Sunday, November 6, 2016

Performance Air Group brings expertise in aircraft repairs to H.A. Clark Memorial Field Airport

Chad Thomas, owner of Performance Air Group.

Chad Thomas’s list of the types of airplanes he’s worked on is dizzyingly long. His mechanical experience spans from Cubs to King Airs to Citations and beyond, and even the students he once taught at Redstone College in Colorado were surprised at the airplanes he had serviced.

“I sat down one day and made a list with all these different airplanes that I’ve worked on … and [the students] said, ‘Your list is huge, we’ve never even heard of most of this stuff,’” Thomas said, laughing.

Thomas is a licensed aircraft maintenance technician and the owner of Performance Air Group, a fixed-base operator that offers airplane repairs at the H.A. Clark Memorial Field airport. He transitioned the business from Chandler to Williams after his family decided to move to the cooler climate, and officially opened the shop in October.

Performance Air Group offers aircraft repairs and annual inspections on personal and charter company aircrafts. Thomas can provide oil changes, tire changes, part replacements or whatever service is needed to restore an aircraft to good working order.

His typical customers are pilots with personal airplanes. Many of his past customers from Chandler are planning to fly in to Williams for services, and he works on planes from all over the state, including a few at the Williams airport. While his customers typically fly in, Thomas is often willing to go to them if their planes are unable to fly.

“He had people that were really heartbroken that he closed the shop [in Chandler] down,” said Valerie. “They respected him, and they really thought there was nobody else that could work on their plane other than him. When they found out that he was considering opening up the shop [in Williams], you could just see how thrilled they were, and they said, ‘We don’t care what it takes, we’re bringing our planes up to you.’”

Thomas attributes this customer loyalty to fair labor rates and diligent service that prevents customers from having to bring their airplanes back repeatedly for the same service.

His extensive experience also allows him to service older airplanes, such Cessna models that were discontinued in the ‘80s.

“The problem is the mechanics nowadays who know how to work on those airplanes have all retired for the most part,” Thomas said. “And now you’re getting these new guys that don’t have any experience working on those types of airplanes.”

Thomas, who’s been a pilot for over 20 years, credits his expertise in airplane repairs to the education he received from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. This education, he said, gave him hands-on experience and exposed him to a myriad of different planes.

“He’s a natural anyway. That’s what he was born to do, is to be an airplane mechanic,” said Thomas’s wife, Valerie. “And Chad going to school [at Embry Riddle] is such a huge benefit.”

Currently Thomas is the sole employee of Performance Air Group, but he plans to hire employees in the near future as the business gets off the ground. In the next few years he would also like to hire someone with a background in helicopter maintenance in order to add helicopter repairs to the shop’s repertoire.

Thomas is also working on a contract with the city of Williams to act as the airport maintenance coordinator at H.A. Clark Memorial Field. In this position he would notify the city of any maintenance or changes that need to be implemented at the airfield, such as fixes to the perimeter fence.

Performance Air Group is also working with the Federal Aviation Administration to become a certified part 145 repair station with a class three radio designation, which would primarily allow the shop to perform altimeter and transponder system checks.

Within the next five years Thomas also hopes to begin selling jet fuel at the airport in conjunction with the city’s self-service avgas station.

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