Flightstar adding new hangars, jobs and customers come 2015
Sept. 8, 2014
Jensen Werley
Reporter-Jacksonville Business Journal

Flightstar Aircraft Services — the heavy maintenance and repair company for transport category aircraft — has transformed itself from a mom-and-pop shop when it opened in 2000 to a rapidly growing industry giant.

The company will soon be expanding to a third, large hangar. When it open its doors for operations come Jan 1, it will be able to serve four to six more aircraft than its current capacity, a 40 percent increase.

"We're in the process of building and completing this hangar, and will move out of a small hangar we're subleasing," said Tucker Morrison, chief operating officer for Flightstar. "We've been bursting at the seams last two years."

Customers like FedEx, Delta and Southwest schedule with Flightstar when they will take a plane out of commission and bring it to the maintenance company for repairs, he said. Flightstar will do anything from corrosion prevention to structural repairs, and maintenance can take 10 to 50 days.

It can serve 9 to 12 planes, depending on the size. When the new hanger opens, it will be able to serve between 12 and 18 planes. The new facility is about 120,000 square feet.

With the new hangar, Flightstar will be able to further serve its current customers, and will possibly add more to its lineup.

"We've had a capacity crunch last few years," Morrison said. "We're turning away business, we're so full."

A key to adding new business was actually building and opening the hangar, said Morrison. Flightstar had to show that it could offer more capacity and wholly support customers before new ones signed on.

"It's 'build it, and they will come'," he said. "We need credibility for a plane to come in and do maintenance. We have that level of credibility with our customers. That allows us to expand and reach out to other customers."
Now, as even more work comes in, Flightstar is looking at ramping up hiring around the holidays. Then, it will evaluate its demand for 2015 and possibly add 200 to 300 people on top of its current 915 employees. When the company was founded, it had a staff of four people.

A key to its hiring, Morrison said, is to hire its employees two to three months before new customers come in, so the company is slightly overstaffed. In that time, employees can be trained well and then dispersed amongst the additional planes that need to be repaired.

"That way, we don't dilute our talent," he said.

Although nothing is set in stone, he said Flightstar is in talks with a couple of different customers, and is looking into the possibility of doing more freighter work. Flightstar is also in talks with its current customer base to work out their 2015-16 plans.

But Morrison said one of the best opportunities will be reaching out to potential customers that they didn't have capacity for previously.

"I'm most excited customers we've turned away," he said, "can come back."