Avionics News March 2017 - 55
"WE BELIEVE THE FUTURE
OF CORPORATE AVIATION
LOOKS BRIGHT, AND
WE ARE PROUD
TO BE PART OF
SUCH A GREAT
he was there for almost 30 years. That's when he and
three others decided they had a better idea and wanted
to start a business of their own. His three other partners
are Sam Haycraft, Mike Durst and Bob Rasberry.
"The four of us are totally different people, and I
believe that was a factor of our success," he said. "We
each bring different ideas and resources to the table."
The group first acquired Premier Air Center in East
Alton, Illinois. That was in 2002, and three years
later went on to acquire West Star Aviation in Grand
Junction, Colorado. They changed the name of the East
Alton facility to West Star, as well. "We changed the
name to West Star because they had done a better job in
marketing - the name was more recognizable," Swehla
The next move the partners made was to purchase a
satellite shop in Aspen, Colorado.
"It was an emergency AOG type of shop to support
the airplanes in Aspen, which has high traffic both
during the winter for skiing as well as the rest of the
year," he said. What helped the success of the Aspen
location was that Grand Junction was nearby to lend
parts, expertise and support as needed.
In the following years, expansion continued. West
Star started a facility at Chicago Executive Airport
and also at Centennial Airport in Denver. Now that
West Star had a solid presence in the Midwest, the
partners looked to expand geographically east of the
Mississippi River. West Star Aviation opened a facility
in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which has now been open
more than a year.
"Chattanooga is a good location, and we've been
fairly successful," Swehla said. "In fact, we have plans
to expand in Chattanooga with another maintenance
hangar and a paint shop. I predict we'll soon grow from
our current roster of 50 employees to 200 there."
It's been a remarkable series of successes. But Swehla
said West Star began with an uncertain future.
"When we left Garrett and bought Premier, it was
the worst possible time in the history of aviation," he
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