Although ACI Jet’s new FBO at San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport (KSBP) in central California opened its doors in April 2021, it wasn’t until last night that the company held an official grand opening celebration, due to the Covid pandemic. Hosting about 350 customers, local officials, vendor partners, and employees, the event included the announcement of a significant donation to help launch the Cuesta College aviation maintenance technician (AMT) program.
ACI Jet has grown from a single maintenance facility at KSBP into a multi-airport FBO, charter, aircraft management, and full-service maintenance provider. In addition to KSBP, it has FBOs in Paso Robles and Santa Ana, California, and provides self-serve fuel at Oceano County Airport. ACI Jet’s KSBP location is the only Bombardier authorized service facility on the West Coast and it also maintains a Bombardier parts warehouse.
Two 35,000-sq-ft hangars flank the new two-story FBO building, one for maintenance and one for aircraft storage, mostly for ACI Jet aircraft management clients. The second-floor mezzanine is fronted by a glass wall looking out over the ramp, and ACI Jet welcomes the public to visit and watch the action on the ramp and runway. In addition to a pilot lounge, snooze room, conference room, customer offices overlooking the maintenance hangar, and maintenance technician break room equipped with arcade video games, the facility has a large training room that is available to rent for local groups. ACI Jet manages 15 aircraft, 14 of which are on its charter certificate.
At the grand opening celebration last night, local country singer Jade Jackson serenaded the visitors. The ramp was filled with some modern aircraft, including a Global 6500, but also unusual flying machines. These included two Burt Rutan designs—a Long-EZ and twin-engine Boomerang—and one where the famed designer had some influence, a Beech Starship. The Starship is one of five still flying and is owned by Aerospace Quality Research & Development, a Texas-based company that is one of ACI Jet’s primary FAA designated engineering representatives for structural repair, electrical, and design review. An ACI Jet customer also flew his 1942 Stearman biplane in a low pass over the airport during the event, just before sunset.
During his presentation to the visitors, ACI Jet founder and CEO Bill Borgsmiller thanked the sponsors that helped with the celebration, all of which donated $1,000 each to the Cuesta College AMT program. ACI Jet helped launch the program, sparking interest among local officials in 2019. At the event last night, ACI Jet presented a $500,000 check to the Cuesta program to make up for hoped-for FAA funding that fell through, and doubling the $500,000 donation from the county of San Luis Obispo. The AMT program begins next year, and the first graduates will enter the workforce in 2024.
“A lot of people don’t realize how significant aerospace is to [San Luis Obispo] county, but this entire area is going to seem like an aerospace dream come true,” said Borgsmiller. He listed local aerospace engineering university Cal Poly, unmanned systems developers, Vandenberg Space Force Base, and Paso Robles Airport’s plan to be designated as a spaceport for horizontal takeoff and landing spacecraft.
The one exception, he added, is that there are not enough people to fill the needs of local aerospace employers for technicians. “Not only is there a shortage of these people today,” Borgsmiller said, “but it’s forecast to become much worse over the next couple of decades. There’s a critical shortage that we need to address, and thankfully we have a good solution in this community.”
“We have to build a brighter future together,” concluded ACI Jet COO George Dom, who gave the keynote speech at the celebration based on his experience as flight leader of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels team.