ACI Builds a Bright Future

April 3, 2013
The how and the why behind this FBOs accelerated growth path on California’s Central Coast

PULLQUOTE: ACI has morphed from a fuel provider into a company with more than 70 employees built around three divisions.

Aviation Consultants Incorporated (ACI) set up shop at McChesney Field (KSBP) in San Luis Obispo in 2003 when it purchased a fuel vendor on the field. In the 10 years since that auspicious beginning this company, led by owner William Borgsmiller, has grown and expanded in impressive fashion.

ACI has morphed from a fuel provider into a company with more than 70 employees built around three divisions.

In short order, ACI expanded out of a line shack for the fuel crew into a nearby 10,000 square-foot hangar, built a charter base, dispatch center and pilot lounge building adjacent to that hangar, and in the fall of 2010 finished constructing a 35,000 square-foot maintenance hangar located at the southeast end of the airport.

A Single-Minded Pursuit

Borgsmiller, 36, says he became "the black sheep" of his family of medical practitioners by announcing at age 4 that he was going to be a pilot. By his 18th birthday, he had all the ratings needed to fly charters, and while flying and working obtained his college degree in two and a half years.

After graduating from Embry Riddle in Prescott, Ariz., Borgsmiller flew charters in Redding before re-locating to San Luis Obispo (KSBP).

ACI first focused on aircraft management services. Andrew Robillard, vice president of FBOs and Facilities, notes the Central Coast location was wide open for large-scale development of turbine aircraft management and charter services. "The area has a lot to offer," said Robillard.

The term "Central Coast" refers to lands located between Salinas and Monterey to the north and Santa Barbara to the south. Its large investments in vineyards and wineries, beach towns and artist colonies make it an attractive place to visit. from artist colony, to resort to beach funk.

The Three Arms of ACI

While still in Redding, Borgsmiller knew he wanted to start a business and that he wanted to, "to fly people around in airplanes." After a year he moved to San Luis Obispo to implement this plan. He set his plan in motion by acquiring one of the fuel vendors on the airport.

Borgsmiller admits his partners helped him get started, and that partners are still part of ACI.

The first leg of ACI's success was built on aircraft management services.

The ACI aircraft management team sits down with each customer and if requested, can tailor each management package to the customer's needs.

As the management roster grew it was a natural progression to begin offering the owners of managed airplanes the option of contracting with ACI to provide the services and oversight needed to safely charter their aircraft.

According to Robillard, "What sets us apart from other companies is our boutique attitude toward our customers." The ACI charter team makes it a point to know what each customer wants to eat and drink, what they want to drive, where they want to stay and even, what kind of doggy treats Rover likes. Then they go to uncommon lengths to make sure the customer gets what they like.

Today, the ACI charter fleet includes a King Air 350, a suite of five Citation Excels and Citation XLSs, a Citation X and a Gulfstream IVSP.

Robillard said one reason for the success of charter ops at ACI is the location of the fleet — midway between large markets in both the San Francisco and Los Angeles population centers. Positioning hops to either of these markets are short; this combined with lower overhead costs and the diversified fleet provides the ACI advantage. In addition, the Central Coast is drawing businesses that depend on charter flights to streamline their business and personal travel needs. In addition to its San Luis Obispo facility, ACI also provides and maintains the self serve-fuel service at the beach-side Oceano airport (L57) and maintains a Jet Center in Paso Robles, another Central Coast destination. Although the Paso Robles airport is only 27 miles north of KSBP, the two airports are on opposite sides of a modest range of hills. KSBP, being only a few miles from the Pacific Ocean is more temperate — summertime temperatures rarely top 80 degrees Fahrenheit and winters are mild — but is often covered with marine fog in summer months; KPRB is shielded from summer fogs but is home to temperatures of over 100 degrees F in the summer and often goes IFR due to morning fog and temperatures near or at freezing during the winter months.

An ACI brochure acknowledges this WX switcheroo by providing a "good weather guarantee," and promising to transfer services to either airport when weather concerns dictate a change of plan.

ACI's Big New Maintenance Base

ACI is pushing the fact that both the KSBP and the KPRB airports need to be considered when launching for flights to Hawaii and other Pacific Rim destinations. Each airport has a 6,000 foot runway, and ACI provides full services including 400Hz/28 VDC power, air-conditioning, detailing, de-ice, hangars, and fueling services at both airports.

The third leg of Borgsmiller's one-stop for turbine aircraft business plan — after FBO services, aircraft management and charter services — took form in late 2010 with the completion of home of ACI Jet Solutions, a 35,000 square-foot maintenance service hangar.

During a recent tour of the ACI Jet Solutions hangar, it was clear that it was geared up and ready to go. How ready? Ready to install a high quality interior such as the one recently completed on a Citation X; ready to perform major engine work and engine changes, and ready to provide a degree of sheet metal fabrication and repair. And it's always ready for normal line servicing such as washing, tire and battery servicing, and detailing services including Trip Ready servicing during quick-turn operations.

One service that sets the ACI detail team apart from others is the ability and training to provide leather and bright work restoration services for interiors. One of only two Townsend Leather Service Centers on the West Coast, ACI detail specialists are certified by The Leather Institute.

The Jet Solutions plan also includes a mobile maintenance truck that is ready to go, "as far as they want us to go," says Robillard.

Borgsmiller's original vision of, "flying people around in airplanes," has grown in a direction he didn't foresee just a few years ago. Today that vision has morphed into the newest full-service jet service center on California's Central Coast.

Bio: Steven Ells, owner of Ells Aviation, is an aviation writer and accomplished aviation photographer. Ells aviation maintenance career has spanned more than 40 years. He may be reached at [email protected].