When Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (to be officially renamed Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport in March) opened its doors in 1954, Yingling Aviation was the first company to set up shop, providing aircraft handling and maintenance services. The company began operations six years earlier at the former Wichita Municipal Airport but was forced, along with the rest of the civilian aviation operations, to relocate when the military annexed the airport to create what is now known as McConnell Air Force Base.
While the FBO (one of two service providers on the field) has remained in the same building for the past six decades, the company has not let the grass grow under its feet. “It’s pretty much the same, but we’ve made significant improvements to the facility,” said company president Lonnie Vaughan in describing Yingling’s evolving six-acre leasehold at ICT. Recent upgrades to the 15,000-sq-ft terminal include the addition of the comfortable “Vertigo” lounge–with a snooze room and flight-planning room–for pilots and crewmembers. An additional flight-planning room is located near the lobby’s fuel desk.
For passengers there is a dedicated lounge, three conference rooms (one A/V equipped), complimentary Wi-Fi and a business center. Upstairs, the Aviator’s Attic serves as a well stocked pilot supply/aviation-themed gift shop, and by tradition celebrities transiting the FBO are asked to sign the attic’s “Wall of Fame,” which currently bears, among others, the signatures of actors Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman and Kurt Russell; musicians Steven Tyler, Martina McBride and Kid Rock; and even baseball star Reggie Jackson. A crew car and crew van are available, and the company provides shuttle service to local destinations for customers. A rental car facility is available on site.
For arriving international flights. a Customs office is located within one of Yingling’s hangars, offering service from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and by appointment after hours. It handles both foreign traffic visiting the FBOs as well as aircraft heading to the Cessna or Learjet plants that are co-located on the airport.
This past summer saw the addition of a Subway Café in hangar number three. A more upscale version of the sandwich chain’s typical venues, the location is owned by Yingling and can provide onsite catering for flights in addition to a quick bite for the airport workers and crews.
Just in time for winter operations, the FBO added its own de-icing capability, with the purchase of a pair of Premier Type I and Type IV de-icing trucks, one equipped with a 35-foot boom, while the other has a 43-foot boom capable of servicing aircraft up to the size of a 757.
The facility is home to approximately 20 turbine-powered aircraft, ranging from a pair of Citation Xs to a Conquest I, and while the company currently has 80,000 sq ft of hangar space that can accommodate aircraft up to the size of a 600-series Challenger, in October it acquired the lease to the former Cessna employee flying club hangar. It plans to level the 20,000-sq-ft structure and replace it within the next 18 months with a new 12,000-sq-ft hangar capable of sheltering the latest class of ultra-long-range business jets.
A Phillips 66-branded dealer, Yingling pumps approximately 1.3 million gallons of fuel a year, with its 5,000-gallon and 2,900-gallon jet-A tankers drawing from the airport-owned community tank farm. Its avgas customers have a choice between delivery from a 1,000-gallon refueler or use of a self-service pump. The FBO’s NATA Safety 1st-trained line service staff currently sees between 50 and 100 operations a day. “It’s getting better all the time,” said Jerry Pickett, the company’s vice president of customer programs. “We’re seeing growth in our owner/operator base here in Wichita, which is encouraging, and over the last six months we’ve seen operational use increasing here.”
Yingling also operates a Part 145 repair station, and as Cessna’s largest propeller aircraft parts dealer it provides factory authorization for maintenance up through the airframer’s turboprop models, as well as servicing for 500-series Citations. With Textron’s recent acquisition of Beechcraft, Vaughan said factory authorization for King Air maintenance is under discussion.
The company has its own interiors shop that can provide refurbishment for soft goods and cabinetry, along with an avionics department authorized by most of the major OEMs including Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, Avidyne, Garmin and BendixKing. The location’s propeller shop is authorized to repair and overhaul by most of the major prop makers.
“We’re fueled by a passion to serve our customers,” said Vaughan, while describing the location as “probably the best off-the-radar FBO out there.” He added, “We strive to take excellent care of our customers to provide them with the best experience possible.” To build on that goal, in October Yingling hosted an FBO-specific customer service seminar by the Aviation Business Strategies Group for all of its employees, ranging from its CSRs to its parts department workers.
While the FBO normally sees a large amount of traffic heading to the nearby FlightSafety Citation learning center, Vaughan noted a downturn among those customers since a King Air attempting to take off from the airport struck the training facility, killing the pilot and three inside the building, at the end of October.