Yingling Aviation keeps 11,000-year-old mid-continent tradition thriving on the plains

This place on the sprawling American plains, flanking the Arkansas River smack in the middle of the continent, has been bringing people together to conduct business for years, eleven thousand of them, in fact.

Nomadic prehistoric hunters, house-building Wichita Indians and trail-weary cowboys herding hundreds of thousands of cattle to the Santa Fe railhead converged on this spot long before three pioneering aviation companies set up shop to supply half the world's general aviation aircraft.

This mid-continent confluence – the undisputed Air Capital of the World – seems to foment entrepreneurialism and aviation by bringing people together from destinations the world over. For nearly seven decades, Wichita fixed base operator (FBO) and Maintenance Repair Operation (MRO) Yingling Aviation has been doing likewise, living true to its motto "Making the World Smaller Since 1946."

Yingling Aviation at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport (KICT) has spent millions since the millennium in 2000 upgrading its facilities and services. The plan, says Jerry Pickett, Yingling's vice president of customer programs, is to keep Wichita relevant as an aviation stronghold and gathering place for years to come.

"Our goal is to make Yingling a preferred stopover location for pilots and passengers by providing for all of their needs in a pleasantly memorable manner," Pickett says.

That declaration, wrapped in characteristic Midwestern modesty, may well be one of the biggest understatements issued by an aviation facility known for being "first" in so many areas.

Yingling Aviation was the very first Cessna sales and service dealer 68 years ago.

It became the first to sell Cessna's first turboprop, the Conquest, a lithe eight-seat workhorse for small businesses and families stepping up to faster turbine-powered flight.

Yingling technicians assembled the first 192 Cessna Skycatchers, a two-seat, high-wing, strut-braced light-sport aircraft (LSA).

And today, with its sophisticated online ordering system, CessnaDirect.com, this Phillips 66® Aviation-branded dealer is the first place Cessna owners turn to buy parts. Yingling is the largest Cessna propeller aircraft parts supplier anywhere – has been for half a century. Parts are sold and shipped 24/7, 365 days a year.

One of Cessna's top three service centers in the world, Yingling Aviation is now carving out leadership to support Beechcraft King Airs, Citation 500 series jets and other aircraft.

So much for Midwestern restraint.

A hunger to satisfy pilots

"We judge our efforts on the number of repeat customers that travel great distances to have us work on their airplanes and how many referrals they've sent us," explains Pickett. "It's about competence and trust. We are extremely honored to preserve the trust of so many longtime customers, while daily gaining the trust of new customers."

With a prime mid-America location, Yingling is a popular strategic fuel stop for intercontinental and cross-country flights.

"We are proud to be a Phillips 66 Aviation dealer and provide WingPoints® to reward customers on fuel purchases," Pickett says. "Our FBO is open 24/7, 365 days with NATA Safety 1st-certified line staff and we provide a place that is very comfortable for pilots and passengers. We keep our fuel competitively priced and offer self-serve avgas, as well."

It's an FBO where transient pilots and crews often join touring rock bands, Hollywood celebs and top business executives to enjoy doting hospitality, while kicking back in Yingling's Vertigo Lounge, a retreat with sleeping quarters, work stations, a coffee bar and entertainment center.

Many come to shop in Yingling's well-stocked Aviator's Attic, brimming with most everything a pilot needs: training manuals, books, handheld avionics, apparel and aviation-related gifts. Some visit Aviator's Attic to see the Wall of Fame, where memories of Yingling's famous visitors are preserved.

This summer, Yingling will open another first, the Subway Café, the only location found in a hangar anywhere in the world, says Pickett. This isn't your everyday sub franchise, either. Here, pilots and passengers can enjoy a café experience with espresso, muffins, sandwiches (of course) and more.

"We think it's quite fun," Pickett says. "The Subway Café is in a hangar with a transparent door so you can watch aircraft come and go. This isn't your typical airport food where you pay $9 for a hamburger. You'll pay the same prices as a neighborhood Subway."

Total solutions is a plains fact

There's yet another advantage for converging on Wichita. Kansas does not charge sales tax on parts and service for aviation repairs.

This "Total Solutions Provider," as Yingling calls itself, is an FAA- and EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency)-certified aircraft maintenance facility performing annuals, repairs, servicing, airframe, avionics, interior modifications and extensive propeller work – specializing in turbine and twin inspections – plus prepurchase evaluation for all aircraft.

"We have a veteran staff of highly experienced technicians who take great pride in providing superior service and value," explains Pickett.

In fact, Yingling has done more Supplemental Inspection Document (SID) inspections on Cessna Conquests than any other Authorized Cessna Prop Jet Service Center.

Proof in the modification pudding is Yingling's contract to convert and entire fleet (230-plus) of Cessna Caravan cargo aircraft from the original King avionics package to a Garmin G600-combined PFD/MFD retrofit flight display system, while replacing the original pneumatic de-ice boot system to the TKS Ice Protection System.

Lately, Yingling Aviation has become the place for Cessna Caravan owners to transform their economical turboprop aircraft into first-class business jet surroundings. OASIS interior conversions add selections of rich leather, fabric, and cabinetry finishing. Unique accessory and entertainment offerings include AC power outlets and three optional video screens placed throughout the cabin.

More than 140 OASIS interiors have been installed at Yingling.

Under an exclusive Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) with Cessna, customers can order production of their Caravan while Yingling concurrently crafts the OASIS interior. Customers take simplified delivery of a new Caravan decked out with a first-class interior, Yingling handling all the installation logistics.

Propeller capital of the world?

Tripling its propeller overhaul and service capabilities over the years, Yingling is spinning a future where the FBO is known for its expertise, says Pickett. Prop work is factory-authorized by McCauley Propeller, MT Propeller and Sensenich Propeller, and the FBO is an FAA-approved Hartzell Propeller facility with factory-trained technicians.

"Our team has component knowledge and resources that span over 30 years," explains Pickett. "We strive to provide the most cost-effective, rapid-turnaround prop service. Our goal is to set the industry standard in prop service."

For avionics, factory-authorized service covers every major system – Avidyne, Bendix/King, Chelton, Garmin, Honeywell, L3 Avionics, NAT, PSEngineering, Rockwell Collins, Sandel, and Genesys Aerosystems.

Investments and service expansions are an indication Yingling Aviation plans to keep Wichita vital to mid-continent travel.

More firsts are sure to come, just as they did in 1946 when former Army Air Corp Captain Vic Yingling, Jr., fresh from World War II, took delivery of a Cessna 140 and opened the first Cessna showroom – an apple that didn't far fall from the tree of his father who ran a successful Wichita Chevrolet dealership.

"We're a close-knit group, supportive of each other and our customers," concludes Pickett. "Representation with honesty, integrity and full disclosure has been our foundation for nearly seven decades. It's the only way we know how to do business."

For more about Yingling Aviation, visit www.yinglingaviation.com.