By Dwayne Wilder
On a cool Tuesday morning in April, a Learjet touched down at Grayson County Airport (GYI), about 75 miles north of Dallas. This wasn’t just any Learjet; it was an early production Learjet 23 from the State of Mexico (Estado de Mexico), a state in the center of Mexico. One of its engines needed repair and Best Jets, based at GCA, came highly recommended.
“Best Jets became our best option for us in time and price,” said Armando Gomez, a director of operations with the Mexico governor’s office. “And they can give us a very quick answer on the engine.”
A four-man entourage came to GCA representing Arturo Montiel Rojas, the governor of the State of Mexico, with the government-owned aircraft. Estado de Mexico includes Mexico City, Mexico’s national capitol, which is 30 miles from the state capitol of Toluca, where the jet is based. Along for the flight with Gomez was Captain Adolfo Morlotti, copilot Jose Galvan and mechanic/technician Raphael Fuentes. The men stayed four days while Best Jets crews tested and analyzed and repaired the jet engine turbine. It was their first trip to the Denison area and Grayson County Airport, although they had come as far as Alliance Airport in Fort Worth on another trip.
“This is fantastic,” said Gomez, as he looked over the tarmac. “There’s so much space; we’re used to being crowded at the airports in Mexico.”
The men made the flight in two hours and 40 minutes with a stop in Laredo, Texas.
The Learjet 23, more than 40 years old, is one of the oldest ones still flying. Best Jets’ Dale LaBrue, who hung the first General Electric engine on the first Learjet produced, and technician Richard Walker immediately went to work on the suspect engine, including a series of diagnostic tests at high thrust output.
Gomez agreed that the aircraft is a dependable mode of transportation; it has to be if it’s charged with moving Mexican officials around the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
“We like the versatility of the aircraft,” said Gomez. “It’s a good airplane.”
He added that the jet must be kept in premium working condition and said the trip to Best Jets at GCA was a “test run” in many ways.
“We want to see how it goes. If it goes OK, as we expect it to, we will bring other aircraft to Denison,” explained Gomez at that time.
And that’s just what happened. Ron Brock, Best Jets spokesman, said he talked to Gomez in May and received a favorable report.
“Something definitely did come of their visit,” said Brock. “He promised us we will be the ones they call when maintenance is needed and that Best Jets will do the next overhauls on both engines in about 400 more hours of flight time.”
“Your airport is apart from everything else and that is nice,” Gomez said. “We’re glad to be here.”
Someone else who was glad they were here is Best Jets owner Roger Humiston who also operates Best AeroNet, a nationwide discount aviation jet fuel network based at the north Texas airport.
“It’s exciting for us to offer airframe and engine services to some of the people who have used our fuel services,” said Humiston, who with Kate Woolstenhulme, his wife and business partner, owns both businesses. “The Mexican aviation market is a big one. We’re glad to work with the governor of Mexico’s aircraft and his staff. For them to choose our shop is gratifying. We’re also pleased to bring this GE engine repair and overhaul operation to the Grayson County area.”
He estimated that there are 100 Learjets in operation in Mexico currently. That’s good for Best Jets.
Best Jets, a jet engine modernization center, which became fully operational at the end of April, has been in the works for over a year and one half. It required purchasing many specialized tools and equipment according to Woolstenhulme.
Best Jets is GE certified to upgrade the CJ610/CF700 jet engines and to install the solid spool rotor assembly. GE has committed to these engines until the year 2040. In addition, the operation includes engine repair and hot section repair, engine overhaul and inspection, airframe inspections and maintenance, avionics upgrades and interior refurbishing. GE Program Manager George Zavras certified Best Jets for the installation, technical support and marketing of the CJ610/CF700 engine upgrades: “power for the 21st century.”
Humiston emphasized that the flight line hangar, located on Grayson County Airport, was crucial to the uniqueness of the Best Jets operation.
“Customers can fly their planes right to us,” explained Humiston, a pilot for more than 30 years. “We can immediately get to work on the engine. You have to have a site for the airplane to come; other shops don’t have a location at the airport. After we’ve assessed the engine, we can move it to the overhaul/repair facility if necessary. We appreciate all the community support in our efforts to develop this business. It’s gratifying to finally see the business come together.”
In order to get the word out about the new engine service operation nestled between Sherman and Denison, just 650 miles from Mexico—a short jaunt by Learjet—Best Jets recently sent a delegation to Aero 05, Mexico’s annual aviation trade show.
“I think it was worth going; I saw 60 Learjet 20 series on the field,” said Brock. “We got some hot leads while we were there.”
For more information about Best Jets and Best AeroNet, visit [http://www.bestaero.com] or [http://www.bestjets.aero].