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Big Plans Hatched In Hangar 11

 

Natasha Dunagan

Aircraft Mechanics, Tony Wood, second from left, and Taylor Grammer, far right, inspect the engine of a plane, as Gordon Cooper student, Jacob Stone, waxes the underside of the engine at KSNL Aero on June 10.

Inside Hangar 11 at the Shawnee Regional Airport, big plans are being hatched involving Pacific Air Holdings, LLC, and their maintenance company, KSNL Aero.

Co-owner Darrin Loftin said on June 10 that KSNL will soon be working on the first of 15 50-passenger aircraft from an undisclosed company. Loftin estimates that the maintenance work on these King Air planes will take about two years, and they have other jobs being negotiated or lined up, as well.

The regional-sized aircraft - which they will complete work on three at a time - is the largest plane allowed at the airport, due to weight restrictions.

"You're not going to be able to bring in a 737 or something," said Loftin. "The runway's actually long enough, but it won't hold the weight."

With this new deal, KSNL is also hiring licensed aircraft mechanics. Right now, they plan to hire up to 20 mechanics, and they had already added five employees, Loftin said on June 17. Included in the package are wages of $20-35 per hour, free insurance, three weeks' vacation after three years, and many other benefits.

"These are skilled positions," Loftin said. "You have to either have experience in the military or go through Gordon Cooper (Technology Center) to be licensed. So, it's really good for Gordon Cooper, too."

"We're really leaning on Gordon Cooper right now to create more aircraft mechanics," he said. "I told Gordon Cooper three weeks ago, when I went speak with them, that I would hire every mechanic that they put out if they're licensed."

The company may be hiring up to 100 people, if their plans for expansion are approved by the City of Shawnee. Plans to build a 40,000-square-foot facility, twice the size of their current building, eight smaller hangars, two restaurants, a car-rental center, and a 62-space parking lot were approved by the Airport Advisory Board four months ago, pending approval by the city. So far, Loftin has been unable to get on the city's agenda to present his proposal.

Requests for comment from the city met with no response.

"If they tell me to go tomorrow, I'll start on the long-term/short-term parking, and we'll start on the restaurants here," said Loftin. "We're going to put eight additional hangars back here because there's a waiting list of 50 people who want to come to this airport. So, we're at least going to get eight of them."

Also on the horizon is the possibility of passenger service, using one of the 50-passenger King Air planes they will be maintaining. Loftin said they would start with a nine-passenger plane. Once they have a 50-passenger plane ready, they would use it but make it a 30-passenger limit.

"I think people are going to get excited about that," said Loftin. "As long as we keep it 30 seats or less, they're in a category of airline that don't require TSA. If we get up to the 50 seats, then we'd have to change that. It would have to be a secure airport."

The owner of the planes is currently talking to two airline companies who would handle the passengers, while KSNL would handle the maintenance.

Loftin recently put up a post on the "What's Happening in Shawnee, OK?" Facebook page to test the waters, asking how people felt about the idea of local airline service. After one day, he received 218 likes and 130 positive comments.

"On first appearance, it looks like there is (interest)," he said. "So now, that's good. So, we'll try it and see what happens. If it grows from the nine-passenger aircraft to the 30-passenger aircraft, that would be great."

Loftin and co-owner Frank Ford of Hawaii owned a charter operation called Pacific Wings, which operated throughout the United States until it closed in 2014. Then, Loftin suggested the Shawnee location to start again.

KSNL began in 2017 and was approved to work on customer aircraft in 2019.

"Just this last year, we also now have our engine, instrument, and radio ratings, which is really important," said Loftin. "We're in talks with Garmin (International) to become a Garmin dealership. It's really big; it will create more jobs."

Pacific Air Holdings has 13 Cessna Caravan 12-passenger aircraft which they lease all over the world.

"We have some in Texas, some in Indonesia, Thailand, Israel, Greece, Barbados, St. Martin," he said. "They take them globally, right here from Shawnee."

Natasha Dunagan

Pacific Air Holdings, LLC, and KSNL Aero Co-owner Darrin Loftin poses at the front desk of Hangar 11, at Shawnee Regional Airport. KSNL recently reached a deal to maintain 15 50-passenger planes, and they are hiring aircraft mechanics. Loftin also has plans for an expansion and for passenger service.

Maintenance of their own fleet is another reason they hope to build more hangars.

Loftin also has a third company, in Indonesia, called I'Kairos Air Charter Service, which employs about 45 people on the island of Papua. His business partner and commissioner of the airline is "Nico" Kagoya, who also works in the presidential palace of President Jokowi.

For more information, call 405-402-1588, or visit https://pacificairholdings.com/ or https://ksnlaero.com/.

 

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