Dwight D. Eisenhower
Yingling Aviation, a
Board Member, Doc’s
Friends and GAMA
1. Can you summarize Yingling’s history serving the aviation community? Where do you envision the company going in the future?
Since 1946, Yingling Aviation has provided general aviation services from aircraft sales to maintenance to interiors. We’ve also had a unique and close relationship with Textron Aviation as an authorized service facility for Cessna and Beechcraft. In recent years, a core focus of ours has been improving our processes and equipment. Aircraft today are more robust with technology, powerplant and engineering, so it is critical our people have the knowledge and resources required to service these aircraft.
Future-wise, we are seeing expansion across multiple areas. Our propeller repair shop has expanded three times in three years. And in 2018, we are breaking ground on a new, expanded maintenance facility as well as adding aircraft paint to our list of services.
2. Can you describe your current view on the activity and strength of the GA market?
I’m optimistic. By all appearances, the economy is beginning to show some traction for aircraft purchases, both new and used. Pricing seems to be firming up and aircraft utilization is increasing based on the most recent measurements by NBAA. We see it at Yingling with increased activity with aircraft movements on the ramp and fuel sales. Maintenance, avionics, interiors, props, including parts were all up over the last year. Privatization is still a concern, as well as the need for long-term, predictable tax reform. But overall, I’m feeling like this might be the real deal this time around.
3. How are we as an industry going to help grow the general aviation pilot community and attract millennials to flying?
If we do not invest in attracting young people to aviation careers, it will hurt all of us. At Yingling, we have introduced the new concept of remanufacturing an older 172, whereby we essentially perform a complete refresh of the aircraft spinner to tail with new avionics and a significantly attractive purchase price to help lower the hourly rental cost for student pilots. This way students hopefully finish lessons instead of dropping out due to budget reasons. Likewise, a remanufactured yet modernized airplane for 40 to 45 percent of a new aircraft is attractive to flight training organizations and flying clubs. Our hope is the project invigorates a path for the younger generation to enter the industry.
4. What inspired you to serve on the Board for Doc’s Friends? (Doc is one of two flyable B-29 Superfortresses.)
Jeff Turner, the former CEO of Spirit AeroSystems and chairman of Doc’s Friends is actually a good friend of mine. Back when work had halted on the airplane due to lack of funding, Jeff took me to see the airplane, visit with the volunteers and described his idea to form a nonprofit to complete the restoration. After seeing the B-29 and hearing the volunteers’ heartfelt stories, I was hooked. So, I became the treasurer of Doc’s Friends and a very strong aviation-minded board was put together. “Doc” has since become an icon for the community, taking its first flight in July of 2016. Today, we are working on the second phase of our project, which is securing funding to build a new hangar learning center at Eisenhower National Airport. Construction begins January 2018.
5. The Wichita Aero Club announced that it had selected you as the recipient of its Aero Club Trophy. How does it feel to now be on that impressive list of those honored?”
I really don’t know how to answer this question, other than I am humbled and surprised. I owe it to a great management team and group of employees. Reconstructing Yingling Aviation over the last 18 years was not a task completed by me alone. My part was to instill the vision of what we could become, hire the right people and provide the space and resources they need to make it come together. To be added to the recipient list of other people like Velma Wallace, Russ Meyer, Jr., Jeff Turner, John O’Leary, and Paul Bowen is just a sincere and humbling experience. It is clearly an “aw shucks” kind of moment.