Since positioning itself at the Salina Regional Airport (KSLN) nearly five years ago, reporting to work at Avflight Corporation is like attending a daily reunion for the staff of 14.
This tiny community has
sealed numerous alliances in a short order.
"We're one family," said Julie Yager-Zuker, Avflight Salina's general manager who began her career at the airport nearly 30 years ago. "I have a good team and we've worked hard to get where we are."
As a true leader, Yager-Zuker shares her professional acumen with Salina Avflight's staff, which includes some younger students that attend the nearby Kansas State University Polytechnic Campus.
But the familial feel of the Avflight culture extends past the company's staff members. Avflight's neighbors at Salina Regional Airport and Industrial Center are part of the close clan as well, along with thousands of customers, including a growing list of regulars.
"We have help from the airport, and that connection with the Salina Airport Authority that's brought us all a lot closer," she said. "We couldn't ask for a better relationship with the airport than what we have going now."
Avflight serves the airport and its customers as a full-service fixed base operator (FBO); as such, the
company is responsible for assisting the region's flying public with its aviation needs, from aircraft fueling to hotel reservations and everywhere in between. Avflight Salina is just one of 20 locations at which the
company-based out of Ann Arbor, Mich.-provides such services and is currently enjoying a top-ranking position in the Avflight network.
This past spring, Avflight named Salina its "2017 City of the Year." The honor was based on several criteria, including growth in customers and fuel sales, safety audits, training, and meeting budget and other
financial goals, said Carl Muhs, Avflight's president based out of Saginaw, Mich.
"We really had a successful year," Yager-Zuker said. "We surpassed our budgetary goals and conducted
operations with the utmost consideration for safety."
Yager-Zuker said the designation encompasses a plethora of considerations. And according to Muhs,
leadership is among them.
"Julie has been a fixture in Salina for many years and has been an important part of stability and growth in our marketplace," he said. "It makes a big difference."
It's that leadership that has led the team to produce some impressive numbers that paint a glowing picture.
Comparing year-to-date fuel delivered at Salina Regional Airport in September 2014 versus YTD
September 2018, the totals nearly doubled, said Tim Rogers, executive director of the Salina Airport
"I credit that growth to Avflight's ability to service all types of aircraft and provide world-class service,"
Rogers said. "The Avflight team is recognized throughout the aviation industry as the 'best of the best.'"
According to Muhs, Avflight is embraced at Salina and he's pleased with the great job his staff has done while cementing the airport's longstanding claim as "America's Fuel Stop."
"It certainly has been a very successful four-plus years," said Muhs. "We have a tremendous relationship with the airport authority and have successfully partnered on many projects together."
Muhs pointed to Rogers and Shelli Swanson-the airport authority's director of administration and
finance-and their staff in developing the airport and commercial properties.
"I wish every airport was that easy to work with," said Muhs.
Corporate flying in Salina remains a strong business, but the Avflight president and his Salina manager agree there are other factors helping the FBO flourish in north-central Kansas.
"The numerous military operations, along with testing and certification from aircraft manufacturers, has
brought a line of business to Salina that we haven't seen in the past," Muhs said. "That's really increased the volume of traffic on the field."
It's this vibrant, growing Salina community and region that has, in turn, helped Avflight grow.
"I really enjoy working with the aircraft and the corporate side of the aviation industry," said Yager-Zuker.
And that corporate business is booming.
Avflight serves doctors associated with the University of Kansas School of Medicine - Salina Campus weekly. In addition, workers and executives from Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company in McPherson, are frequent customers.
"With the new businesses in downtown Salina, we're hopeful it will generate even more corporate traffic for the airport," Yager-Zuker said. "It's interesting how many people we support on a day-to-day basis, which is fantastic."
There are also occasional celebrities-including television and movie actors, professional athletes,politicians, and other VIPs-who stop in when corporate and private jets land in Salina to fuel up and continue to other destinations.
"They're just regular people, like you and I, and they like to be treated that way," Yager-Zuker said.
There is no name-dropping at Avflight.
"We don't ogle and ask for autographs, and that's one reason they like coming in here," she said.
Regardless of fame, Yager-Zuker added, "we treat them all with the same excellent customer service. It's top-notch, and that's the way they're going to get it, no matter who walks through that door."
Getting to "that door" is a more enjoyable experience these days thanks to roughly $1 million in airport authority improvements to Beechcraft Road leading up to the FBO. Landscaping was added to a smoother paved driving surface that greets visitors to Avflight and aims to give travelers an improved first impression of Salina.
"It's a very nice upgrade," Yager-Zuker said.
In addition to Avflight gracing the westward destination, guests can enjoy Fossett Plaza bordering the
The plaza is a memorial to late adventurer Steve Fossett who became the first to fly solo, nonstop around the world in the fixed-wing GlobalFlyer during the spring of 2005. The 67-hour flight took off and landed at Salina.
"People really seem to enjoy the plaza and learning about Fossett's story," said Yager-Zuker. "I frequently see people utilizing the benches and reading the signage."
Also, among Avflight Salina's sources of pride is its ability to please palates.
"We still do catering, which is pretty unique," said Yager-Zuker. "Customers really enjoy the convenience of that service."
In addition to catering, free popcorn and chocolate chip cookies are also staples at Avflight Salina.
"We like to make customers happy," Yager-Zuker said. "We all work together to accomplish that mission."