A lot has changed for Tony and Bradley Dye in the past year, and officials say those efforts are benefiting both Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and local economic development.
The aircraft maintenance company run by son and father, respectively, had to battle a tough political climate to secure a lease and become the second fixed-base operator at the airport.
The Dyes had to navigate a maze of maintenance and upgrades to bring their site up to snuff.
And they had to run their new Brooksville business by day while spending nights packing and moving their entire operation from Clearwater to Hernando County. At the same time, they were clawing their way through the federal bureaucracy, complicated by the sequester, to secure an important airplane maintenance certification.
Looking back, Bradley Dye says it's been worth it. He is vice president of Corporate Jet Solutions, the airport maintenance arm of the business, and Dyenamic Aviation Services, the fixed-base operator.
Recently, the business celebrated the issuance by the Federal Aviation Administration of a special certification known as Part 145, which means it is now a certified repair station.
That designation goes to facilities that do routine maintenance, preventive maintenance, inspections and alterations of aircraft and aircraft products. Those facilities must pass written and demonstration procedures.
"It means more scrutiny from the FAA,'' said Tony Dye, who is president of the companies.
That is scrutiny that charter plane owners want to see, and so they seek out certified repair stations for their regular maintenance requirements, he explained.
"There is more oversight. It's all about the paperwork, the cleanliness of the shop,'' Tony Dye said. "It will make the business grow.''
Bradley Dye agreed. He said that it already has grown in several ways because of the designation.
Two new customers have come to the company recently for service. Existing customers are also beginning to take advantage of the expanded maintenance opportunities. And, since the company can now serve bigger airplanes, fuel sales are likely to soar, Dye said.
A standard small airplane flying out of the airport for pleasure would have fuel tanks that hold 20 to 100 gallons. Once the big airplanes come for services, they will be filling tanks with between 500 and 5,000 gallons.
Another new development at the facility is that HondaJet has visited to test equipment on its aircraft that is in development, Bradley Dye said. The aircraft has a unique design, with its engines mounted above the wings.
"They were doing proving runs you have to make'' to gain FAA certification, he said. "They were testing equipment on board to make sure it worked the way it was designed to do, and it did.''
When asked about the company's service while in Hernando County, the Honda representatives responded that they "were treated better than they are at (their) home base and that they will be back,'' Dye said.
He has also been "laying the groundwork'' for the next big deal, which will be finalizing details for flight training and education. That operation should be up and running within three months, he said.
Once student pilots begin training, he said, that will help the airport's control tower by beefing up the number of takeoffs and landings, a figure the FAA uses to analyze the need for control towers.
Between the two connected businesses, there are currently 19 employees, including the recent additions of Steve Young, who heads up technical sales; Yulia Kropocheva, aircraft sales and acquisition; and Roger Bingham, heading up avionics.
Job creation has been a big plus with the arrival of the Dyes in Hernando, said county Commissioner Diane Rowden, who supported the business getting a lease. "They've also brought fuel sales, and the county gets a nickel from every gallon of gas sold," she said.'
The business is bringing more flights in and out of the airport, and those numbers help justify the airport's control tower, she said. And the Dyes are also working toward aviation-related education programs.
Bradley Dye noted that, since the county approved the company's lease, he has been visited by community leaders from a variety of political philosophies. Those folks are needed to provide support for helping find Hernando and the airport their special niche.
"We've wanted to make this a destination, and we need the help of our civic leaders to do that,'' Dye said. "That is the way we're all going to grow here.''