Wednesday, February 01, 2017

San Luis Obispo-based aviation company ACI Jet fuels expansion

Top executives at ACI Jet of San Luis Obispo, front to back, are Andrew Robillard, vice president of flight-based operations and facilities; Kellee Valentine, vice president of flight operations; and Dave Jensen, vice president of aircraft maintenance. Behind them is the former American Eagle facility that ACI has remodeled.

ACI Jet is climbing higher than ever before.

The San Luis Obispo-based company, founded by pilot and entrepreneur William “Bill” Borgsmiller almost two decades ago, continues to grow and expand — attracting new customers, hiring more employees and making significant investments in the business.

The benefits extend to the greater community as well, given its impact on San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport, which is undergoing an expansion.

“You know, we grew up to a certain point, and achieved a lot of the goals we set out for ourselves,” Borgsmiller said. “In the last year or two, we started to think about what’s next and what we want to do.”

Borgsmiller and Andrew Robillard, vice president of flight-based operations and facilities, recently answered questions about the future of ACI Jet and the reasons for its present success. The following are excerpts from interviews with both men.

Q: There’s so much happening at ACI Jet. Can you give us an update?

A: (Robillard) We recently completed a remodel of the old Wings West/American Eagle facility, renamed Clark Station, an ode to San Luis Obispo’s first airport, Clark Field. The facility features over 17,000 square feet of hangar space and 12,000 square feet of commercial office space. In addition, the first floor and 8,500 square feet of hangar has been leased out to a local flight school, aircraft maintenance and aircraft charter business.

Borgsmiller: There are a couple of things that the building does … it gives general aviation a quality location at the airport. We took something that was basically just rotting and not being used and now it’s a productive asset.

We also just started an employee flying program last year. Anyone who wants to fly will have access to an airplane (the employee flying club operates a Beechcraft Bonanza A36, but it recently obtained a Cessna 172). We’ve spent some time over the last year or two figuring out what’s at our core, and what we’re all about. We’re passionate about aviation, and we’re attracting people passionate about aviation. We have to let them fly.

Steven Hill, left, and Eric Engen work on seats at ACI Jet in San Luis Obispo.

Q: What’s fueling ACI Jet’s recent growth?

A: (Borgsmiller) We’re attracting more customers to bring airplanes here for service. We’re going to invest in expanding our facility next year, which will improve maintenance capability and lead to hiring in the next few years. We will be hiring in 2017 and more aggressively in 2018.

We’re feeling a little bit more positive about where things are going economically. Compared to 2009 and 2010, it feels a lot better. We’re looking at locations beyond San Luis Obispo County right now, with the goal of leveraging them to bring more maintenance and flight operations business to our planes and maintenance business here.

The unique thing about our business is that we bring a lot of revenue home to this county. Our planes go out and fly people out to other cities to all parts of the world. We’re attracting people who live in other locations, people who bring in their plane to be inspected. That brings $100,000 here that would have gone to somewhere else. It’s new money to the community, so we’re not just recycling what’s here already.

William “Bill” Borgsmiller is the founder, president and CEO of ACI Jet, which provides corporate aircraft management, charter, maintenance and ground support services worldwide from a base at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

Q: What impact have you seen from the changes and improvements at SLO County Regional Airport?

A: (Robillard) The expansion of SLO County Regional Airport has been positive for ACI Jet. The added flights to Seattle by Alaska Airlines (in April) will provide us with better transportation options for the crew to reposition for European flights. The expansion of the terminal will provide an opportunity to attract more airlines, which benefits our company and community.

In addition, growth and improvements at the Paso Robles Airport have helped to attract several fly-ins and community events.

Carl Ford creates custom carpet and seats at ACI Jet. This not a garden variety upholstery shop; all work must meet FAA standards, including testing for flammability.

Q: Where are some of the places that your planes have flown in the past year? In your spare time, how much do you get to fly these days?

A: (Borgsmiller) In the last year, we’ve had a nonstop from SLO to Italy. We’ve been to France, New Zealand, Australia, Western and Easter Europe, Canada and Mexico. We’ve been to North Africa, South Africa and the Caribbean.

I probably fly two to three times a month. But I’m usually going to Los Angeles, San Francisco or Santa Barbara. I’m not getting to go to France or all the cool places that we do go.

ACI Jet, based in San Luis Obispo, has remodeled the former American Eagle building with 17,625 square feet of hangar space and 12,000 square feet of office space. The first floor is currently leased to SunWest Aviation.


Address: 945 Airport Drive

Web address:

Founded: 1998 by William “Bill” Borgsmiller

Other key executives: Kellee Valentine, vice president of flight operations; David Jensen, vice president of aircraft maintenance; and Andrew Robillard, vice president of flight-based operations and facilities.

Number of employees: 94 full-time and 14 part-time. The number of employees has grown by about 20 percent in the last few years, with maintenance seeing the most hires.

Fleet aircraft: Twelve aircraft based in San Luis Obispo. ACI operates Bombardier Challenger 604, Gulfstream G450, Gulfstream G650 and Cessna Citation XLS type aircraft.

Company financials: The company declined to release annual revenue or profits but said it has invested $3.3 million over the last 12 months in facility expansion at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport. This year, it will spend an additional $16 million on construction of a hangar and building expansion at the airport. The company’s aircraft fleet also generates a significant amount of tax revenue for the county, Robillard said.

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