Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Aircraft maker Mooney moving from Chino Airport (KCNO) to Texas, settlement in works with Threshold Aviation

CHINO >> Mooney International, an aircraft manufacturing company at Chino Airport, is moving to Texas.

That move has led to settlement talks between Mooney and another airport tenant, Threshold Aviation jet aircraft maintenance.

“Both public and private organizations invested time and effort, which was based on the promises that Mooney made, and to see them leave without the promised milestone (of staying for the 10-year lease), is disappointing,” said Mark DiLullo, CEO of Threshold.

In 2015, Mooney increased its facility to more than 153,000 square feet. At the time, Mooney employed about 80 people, and announced plans to increase to 150 employees. Mooney officials said at the time they chose to locate research and development at Chino Airport to better serve customer expansion in the United States and into China, executives said. 

To get the additional space, Threshold Aviation, a neighboring business jet maintenance, sales and terminal business company at the airport, agreed to give up about 58,000 square feet of its own leased space, DiLullo said.

DiLullo said the move meant a sacrifice of existing clients and employment because of the loss of the space. Threshold also made improvements to the space, which Mooney ultimately removed for its own operation, DiLullo said.

Threshold was expecting Mooney to stay for its full lease period because the manufacturer had contracted Threshold to provide certain mechanical services, according to DiLullo.

“In simple terms, we’re very disappointed that we’re going to be forced to make a settlement with them to reclaim what we were expecting,” said DiLullo, who said the gross expense incurred by his company was about $3 million.

Mooney, which is headquartered in Kerrville, Texas, will still honor and pay its lease at the airport until 2025, said Felisa Cardona, a spokeswoman for San Bernardino County, which owns and operates Chino Airport. Mooney was able to find a subtenant who has been there for the past 90 days, and has assumed financial obligation to pay the lease, Cardona said.

The subtenant, SoCal MRO, LLC, could not immediately be reached for comment. Representatives for Mooney did not immediately return calls for comment.

“It’s our understanding that they’re consolidating their operation in Texas,” Cardona said. “They’re moving their (research and development) operation over there.”

County officials, Cardona said, do not know when the company will vacate its tenancy. Mooney began operations at Chino Airport in 2013 and leased expanded space there in 2015. James Jenkins, director of airports for San Bernardino County, said the return on investment for new aircraft it was developing at Chino Airport was reportedly difficult to balance because of the difficulties of introducing new small aircraft.

“The Department of Airports was pleased and excited to have Mooney as a tenant during the past 4 years,” Jenkins said by email. “We have been cautiously optimistic regarding the (research and development) program at Chino. The small aircraft market (aircraft 12,500 pounds or less) is a very competitive environment.”

Mooney’s Chino operation opened the same year that the company became a subsidiary after being acquired by Soaring America Corporation, with its parent company, Meijing Group, based in Cheng Zhou, China.

Jenkins said the expansion would bring an additional revenue stream of about $440,000 a year as a result of Mooney’s leasing of the hangar and office property. Jenkins said Mooney’s leasing of space at Chino Airport would help attract other business.

Chino Airport is fully leased by tenants, which include a restaurant, two aviation museums, three avionics repair and installation business, a paint shop, two aircraft interior shops, a host of airframe and powerplant repair business and aircraft charter and management businesses, Cardona said.

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