Bob Pahls’ base of operations hasn’t changed in more than 30 years as an aircraft mechanic, but the letterhead has switched five times.
“I haven’t moved out of my office,” said Pahls, now the owner of Schilling Aviation Services, 2010 Rogers Court, at Salina Regional Airport.
While attending Kansas Technical Institute, he broke into the business refueling airplanes for Aircraft Services, which became Jerry Moore’s Midway Aviation. Then Moore sold the business and it was renamed Midway Aviation. He later bought back the assets and named it America Jet at SLN.
Next, in January 2014, AvFlight purchased the line service department, which fuels aircraft, from America Jet. On Sept. 1, Pahls bought the maintenance assets, also from America Jet.
Schilling Aviation Services has been busy from the start, he said, and provides two full-time jobs and a part-time job.
Regardless of who signs the checks, Pahls likes his place among the planes. He’s had a love for them since growing up in Tipton.
“Every time I heard a noise from up above, I looked up. I always dreamed of being a pilot,” Pahls said.
Got a private license
He obtained a private pilot’s license while he was a student at Fort Hays State University, where, in 1980, he completed a bachelor’s degree in business.
While aiming at a commercial pilot’s license, he decided to double up in the aviation industry. So in 1982, he graduated from the aircraft maintenance program at Kansas Technical Institute in Salina, a precursor to today’s aviation department at Kansas State University Salina.
“I thought I might have an easier time getting a job with a two-for-one (degree), and to be a mechanic,” Pahls said.
As he progressed through life, got married and started a family, he put the commercial pilot goal on hold. Today, he and his wife, Janet, who’ve been married 30 years, have four grown children and four grandchildren.
“In order to get paid as a pilot, you have to have a commercial license, and I never got that far,” he said.
Bob said Janet is an important cog in the business, although “she doesn’t get paid.”
His employed staff includes mechanic Jason Bray and Gregg Gilmer, who manages the parts department.
“All these guys are an integral part of this business,” Pahls said. “We’ve been really busy. There is enough work to go around.”
While he offers service to jet aircraft, Pahls said, the majority of the business comes from planes with propellers. His clients are pilots from Salina and the surrounding area, such as Abilene and Beloit, where there is competition from other aviation maintenance firms.
Aviation mechanics are heavily regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration, he said, in relation to automobile mechanics.
“I would say car mechanics have to keep up with the technology more than we do,” Pahls said. “So much of our technology is dated.”
The average plane that comes into the shop, he said, was built in the mid-1970s.
OCCUPATION: Owner and director of maintenance, Schilling Aviation Services, 2010 Rogers Court
TIME ON THE JOB: Since Sept. 1; career spans three decades.