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Key Air Expands Aviation Services to West Coast

When looking to expand its charter and aircraft management services to the West Coast, Key Air showed patience in finalizing a deal. When one potential acquisition at Van Nuys Airport fell through, Key stayed focused on the western market. With the economy putting the general aviation industry in a slump the company knew changes were coming and with those changes came opportunities to stake a presence in Southern California. So when JetDirect Aviation hit the rocks financially and freed up space at a new hangar owned by Aeroplex/Aerolease at the Valley airfield Key easily moved in to fill part of it this month. Now the company looks to get traction in the market; to show aircraft owners and charter clients what a different level of satisfaction Key can bring. “For the right customer there is no other option,” said Mike Skelly, the company’s vice president in the Western U.S. Connecticut-based Key has been in expansion mode for the past year, taking on office and hangar space in Florida and Minnesota. At Van Nuys, the firm will have sales, maintenance and charter operation staff and could possibly base some of its aircraft. “I think they are hoping to tie the two ends of the country together,” Aeroplex President and CEO Curt Castagna said. Skelly comes to Key having served in an executive position at Elite Aviation, also located at Van Nuys. Elite was an acquisition target of Key’s but a deal never materialized. Skelly, however, stayed in touch with Key chief executive Brad Kost, both waiting out until the right opportunity presented itself. That happened as the charter and management company JetDirect hit the skids financially and later filed for bankruptcy. (JetDirect was the new name for The Air Group, which had moved into the Aerolease hangar.) With JetDirect having taken up two-thirds of the new facility, Castagna was happy to have a new tenant move in, even if Key was only to take a portion. Aerolease had aggressively been marketing the hangar and office space once Jet Direct had moved out with the hopes of making the terminal facility a location of multiple aviation uses, Castagna said. Key offers both charter and aircraft management services and has partnered with Signature Flight Support, a fixed-base operator at Van Nuys, to provide fuel. An aspect of Key’s style that Skelly found appealing was a corporate culture that encouraged critical thinking and handling things in a creative way. Key, Skelly said, has the right mixture of aviation experience and business savvy that strives for absolute satisfaction and expects a commitment to reach that level from its employees. While there are fine charter operators at Van Nuys, Skelly believes that Key offers a level of service not seen at that airport and that will help Key make a big splash there. The staff understands what motivates people to be happy with a product or service and then is able to deliver on that. “That is not an easy culture to facilitate,” Skelly said.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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