Matt Hagans, founder and CEO of Eagle Creek Aviation Services in Indianapolis, knew that where the winter sun worshipers go, so go turbine aircraft. His research revealed that, between 2005 and 2007, Florida was adding one turbine aircraft registration per day while in Indiana and the four adjacent states registrations remained static. And while the turbine aircraft population was following the snowbirds, he saw no major players in South Florida engaged in supporting that migration. He wanted his company to become that major player, operating from a new service center to be built at Daytona Beach International Airport with the help of a $12 million infrastructure grant from Volusia County.
At the last minute, however, the county backed out of its commitment, so Hagans looked across the state to Florida’s southwestern Gulf coast, specifically Page Field in Ft. Myers and, about 30 miles south, Naples Municipal. Naples—KAPF—was built as an auxiliary landing field for the World War II military pilots undergoing fighter and gunnery training in Ft. Myers, but it had grown into a busy corporate airport, chock-a-block in the winter season with private, fractional, and charter aircraft serving the affluent residents of this exclusive beach-front and golf community, known as the Palm Beach of Florida’s Gulf coast.
When an office-hangar complex became available on the west side of the airport in 2007, Hagans pounced. He purchased and renovated the property, began hiring employees, and in the fall of 2007 opened as Naples Jet Center.
In its early days Naples Jet Center was an auxiliary facility to its parent, Eagle Creek, but in the decade since it has become a stand-alone FAA repair station and Twin Commander Service Center offering a full range of services:
• Garmin G950 panel installation
• Twin Commander aircraft sales and brokerage
• Scheduled inspections and routine maintenance
• Major refurbishment
• Grand Renaissance rebuilds
• Radome to Tailcone refurbishment
• Honeywell TPE331 engine maintenance
• Dash Ten conversion
• Commander and TPE331 parts inventory
• Full-service avionics upgrades, installs and repairs
• AOG and in-field repair and technical services
• Comfort Cabin soundproofing
• Interior design and refurbishment
• Full FBO services
• Aircraft charter and management
NJC and Eagle Creek still do share resources, especially people. Scott Dillon was General Manager of Naples Jet Center before he was named Executive Vice President of all of Eagle Creek’s affiliated companies including its latest acquisition, Montgomery Aviation at Indianapolis Executive Airport in north Indianapolis. Jim Goodwin is the General Manager at NJC.
Aymert Villamil, Eagle Creek’s seasoned and well-known turbine engine manager, travels frequently to Naples to attend to the TPE331s on the Commanders in the Naples shop. Terry Wagner, a veteran Twin Commander technician and NATA mechanic of the year, who acts as shop manager at NJC, is known for innovative solutions to technical issues and a builder of specialty fabrication tools for both service centers.
The electronics installation engineering team, with veteran avionics engineer Everett Macarthur, is based in Naples and supports Eagle Creek avionics projects. Accounting and human resources for both companies
operate out of Eagle Creek.
Naples Jet Center and Eagle Creek each have received the Aviation Maintenance Training (AMT) Diamond Award of Excellence from the FAA for six straight years. The FAA AMT Awards program encourages individual AMTs and their employers to invest in continuing education. The Diamond award is reserved for companies that achieve 100 percent participation from eligible employees participating in the 2016 Aviation Maintenance Technician Awards Program.
Montgomery Aviation, under new ownership by Eagle Creek, also earned the AMT Award.
Since opening, Naples Jet Center has acquired three more hangars and will be begin building two new ones this fall. Of the six hangars it now occupies, two are used exclusively for maintenance, another is used for a combination of maintenance and storage, and the other two are used for transient storage and year-round tenants. The office area has a reception desk, comfortable lobby for passengers, a flight planning area, and several staff offices.
Hagans has made good on his Florida vision. Naples Jet Center has gained a reputation as the go-to place—the major player—for turbine aircraft maintenance in Southwest Florida, for both based and transient aircraft. In the winter season it is not uncommon for NJC to field 15 or more AOG cases a week. A technician is on call all night every night.
The future looks good, too. Naples Municipal now has a full-time U.S. Customs and Immigration facility, making it much more convenient for incoming and outgoing international traffic. Naples Jet Center is an approved Venezuelan, Colombian, and Mexican Repair Station, and EASA certification is underway.
The Naples-area resident population is expanding as well. “We see big growth in the number of people moving their airplanes to Naples full time instead of being snowbirds,” Hagans says. “That means more opportunities for storage, aircraft management, and maintenance. All those areas are growing.”
Establishing a Florida beachhead in Naples was “a great opportunity in a great place,” Hagans notes. “The west coast of Florida—a growth area—was underserved. That and the willingness of the city and the airport authority to embrace us made it an easy choice.”
Naples Jet Center is located at 377 Citation Point, Naples FL 34104. For more information see www.naplesjetcenter.com; telephone 239-649-7900.