New Year Offers a Time for Reflection… and Resolve

December 20, 2023

The past twelve months have certainly been interesting ones for King Aerospace, marking a time of transition and bolstered by the hiring of key aerospace professionals to help the company find new paths to demonstrate its commitment to God, Country and Family to commercial and military clients alike.

“This has been a year with lots of challenges for King Aerospace but also some great new opportunities,” said company Founder and President Jerry King. “Through it all, I remain incredibly proud – and suitably humbled – by how our team has come together through both triumph and adversity to continue our most important mission: Servant Leadership to our customers.”

Serving Our Country

In 2023, King Aerospace continued to provide contractor logistics support (CLS) at bases across the country and globe, performing heavy maintenance, modifying and painting aircraft and serving as a prime contractor or subcontractor on key missions.

“The tried and true values of serving the customer remain constant,” said Greg Mitchell, vice president of government services and a Navy aviation veteran, in March. “Aircraft change and technology advances are happening all around us, but personalized responsiveness has been our calling card and that doesn’t change. We’ve built our reputation and our model on that.”

Lean management, straightforward lines of communication and a commitment to God, Country and Family all ensure that King Aerospace always represents the best possible value to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and other government clients. As a family-owned company, King Aerospace has maintained this leaner operational model even as it, too, has expanded its footprint and services.

King Aerospace proudly offers maintenance and modification support for a wide range of government aircraft types.

“We work diligently to provide the best possible solution for our government customer at the best value for the government and for the taxpayer,” noted Mike Riley, company contracts manager. “That is how we approach every contract because, after all, we are all taxpayers, too.”

The military procurement environment is also ever-changing, and not all those changes are positive. However, even as King Aerospace prepares for the planned sundown of its CLS responsibilities for the U.S. Army’s special electronic mission aircraft (SEMA) fleet, the company remains poised to serve on future assignments in support of our nation’s armed forces.

“It all comes back to ‘God, Country, Family,'” said Sally O’Connor, KAI deputy program manager. “We’re a smaller company, so we’re more nimble and able to respond quickly to any requirement, be it large or small, anywhere across the globe.”

To further that service, King Aerospace added two noted highly respected industry veterans to the company in 2023. Pete Schneider brings his extensive background in aircraft modifications and completions as vice-president, program management and special projects, and Bob Blanchard, whose career with U.S. Customs and Border Protection and National Air Security Operations spans three decades, is King Aerospace’s new vice-president, business development and special projects.

In February, longtime King Aerospace team member Keith Weaver was promoted to vice-president of business development. These new hires and promotions further reinforce the company’s offerings and capabilities to government and private clients and help position the company for what promises to be an exciting future.

Serving Our Customers

The year also provided several opportunities to demonstrate ‘King Kulture’ to our valued customers. As one example, dozens of honored guests, including senior leadership and representatives of a large OEM, gathered in March for the opening of two new King Aerospace hangars at Northwest Arkansas National Airport (XNA) near Bentonville.

“This open house wasn’t just about showing off our new facility,” said Special Projects Manager Kay Roby-Bragg. “We wanted everyone to truly get a sense of what makes King Aerospace unique in our industry.” Later in the year, the Arkansas facility welcomed its first Boeing BBJ, which traveled more than 7,000 miles for maintenance and refurbishment by King Aerospace.

The second annual King Aerospace BBJ Operators Forum also brought members of this exclusive community together to both share and receive helpful information to optimize their Boeing Business Jet experience – while also having some fun, too, including an exclusive tour of the Frontiers of Flight Museum.

In October, King Aerospace enjoyed the welcome opportunity to meet with customers and highlight the company’s offerings for commercial aircraft upgrades and modifications throughout the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition, or NBAA-BACE.

“I’ve never had a more productive show in 40+ years of attending NBAA,” said Mr. King. “We had a ton of presidential fleet people there and lots of BBJ customers there. We had people from Area 51 there. We even had our competition at our booth!”

That reputation for service is built on programs like King Aerospace’s acclaimed “roadshow” maintenance service. In September, company personnel responded immediately when a Coulson Aviation – Next Gen Firefighting Boeing 737 FireLiner was grounded in Abilene, TX, with a failed landing gear seal.

“I received the call late Thursday night,” said Steve Sawyer, King’s GM of Operations, “and we had our team and equipment on the ground Friday afternoon.” Working together with Coulson personnel, the combined team returned the converted water bomber to service early Sunday morning.

Serving Each Other

King Aerospace exists to serve customers and employees alike; without one, you can’t have the other.

When it came time for Mr. King to visit company facilities in New Jersey, Maryland and Georgia this summer, he called upon Chris and Jon Faulkner to bring their smoker along for the roughly 3,500-mile trip. The brothers have each been with King Aerospace since 2007, and they’ve also won several awards at meat smoking competitions throughout the region.

“This was the trip of a lifetime,” Chris said. “People took pictures of the smoker as we drove along and gave us the thumbs-up. We’ve got a lot of beautiful country, and we made a lot of people smile along the way.”

Personal development and growth is also a hallmark of King Kulture, and this has been an exciting year for King Aerospace President Jarid King as he worked toward completion of the Cox Executive MBA program at Southern Methodist University.

Of his studies at SMU, Jarid said he has “learned that leadership isn’t about being an expert in finance or business development but enabling my team to be collaborative and achieve their very best. It’s my job to foster that.”

That also extends to his responsibilities as a new father, as Jarid and his wife, Haley, welcomed the “on time delivery” of their daughter Cora in late June.

“[Cora] is one more member of our larger King Aerospace family of 400 employees and we also must take care of them, help them accomplish their dreams and always do right for them,” he said. “It really does open your eyes to the responsibility we all have to one another.”

That responsibility extends to assisting those who have worked on SEMA for the past six years as they transition to other duties. While KAI hopes to retain that workforce on new contract awards, some have opted for retirement while others will seek new opportunities in the industry.

“We’re making every effort possible to ensure everyone who needs a job after the contract expires is able to find one,” emphasized O’Connor. “This is a family company, and our team has really banded together to help folks find new employment, or to brush up on their interviewing and computer skills.

“We remain proud of the ability we demonstrated throughout SEMA to provide quality service in a quick and timely fashion,” she added. “No matter the situation or the customer’s requirements, we stand ready to serve.” That’s a message that King Aerospace will continue to emphasize strongly in 2024.