Corporate Jets Swarm to Sacramento Airport

JULY 28, 2000

Only two months after the Cessna Citation Service Center unveiled its new $10 million addition at Sacramento International Airport, mechanics already have as much work as they and the building can handle. On a recent day, more than a dozen jets sat on the shiny white floors of the 40,000-square-foot hangar. Several others were parked outside. Crews painted, inspected and overhauled the Cessnas, some of which are valued at more than $16 million.

In an average week Sacramento's largest corporate jet maintenance center services 25 planes flown in from as far away as Wyoming and Alaska. The center operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week to handle the demand.

Sales of new business jets worldwide jumped 26 percent between 1997 and 1999, according to the National Business Aviation Association. Accounting for the sales growth: strong profits from potential corporate customers and a growing disdain for the frequent delays and limited routes of commercial airlines, said Cessna spokeswoman Jennifer Whitlow.

Cessna, Learjet, and other plane manufacturers have also increased production since Congress limited their liability in plane crash lawsuits to 18 years from the date a plane was built.

Even companies that can't afford their own planes are buying time on corporate jets through a sort of time-share practice known as "fractional ownership." Approximately 1,700 companies have purchased shares of planes in exchange for guaranteed amounts of flight time, according to the National Business Aviation Association.

More planes means more business for Sacramento's Cessna Citation, one of nine Cessna-owned maintenance centers in the United States. The center's recent 15-month upgrade added more than 50,000 square feet of hangar, office and workshop space. The company opened its doors at the airport in 1972 with 12 workers and now has 68 employees. It hopes to add another 32 within two years, said General Manager Ken Kantola.

Sacramento's central location on the West Coast, less-congested runways and large pool of skilled technicians from McClellan Air Force Base make the region attractive, he said. Sacramento is also home to Sacramento City College, which has one of the oldest continually operating aircraft mechanics programs in the country. The school graduates about 25 new mechanics each year.

Cessna Citation remains the only large-scale maintenance operation at the airport. Company officials are already talking about doubling the size of the new hangar.

Source: Sacramento Bee