was visiting.
"We’ve got one aircraft leaving now and one coming in a half hour," said one of Rozanek’s crew who was waiting to perform some preventative maintenance on a bridge.
"So, that gives you about 10 minutes to work on it then," replied Rozanek.
"At times, a six-hour job can take about a day and a half," said Rozanek. "We have to work around the airlines’ schedule."
(airlines) come first, everything else is second — especially GSE maintenance.
With new security measures in place, the word scheduled preventative
maintenance quickly becomes a misnomer. Rozanek’s comment about working
around airlines exactly right and crews need to be patient
as well ready go once aircraft pushes back leaves gate area.
24/7 takes on sinister meaning feel they may for 24-hour
nbsp"When it comes time to perform a PM (preventative maintenance) on a bridge, our facility maintenance personnel follow the factory recommended schedule and procedures," says Rozanek. "Whether it’s for a quarterly, semi-annual, or an annual check, we run the bridge through all of its functions and test all soft and hard limit switches. Test all of the operational safety switches. Check all wiring connections. Lubricate all the required areas of the bridge for a smooth operation and wash the bridge down."
Many new security measures have been put in place since September 11 for obvious reasons, but the truth of the matter is, costs have risen sharply as a result of their implementation — and not just in the initial buy of the physical items designed to enhance security.
Cutter's equipment painter, Javier Dena.
PARTS: A CRITICAL ISSUE
Rozanek admits that chasing and finding parts for some of the old equipment can be quite a chore. Much of the equipment is not manufactured anymore and often, parts need to be made at a machine shop because they can’t be found anywhere.
"This is probably the biggest problem," explains Rozanek. "A lot of these airlines, especially the smaller ones, acquire older equipment because they can’t really afford to buy all new. Then, they hire people like us to maintain it, and it is frustrating sometimes when it breaks hard and you’ve got to get parts for it. Maybe we need to search the "bone yards" for parts or manufacture parts or sometimes, wait 2 or 3 weeks to get parts. Occasionally, we have to contract a local machine shop that will make some parts for us."
"Matt likes to install new bridges," adds Tedeschi.
All is not lost, however, as Rozanek explains that they do find many of the items necessary to keep customers’ equipment up and running. "A lot of the stuff we get, we get from our local NAPA store for common parts," he says. "You can get a lot of parts from the manufacturer still that are in business. As for engine parts, a lot of them run the Ford 6-cylinder engines in them so you can get parts through Ford Industrial parts department for certain items that you can’t get from your local automotive parts store. For most of the newer stuff, like Toyota tractors, you have to go right to the manufacturer. Most of the items that we run through – wheels, hubs, axles, tires – we can get locally."
"Other than that," he says, "we
take care of our customers, do the best we can to keep them happy, keep their
equipment running, and keep them in business."
A FAMILY AFFAIR: THE CUTTERS
William P. "Bill" Cutter and Virginia Cutter are the real aviation pioneers of the great Southwest. This episode began in a dusty plane hangar in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1928. Later that same year, Bill and Virginia founded Cutter Flying Service at the old Albuquerque Airport, which is now, one of the oldest FBOs in the country.
Back when Bill and Virginia started out, if you were going to make a living in the aviation business, you had to do it all.
nbsp"In those early days, Dad gave flying lessons, did charter flying, handled repair and maintenance work and was involved with civilian pilot training," says William R. "Bill" Cutter, son of the founder and current Chairman of the Board. The company survived the Depression, and at the outbreak of World War II, Cutter became a major pilot training facility for the military. "Later, he conducted training for naval pilots, taught glider schools during World War II and trained a number of pilots for various Central and South America Air Forces. The Navy designated our company as a Naval Aerobatics school as well."
In 1947, the company began its affiliation with Beech Aircraft Corporation. Bill R. Cutter, who started in the business by sweeping out the hangar for his Mom and Dad, says a close friendship with an old barnstorming buddy, eventually led to Cutter’s association with Phillips 66. Cutter Aviation is now the oldest Phillips 66 product dealer in the country.
Bill P. Cutter passed away in 1963 and Virginia followed in 1985, but the William P. Memorial Building at the Albuquerque International Airport is a tribute to their pioneering efforts in the aviation industry. Today, the Cutter operation has grown considerably. Cutter Aviation Phoenix, Inc. first opened its doors in 1959; followed by Cutter Aviation El Paso in 1982; Cutter Aviation Deer Valley in November 1997; Cutter Aviation San Antonio in September 1998; and Cutter Aviation Santa Monica in January 2000. Cutter is in the process of expanding into the Dallas area with a new facility, opening soon, at Redbird Airport, six miles from downtown Dallas, that will offer fuel, storage, maintenance, parts, avionics, sales and charter.
Three generations of family and associates have been helping business aircraft owners and operators ever since. Most of the Cutter family is active in the business. Bill R. Cutter is Chairman of the Board, daughter, Kathryn Cutter is Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, and son William W. "Will" Cutter is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company.