Thunderbird Aviation enjoys a rare position at the Crystal Airport. It's the only full-service aviation operation at the local reliever airport, and the Bloomington-based company just pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into remodeling its facility for future growth.
"We do believe that we have a niche at this airport that has allowed us to grow," said Chris Cape, general manager and director of operations for Thunderbird.
At the Crystal Airport, the main bulk of Thunderbird's business comes in the form of flight training and instruction. The company has 16 pilots and instructors at the airport, and the company averages between 25-30 flight lessons a day. They also do a lot of collegiate training via a contract with Academy College in Bloomington.
It's not just flight instruction though, Thunderbird is also a one-stop shop for pilots offering a place to refuel planes and a full-service maintenance hangar. Planes can also be rented or chartered through the company.
"We're growing, our company's growing, and we're investing a lot in our business," said Cape.
Shane Kayl, 37, is one of the reasons behind the business growth. Kayl is one of many people who have come to Thunderbird Aviation with the dream of becoming a pilot. Kayl has logged about 60 hours with instructors, and on Monday, he was taking his last lesson before qualifying for his private pilot's license.
"I've always had the dream of flying, and it's been in my family, so I thought I would take the next step," said Kayl.
With a solid base of students and long-term investment in the Crystal facility, Cape says Thunderbird Aviation has found a permanent home in Crystal.
"We're here for the long-haul at the Crystal Airport," said Cape.
Alexandra Renslo reporting
Monday, July 30, 2012