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We’re not about growth, we’re about serving our market. Ten years ago, we had one aircraft, and people said the business model wouldn’t work” says Wynne Powell, president of London Air Services Limited (LAS). “The scorecard is in, and we’re still here.”


June 2, 2009
By Matthew Lang

Topics

We’re not about growth, we’re about serving our market. Ten years ago,
we had one aircraft, and people said the business model wouldn’t work”
says Wynne Powell, president of London Air Services Limited (LAS). “The
scorecard is in, and we’re still here.”

p27_DSC_1331
Wynne Powell, president of LAS stands outside the new hangar. 


The simplicity of that observation borders on the humorous, and Wynne
Powell knows it. As one of the most successful charter companies in
Canada, LAS is not only “still here,” it is thriving! The look of
satisfaction Powell has as we tour the new LAS hangar at Vancouver
International Airport’s south ramp is palpable, and for good reason.
During that 10-year period, under Powell’s management, LAS has gone
from a single aircraft, to a fleet consisting of five Lear 45XRs, one
Challenger 604, and three AgustaWestland AW139 helicopters, and now
this new (the paint was still wet during our tour) massively impressive
61,000-square-foot hangar, which is truly spectacular.

p27_DSC_1352
 
BELOW: Project manager David Crilly points out some of the hangar features.
 
p27_DSC_1316
 
Some
of the hundred or so compressed bottles standing ready to inject fire
suppression foam into the hangar at a moment’s notice.

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The recently completed hangar will be home to LAS’s ever expanding
fleet, and as Powell describes it, it will be “an appropriate home for
LAS. No other corporate hangar at Vancouver can handle a BBJ” (Boeing
737), but that changes when LAS’s new hangar is open for business.
Another purpose for the hangar according to Powell will be “to position
Esso Avitat as the best corporate FBO at Vancouver International.” LAS
has been a minority owner in the FBO for the past three years, and this
current development moves these companies forward both in capability
and in style, providing a first-class experience that will be extremely
difficult to match.

“We have set standards that make it hard for others to compete with
us,” says Powell, describing what is an extension of LAS’s corporate
culture that flows through all levels of its operation. From the top
down, the leadership provided to the staff is almost self-fulfilling.
But it’s not just “lead by example,” which Powell does, it’s also about
work environment and equipment and not taking people for granted. “Good
staff respond well when they have good facilities,” says Powell. “We
work to get long-term staff,” and it shows in the attitude of the
people as you walk around and speak to them.

 
p27_Hangar-Panoa-1
  The 61,000-square-foot London Air Centre can handle a BBJ (Boeing 737).
(Photo by Leighton Matthews)


  The Nuts and Bolts
A few facts about the LAS hangar
  The
hangar was built by Scott Construction Group, under the direction of
project manager David Crilly, and site superintendent Ed Prentice.

Total area of the hangar is 61,000 square feet. The main doors open to
a total of 366 feet. Each door (there are only two) is a single piece,
44 feet tall, and 176 feet long, and moves at one foot per second,
which takes three minutes to fully open. There are five tons of nuts
and bolts holding the structure together. The concrete floor is 16
inches thick, with no reinforcing steel (rebar).

According to Crilly, the fire suppression system is one of the most
sophisticated in B.C., able to detect the difference between a small
fire and the hot exhaust of a jet engine in under three seconds.

In addition to officially opening the new 61,000-square-foot hangar,
Powell and Louie also performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony on LAS’s
newly acquired Challenger 604 that was recently delivered from the
factory. Powell also took the opportunity to announce that LAS had
ordered five new Bombardier Learjet 85s, which will be the largest
Learjets ever made once delivered. Providing greater comfort, expanded
range, and increased speed, the Lear 85 will give LAS more of what it
has provided in the past – high quality and luxurious style.

The work environment at the new hangar will be exemplary. Not only does
it come with the standard fare of high-end office space, and modern
maintenance facilities, but it also has a full kitchen for preparing
gourmet meals for long-distance flights and a laundry room to ready the
fine linens customers expect on flights operated by London Air. “It’s
pretty much like running a four-star restaurant,” says Powell,
explaining that “customer service is our absolute mantra. If the
customer is not happy, you don’t deserve their business. We work hard
to nurture every customer. They’re part of our extended family.”

But “business is fickle, it goes where it is welcome,” Powell asserts.
And, of course, the opening of the new hangar is taking place literally
as economists are scratching their heads, hiding their wallets, and
peering into their alphabet soup at the end of each evening searching
for an answer to explain how and why the recent economic downturn is
doing what it’s doing. But the people at LAS have a plan. It’s been
that way since the beginning, and it continues to this day. Besides,
Powell is looking long term anyways. Nothing of this scale happens
overnight and, as he says, “the economy will recover; it always does,
it always will.”

Almost five years ago, the idea was formulated to build a new hangar to
house the growing fleet of LAS aircraft all under one roof. Prior to
the new facility being completed, the company had its operations
divided, with helicopters in one hangar a short drive away from the
fixed-wing and main office hangar.

Chief helicopter pilot Dylan Thomas says it will be nice to have the
entire operation under one roof. Thomas joined our hangar tour midway
through as we were standing in the middle of the empty and very massive
hangar, admiring its various features. Walking through the door, Thomas
looked up, slowly tuned around and said, “wow… you can’t walk in here
and not say wow.”

The hangar construction lasted seven months, but the work prior to
breaking ground lasted four years! Costing “well above $10 million”
according to Powell (who won’t divulge the actual cost), the big
challenge in the beginning was to find the right place on the airport
to develop. Situated among a collection of buildings that are anywhere
from 20 to 50 years old, the LAS hangar is a leading example of where
YVR is trying to go with future projects. According to Powell, YVR is
trying to develop “Best of Breed” – a leader of service. This hangar is
putting YVR on the map with corporate aviation in north America.”

And if the old saying about location being one of the three most
important things in business is true, then the long-term potential for
this hangar is excellent. Located on the main drive to the south
terminal, the LAS hangar is perfectly situated for any future
developments of a third parallel 08-26 runway at YVR. Long rumoured and
hoped for by those in the aviation business in Vancouver, recent
changes to the south side of the airport suggest ongoing and future
developments are at least being done with an eye towards the runway’s
eventual existence.

 
  Quality and Style at LAS’s new London Air Centre
  p27_LAS_28a-1
  (Left
to right): John Scott, CEO Scott Construction; Don Nishimura, president
and chief operating officer, Scott Construction; Vic Donaldson,
division manager, Industrial Scott Construction Group; Brandt Louie,
chairman of H.Y. Louie Group; Donna Figueira, director of real estate;
and Wynne Powell, president and CEO, LAS. (Photo by Leighton Matthews)


  London
Air Services recently cut the ribbon and opened its newly finished
London Air Centre corporate hangar at Vancouver International Airport
at its grand opening celebration hosted by Wynne Powell, president and
CEO of LAS. During the March 26 champagne gala, with approximately 100
people in attendance, Powell discussed the company’s 10-year history
and recent achievements. Along with Brandt Louie, chairman and CEO of
LAS’s parent corporation, H.Y. Louie Group, Powell invited guests to
tour the new facilities and get to know some of the LAS staff on hand
for the event.

In addition to officially opening the new 61,000-square-foot hangar,
Powell and Louie also performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony on LAS’s
newly acquired Challenger 604 that was recently delivered from the
factory. Powell also took the opportunity to announce that LAS had
ordered five new Bombardier Learjet 85s, which will be the largest
Learjets ever made once delivered. Providing greater comfort, expanded
range, and increased speed, the Lear 85 will give LAS more of what it
has provided in the past – high quality and luxurious style.

Ray Segat, director Cargo & Business Development with the Vancouver
Airport Authority, says the Vancouver Airport Authority is pleased to
see LAS’s business grow. “The new LAS hangar is a great addition to
their business at YVR.” Although not able to say if other large-scale
projects are underway, he did say one option in the future, should
demand warrant it, would be the construction of another runway on the
south side of the airport.

Powell expects the company’s new hangar to take some time to fill up.
Not just because of the size, which he points out will accommodate a
Boeing 757 if you deflate the tires slightly to get the tail through
the door, but because it is a first-class operation, and not everyone
wants, or can afford, to fly first class. It all comes down to the old
saying, “why pay more?” Of course, the old marketing question is
supposed say that if you can get something less expensive, don’t pay
more money “for the same thing.” But it’s the answer to the question,
the reality, that if you want the best, it’s going to cost extra. And
LAS doesn’t shy away from that scenario. To the contrary; it provides
services specifically designed to cater to it. Says Powell, “those that
want the best protection, this is the hangar of choice. Other owners
will look for less expensive options. But if they need fire suppression
or earthquake protection for insurance, this is for them.”

If the new hangar isn’t enough to keep Powell busy, without so much as
a chance to stop and take a breathe and let it all soak in, LAS
recently acquired its third Agusta-Westland AW139 helicopter (no
comment on price) with all weather deicing capability, which will give
them a year-round charter capability.

“You have to have a passion for what you believe in. You have to ask
yourself, ‘Why is it important to do this?’ This is not for the faint
of heart. There’s a fine line between making money and losing money; we
work at it every day. ”


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