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PrivateSky Committed to Better Gulfstream Maintenance

When Vincent Wolanin found a bunch of surprise charges on the maintenance bill for his G-II, he didn’t get mad, but started a company that would keep other Gulfstream owners from experiencing the same problem.

"PrivateSky Aviation Services was formed after the purchase of our company Gulfstream to provide maintenance and management for the jet," explained Vincent Wolanin, PrivateSky’s chairman. "At that point, other Gulfstream owners that told me there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the attention to detail and quality of workmanship going on in the industry.

"Royce Stevens [who is now PrivateSky’s general manager] and I became friends during this time and we felt that there was a need for a first-class maintenance center for Gulfstream aircraft," he added. "What we want to do is to recreate what happened back in the early days of Gulfstream aircraft when the customer had a lot of trust when they brought their aircraft into the facility for maintenance."

One of the biggest elements missing from other Gulfstream service providers, at least from Wolanin’s experience (and other owners concurred), was a real commitment to quality and consistency. So when he and the PrivateSky management team began envisioning their company, the first thing they did was create a roadmap to what they call Total Excellence.

"Total Excellence was a concept we created when we originally envisioned the business," Wolanin explained. "And it’s something we are totally committed to." To ensure that Total Excellence would receive much more than lip service, Wolanin talked with every Gulfstream operator he could find. Since he couldn’t change the aircraft, he asked questions about what they did and didn’t like about their current service center.

What he found was that the owners felt their service providers weren’t committed to quality. They were often "just throwing parts at a problem," instead of taking the time to carefully troubleshoot a solution.

Operators also complained that the quotes they received up front were all too often up to 50 percent less than the final bill, a problem Wolanin encountered with his G-II and that led to the creation of PrivateSky.

"Too many maintenance providers just expect customers to know what extra work has to be done while their airplane is down," Wolanin said. "So they just add it on outside the original quote. It can be very embarrassing for the maintenance director to tell his boss one price then when the bill comes, it is actually quite a bit more."

Wolanin said other operators told him they wanted to find a facility where they know everything that is happening to their airplane and how much it is going to cost—as closely as possible anyway—so there are no surprises when the final bill comes.

"Our goal is to make the maintenance chief the hero," Wolanin said. "Our quotes cover everything we know that has to be done with the airplane. If something comes up that we don’t expect, we contact the customer and tell them. Then, when the work is done, we sit down with them and go over every item on the list prior to their leaving our facility."

PrivateSky’s customers benefit from more than just accurate quotes. "Our team of factory-trained technical experts have a combined total of more than 300 years experience working on Gulfstreams," explained Royce Stevens, PrivateSky’s general manager, director, and FAA DAR. "We pride ourselves in being able to successfully troubleshoot and resolve aircraft problems."

One example of their troubleshooting skill was recently illustrated when an operator came in with a problem they had been chasing for more than three years. "The pilot said they had spent more than $200,000 at the factory trying to find and fix the problem," Wolanin said. "Our guys spent time carefully troubleshooting the airplane and found the problem to be in a part that cost less than $100—that’s a true story. That customer comes here for maintenance now. They have faith in us."

Stevens pointed out that training plays a big role in the Total Excellence program. "The ability to properly repair and maintain Gulfstreams comes from expertise gained through a combination of on-the-job training as well as traditional classroom training on aircraft systems and operations," he said. "Our goal is to have the highest level of technical expertise in the industry."

Wolanin said that the 30 technicians presently on staff all take great pride in what they do. "When you expect technicians to work on 30 different airplanes, when they have to troubleshoot something they just throw parts at it," he explained. "By concentrating on one type of aircraft, they really get to know the methodology of trouble-shooting that type. And it creates situations where repairs are done right the first time and usually in less time."

Another big draw to helping PrivateSky attract the best Gulfstream technicians around is the location in sunny Ft. Myers, Florida. Not a bad place to get ‘stuck’ while your Gulfstream is getting attention.

Wolanin said PrivateSky has been deluged by resumes from technicians wanting a great place to work and to live. And they’ve got it. PrivateSky’s state-of-the-art hanger is not only beautiful, it’s functional. In keeping with the Total Excellence concept, the hangar features total environmental control. "Customers said they wanted a place where their sophisticated airplanes wouldn’t be exposed to too much heat and humidity while they are being maintained," Wolanin said. "So we provide 40,000 square feet of air-conditioned space. Enough room to house six to nine Gulfstreams at a time, depending on the models."

The hangar has an overhead crane allowing technicians to remove and reinstall engines and tail sections safely. "PrivateSky performs BRR and Rolls-Royce engine changes on the Gulfstream II, III, IV, and V," he said.

"That allows us to offer even more services to our customers. If they’re traveling to Europe or South America and have a problem, they know there’s a place that delivers top-shelf quality and service in a wonderful location." — By Dale Smith

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