By Christian Holtz
Western Aircraft, the world’s largest dealer for Pilatus Aircraft, has named three-year-old ViaJet a Pilatus satellite service center. ViaJet is based at Skagit Regional Airport (BVS). It occupies a brand new double service hangar abeam Runway 04/22 on the airport’s southeast side recently built by ViaJet CEO Dean Holt.
“The service agreement went into effect March 1,” Holt said. “I’ve had to increase my insurance liability coverage, but we can start providing service as soon as I receive the tools special to Pilatus maintenance.”
Receipt of these tools is expected by mid-March. Already one employee has been through the Pilatus service school in Broomfield, Colo. By the end of March, Craig Scamehorn, maintenance director, will also have completed the three-week course.
Pilatus, headquartered in Switzerland, awards dealerships throughout the United States and charges these dealerships with the responsibility to develop satellite service centers for the care and maintenance of both new and used aircraft. Six Pilatus satellite service centers are on the West Coast—four in California, one in Oregon and one in Washington. Pilatus customers will be notified of ViaJet’s new status in mailings by Western Aircraft, based in Boise, Idaho. ViaJet will be visible on Western Aircraft’s website as well as on the Pilatus factory listing.
Referring to his service agreement with Western Aircraft, Holt acknowledges it’s written in a favorable fashion for Western.
“The contract goes for as long as you perform,” Holt said. “They don’t want to be saddled with somebody that’s not doing his part. They’re very interested in customer service. They sell more airplanes if people are happy with the service they get after market. I may be on the bottom rung of the ladder, but I’m a very important part of the Pilatus effort to sell airplanes.”
Holt said he takes that seriously, not because he owns stock in Pilatus, but because he’ll benefit from this effort.
“I understand what they want,” he said. “They want to sell airplanes. And it depends on me taking care of these airplanes and having a pleasant place for owners to go to get them fixed.”
In addition to Pilatus, ViaJet is the local service center for both Diamond and Columbia aircraft. They’ve been a Diamond service center for two years, and a Columbia aircraft service center for six months.
ViaJet’s new large hangar and shop is 200 feet wide by 100 feet deep for 20,000 square feet, with an additional 4,800 feet attached that includes the parts room and shop office, together with offices for the FBO side of ViaJet, a reception area and a well-appointed conference room. Other amenities to be offered will include rental and courtesy cars, a pilot rest area, wireless Internet, a customer lounge, and even offices for use by the customer.
Holt will also offer pickup and delivery services for Pilatus owners. He’ll travel to where the airplane is, bring it back to ViaJet and deliver it back to the customer when the work is done.
“Some of the customers I’ve talked to tell me this would be a big help to them,” Holt said. “With my pilot background and the hours I have in turbine airplanes and training, I am easily insurable in the Pilatus.”
The Port of Skagit County just completed the fuel tank facility on the north side of his building, and a card lock system for aviation gas and jet fuel from Ace Tank and Equipment in Seattle will be installed within a few weeks. When the fuel operation is up and running, Holt intends to use the fuel to generate traffic
“I’m going to be the lowest retail cost fuel supplier in the state, in an effort to promote my maintenance business. You should have a reason to sell fuel cheap, otherwise people might be suspicious,” laughed Holt. “If you come here to buy fuel, I’m going to try to sell you maintenance. But you can have the fuel anyway, whether you buy maintenance or not.”
Holt was raised in the Skagit Valley and has been a pilot since the age of 16, when he learned to fly down the road at Barker Flying Service. He’s been an aviator since he graduated from Big Bend College at Moses Lake.
“I’ve earned a living flying since 1972,” recalled Holt. “I was a crop duster and corporate pilot, and I flew for United Airlines.”
In addition to ViaJet, Dean Holt also has a contracting business and at one time was building homes and subdivisions before turning to airport structures.
“I built some houses because I had an investment in some property in Mt. Vernon,” recalled Holt. “But I had this fractional idea, so I thought I would try to sell some hangars here at the airport.”
If you count the T-hangars, Holt has built a total of 38 hangars at Skagit Airport.
“I built the one next door,” Holt said. “When I sold that, I put the proceeds into this building.”
All of this has kept him involved at the airport.
“I really wanted to make a living around here,” Holt said. “I’d like to make a living in the Skagit Valley versus commuting to Seattle.”
When Holt speaks about ViaJet growing into a small fractional operation, what he really means is a small fractional operation for small aircraft.
“My idea is to offer the Pilatus aircraft or another small turbine airplane for people in the Northwest region,” Holt said.
The customer base he pictures may not stretch across the country, but it would certainly span the state and cross its borders.
“I see it being within 300 miles of the Skagit Valley,” he said. The original idea for our company was a small fractional operation. To do that, you need a physical presence at an airport, a maintenance operation to support the airplanes, and fuel. That is all happening now. The maintenance operation has become more than simply a building block for the fractional business plan; it’s become a business all by itself.”
Holt knows there aren’t many options for the owners of small airplanes when it comes to service and maintenance.
“There’s not really an abundance of good choices,” he said. “As Boeing Field becomes crowded with more and more large airplanes, older shops like Galvin and what used to be Flightcraft, now Clay Lacy, realize there’s a lot more money in providing service to these large planes.”
What Holt sees is a lot of customers in small turbines and pistons looking elsewhere for service.
“Many come up here,” he said. “We have customers at Boeing Field and Paine Field who fly their aircraft up here. We fly them back home, then do whatever maintenance is required on their planes and deliver these planes back to them.”
Along with inexpensive fuel, Holt also intends to advertise $100 Hot Dog Saturdays on certain weekends this summer.
“Readers seeing the ads will want to fly here for the fuel special and Mariner dog,” said Holt.
For more information on ViaJet, call 1-866-531-0499, or visit [http://www.viajet.net].