SLN Airport Reporting Points
September 2018
In This Issue
Tower Update
Control Tower
In the Spotlight
Fly Salina


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From the XD's Desk: 
Tim Unruh - Reporting Points Contributing Writer
I'm pleased to announce that veteran reporter Tim Unruh has agreed to bring his considerable talents to Reporting Points as a contributing writer. Tim will follow and write about events and people at the Salina Regional Airport and Airport Industrial Center. His first two stories feature the Salina Airport's Schilling Aviation Services and the Airport Industrial Center's Salina Vortex Corporation. Both businesses are industry leaders.

Enjoy Tim's unique ability to feature both the business and people sides of Schilling Aviation and Salina Vortex.
"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."  Leonardo da Vinci

Tim Rogers, A.A.E.
Executive Director
Salina Airport Authority
Salina Regional Airport & Airport Industrial Center

Schilling Aviation Services - 
Salina's General Aviation Hub
Tim Unruh
September 2018

Fixing airplanes is the money reason why Bob Pahls has spent more than three decades working at Salina's airport.
Perhaps more important are the people he serves and the area's rich aviation heritage.

"We've got history. I've been here since the early 1980s. I've worked for five different companies and haven't moved out of my office," Pahls said. "The other part is that I'm a history nut. The (company) name comes from Schilling Air Force Base."

Every Saturday morning, a group of men and women - primarily flying enthusiasts, also current and former customers - gather in Schilling Aviation Services' portion of a hangar at 2010 Rogers Court, for coffee, consultation and fun chatter. Topics are mostly about flying and the individuals who share a passion for the profession, pastime, and-or their duty during military service. 

"People interested in airplanes are a unique breed. They're adventurers," said Dr. Bart Bycroft, a Salina oral surgeon and a pilot.  

They saunter into the large building, exchange pleasantries or barbs, and approach a business-size coffee maker. To the right is a tray full of ceramic mugs, each bearing either a name, aircraft identification number, nickname, or all the above.  They slurp eye-opening caffeine-laced elixir and perch in folding chairs positioned around rectangular tables.  For two or more hours, members of the small and exclusive club devoid of dues or bylaws, engage in all sorts of banter, including the cost of aircraft fuel, Salina Airport Authority, Bob's customer service, airplanes that sit idle awaiting back-ordered parts, and don't forget the weather.

"There's usually 10 to 15 guys, local aviators, pleasure pilots, corporate pilots, retired spray pilots, and some who haven't flown in years," Pahls said. "I just sit back and listen to them." 

The proprietor grins and often plays the straight man. His guests, many long in the tooth and short in verbal filters, lead the playful roasts. Some are directed at the host, who repairs and maintains their aircraft.

Included in this north-central Kansas flying community are common brands, such as Cessna, Beechcraft, Mooney and Piper. But some of the flying folks have imaginations when it comes to owning airplanes.

"Whether it's a Stearman, Yak, Mooney Mite, or Funk, Bob will fix'em all," said Dr. Randy Hassler, 73, who was a flight surgeon in the Air Force during the early 1970s.
He owns and flies a Russian Yak that was built in Romania. It's housed in a nearby Airport Authority hangar.  "Bob has to use special metric tools to work on my plane and the repair manuals are written in Russian, so he has to get them translated into English," Hassler said.  He added that Pahls is "very good" as an airframe and power plant mechanic.

The gatherings are for fun, said Terry Burger, 70, a Farm Bureau insurance agent in Salina, who received his pilot's license in 1971. But there is more to it.  It's called "hangar flying," he said, adding that the social events are both common in the flight community, and essential.  "Every flight has its own intrinsic challenges, and the more you can share those experiences, the better prepared you are," Burger said. "It's important to stay sharp, or you get rusty."

There were some harrowing experiences to share at the Sept. 1 coffee, one from retired spray pilot Don Holmes, 79, of Salina. He once narrowly avoided a guy wire while spraying a pasture in northwest Clay County.  "It scared me plenty, but I missed it, and life went on," he said.

Pilot Rex Russell, 85, Mentor, once flew for Schwan's during his career.  "I knew Walter Beech and Ken and Royce Rearwin," Russell boasted.  Others suggested he worked for the Wright brothers.

A love for taking to the air is what brings folks to the hangar, said Michael Bunn, who flew A-4s in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam era.  "We're addicted to flying. Only 1 percent of the public does it," he said. "We can't get it out of our systems."

Pilot Jill Roberg and her dog, Piper, paid a visit. A K-State Polytechnic graduate, Roberg flies for Republic Airlines. She's also a former race car driver.

The airport coffee event atmosphere is a bit like that of "Cheers," the mega-popular television sitcom that aired from 1982 to 1993. Salina pilot, Norman Nelson, is greeted with a hearty "Hey Norm" when he arrives, just like the "Cheers" character, Norm Peterson, said Janet Pahls, Bob's wife.  They've been married 33 years - Bob's worked 36 years as an airframe and power plant mechanic. The couple raised four children, and today enjoy seven grandchildren.  Janet works as the controller for Frisbie Construction near Gypsum.  "When Bob first started working here, he'd get called out on nights and weekends. - The kids and I would come along," Janet recalled.

They often encountered customers who were not afraid to wax poetic about their flying experiences. Most are from Salina, but others come from area towns, such as Beloit and Lincoln. Less than half of the inspection, maintenance and repair business comes from other regions and states, Bob said.  "It was fun to hear their stories," she said. 

"When Bob and I started this business (Sept. 1, 2014), we wanted a place for everyone to come."  The business is open at 8 every Saturday morning "for coffee and conversation," a promotional brochure reads. "If you love aviation and have stories to tell, feel free to join us," and that includes anyone, Pahls said.

This coffee clan has staying power, Dr. Bycroft said, as long as there are people who crave "strapping on wings and defying gravity."  Legends might just grow out of those hangar collaborations.  "One of these years," he said, "they'll be telling stories about us."  

Schilling Aviation Services Open House & Fly-In 
"BHAGs" - Key to Success at Vortex

Tim Unruh
September 2018

Success, measured in sales growth from its hometown and beyond, employment, and facility expansion, continues at Salina Vortex.  

Nestled on the southern edge of Salina's Airport Industrial Area, the bulging company that opened in 1977 - in rented Salina Airport Authority space - is enjoying another great year.

Marketed as Vortex Global, the company designs and manufactures valves and other equipment specifically for the handling of dry bulk materials; wheat flour to plastics and chunks of rock or aggregate. 

With offices in England and Shanghai, China, Vortex supports customers around the world, with Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, Dow and DuPont among them. 

"We've got owners who firmly believe that if you're not growing, you're dying. That's why we keep investing in equipment, our buildings and our employees," said Jeff Thompson, Vortex president and CEO. 

When he began as chief financial officer in 2002, Vortex employed 70. Today there are more than 400. Thompson became CEO in 2007, replacing Lee Young, who co-founded Vortex with his late father-in-law, Neil Peterson. Young continues as company chairman.

The most recent addition of 90 employees came from the late-August acquisition of Kasa Fab, 304 E. Ave. B, located roughly a mile east of the Vortex headquarters. 

Now with the Vortex Fab tag, the division is a leading custom metal and manufacturing entity, according to a company press release. "Before we moved into our new building in 2007, we used Kasa Fab for some of our manufacturing needs," Thompson said.

Vortex Fab continues to do custom fabrication for other customers, he said, and in time, Vortex will integrate some of its production needs into that plant.

"Those employees do the same metal fabrication that our shop does," he said.
The addition expanded Vortex to "four product families": 

  • Quantum Series - Slide gates and diverter valves for common dry bulk material, "a very well-established product," Thompson said. 
  • Titan Series - Slide gates and diverters for handling heavy duty material "in extremely harsh environments," according to the Vortex website, or "heavy duty aggregate," the CEO said. 
  • Loading Solutions - Telescopic loading spout systems. Vortex bought a small business in northern Michigan during 2013 that was focused on loading equipment. 
  • Engineered Solutions - matching the right product to the customer's "application parameters," the website reads. 

"Prior to the Fab acquisition, 40 percent of what we sold had a custom modification. The Kasa Fab acquisition fits into that category," Thompson said.  Much of the growth at Vortex has come from new product lines with "Titan and Vortex Loading Solutions making up 30 percent of the company's business this year," he said.

Physical expansion has been common this century. The Vortex headquarters was built in 2006. An add-on in 2013, was followed this year with an 8,000-square-foot warehouse, and there is still room for another 50,000 to 60,000 square feet of space at the headquarters site. "After that, we'll be tapped out," Thompson said. "That's another reason we like the Kasa Fab acquisition. It gives us growth opportunities."

Much of the Vortex success goes to the workers, he said, "the people of Salina and Saline County. We get high quality dedicated employees. They're very dependable. They show up for work. It's that Midwest farmer, hard-working mentality."

An acronym that floats around the Vortex office is BHAGs, which stands for "Big Hairy Audacious Goals," aimed at "growth and creating opportunities," said Travis Young, executive vice-president of Vortex, the son of Lee Young and grandson of Neil Peterson. "We always have something on the horizon to work for."

Thompson admits there is a shortage of workers everywhere, but he's hopeful some of those voids can be filled here, thanks in large part to the "investments this community is making in itself." The Salina Downtown Revitalization project and nearby river restoration endeavors are among them.

"Salina's future is pretty great with those developments," Thompson said. "They're positioning Salina as a place where people want to come, live and work. "For this community to be competitive in attracting new employees, we've got to have things like this happen."

Meanwhile, Vortex Global continues to add happy chapters to its story. 

"My dad is proud of where the company has come from and where it is today," said Travis Young. "If my grandfather were alive today, he'd be proud as well."
United Meetings

Getting the team together has never been easier with service now to two of United's biggest hubs - - Denver and Chicago!!!   And a little known fact is that United Airlines offers discounts for as few as ten people into and out of Salina Regional Airport (SLN)!  
Whether for business, or getting the family together for the holidays, go to, register and book your meeting.   You will be sent a promo code to share with attendees.  Further details can be found online at


  United MileagePlus 
 Rewards are waiting for you!

United MileagePlus is the world's most rewarding loyalty program. MileagePlus is much more than a frequent flyer program.  You can earn miles with your daily activities and use them on trips, experiences, dining and more.  

Sign up now at

Arrive Early

For the best flight experience at Salina, plan to arrive no later than 1 hour prior to your scheduled departure time.

2018 Fly Kansas Air Tour

August 13, 2018

The Salina Airport Authority is pleased to partner with the Kansas Department of Transportation Aviation Division, Kansas State Poytechnic and Avflight Salina for the upcoming Fly Kansas Air Tour.

This is the fifth consecutive year for the tour, which originally took place in 1928. The goal of that first tour was to promote the fledgling aviation industry in Kansas. Today the air tour promotes Kansas aviation and shares the message that aviation is open to all. The public is encouraged to visit the local airports during the tour stops to see the airplanes up close, talk to the pilots and learn about the role of aviation in Kansas.

This year's tour includes "wings 'n wheels" in Junction City and Rose Hill. We'll have a look at K-State's pro pilot program, a winery visit one of Salina's popular food trucks in the parking lot, and a fantastic airshow in Great Bend with warbirds, the renowned (and surviving) B-29's "DOC" and "FIFI" and we'll be at the reception for airshow pilots.

We hope to see you on the 2018 Fly Kansas Air Tour.

The Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education (KCAE) is an organization that was commissioned by the Governor of Kansas in 1945 to promote aerospace education in the state of Kansas.

Available Properties

Feature Facility 
Bldg. 412, 2804 Arnold Avenue

Is your business growing?  Check out building 412, it could be the solution you're looking for.  

The Salina Airport Authority has available for lease, a 13,640 sq. ft. facility located at the Salina Airport Industrial Center.  Building 412 is located at 2804 Arnold Avenue and provides easy access to I-135 & I-70.

This well maintained facility features a climate controlled shop, warehouse, or assembly space with 2,120 sq. ft. of office space.  Corporate neighbors include Schwan Food Company and the Occupation Center for Central Kansas.  Facility is also near several of Salina's larger employers including Salina Vortex, Eldorado National and GeoProbe Systems.

Call the Salina Airport Authority at 785-827-3914 to schedule a tour or check it out online at 

FAA Safety Video: Wrong Surface Landings

Wrong Surface Landing
Wrong Surface Landing

On the Flightline at America's Fuel Stop

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