1 Vision Growth Evident From Afar



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Feb 14, 2021
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A drive-by on Centennial Road is all the proof you need that business is hopping at 1 Vision Aviation.

A major tenant at the Salina Regional Airport and Industrial Center, 1 Vision performs maintenance on regional jets from all over the nation and some from overseas.

A number of aircraft are parked outside of Big Bertha, Salina’s largest hangar, where owner and CEO Jim Sponder opened for business in September 2019.

He started with some 45 workers then, and has plans to employ up to 500 workers at the huge Salina hangar.

The goal is still in the works, but like many other companies, 1 Vision’s roster dwindled to nearly 30 in 2020, during the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic.

That lull has since lifted. Demand for 1 Vision’s services has ballooned, and Big Bertha is bulging with both work and workers. Sponder counts 250 employees, and he’s still hiring.

“We have two shifts,” Sponder said. “We are booking work as far out as March of next year.”

Regional airlines are flying again, and there is a huge backlog of work to be done.

“The airlines parked aircraft that needed major maintenance checks during the pandemic. “They only performed minimal maintenance and were focused on keeping their budgets as low as possible,” Sponder said. “Now it’s catch-up time for airlines.”

Federal Aviation Administration regulations require many repair inspections and maintenance that are scheduled with the calendar, operational time or the number of takeoffs and landings.

“You’ve got to look at certain areas of the aircraft with each inspection,” he said.

There are many good sides to having a rush of demand, but finding enough licensed airframe and powerplant mechanics who do the bulk of 1 Vision’s maintenance, repair and overhaul work, has been a challenge.

“Our recruiter is working hard and bringing a lot of people in, but I finally made the jump to using contract houses as well,” Sponder said. “Half of my employees are now contract workers and half are direct hires.”

Sponder’s pleased to have the growing business, but there can be problems.

“I don’t want to get the cart in front of the horse, and hire too many people,” he said. “I’m trying to do it as smart as I can. When we get caught up, I don’t want to have to lay people off.”

One of six team owners of the Salina Liberty indoor football team, Sponder has some players working part-time at 1 Vision Aviation.

“I need about 100 more mechanics yesterday,” he said. “I wish I was at my goal of 500 right now.”

Another bright side of the current situation, he said, is that parts suppliers are well-stocked.

“I’m happy the airline conventions are opening back up,” Sponder said. “It helps build business.”

He’ll be attending an MRO event soon in Orlando, Fla., and a Regional Airline Association gathering this fall in Phoenix.

– Tim Unruh

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