Yingling Aviation has promoted two of its executives to allow its top executive, Lynn Nichols, to focus more of his time on strategy.
The 58-year-old fixed-base operator at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport announced Tuesday that chief financial officer Lonnie Vaughan has been promoted to president, a title previously held by Nichols, who remains the company’s CEO and chairman.
And Andrew Nichols, Lynn Nichols’ son, has been named vice president of finance, reporting to Vaughan.
Vaughan has been with Yingling for 12 years. He joined the company from Cessna, after Lynn Nichols purchased Yingling in 1999.
But Vaughan has been with Lynn Nichols even longer. He said he originally hired Vaughan to work at Office Automation, a company Lynn Nichols co-founded and later sold to Ikon Co.
Nichols said Tuesday the decision to promote Vaughan stemmed from Nichols’ chairmanship of the Wichita Metro Chamber of Commerce last year. He said the normal duties associated with that volunteer post, plus ones created by the resignation of CEO Bryan Derreberry and the search for a new CEO, as well as the search for a replacement for Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition CEO Vicki Pratt Gerbino, made for a term in which he was away from Yingling “80 percent of the time.”
“The time I spent with the Chamber was probably much more than any other chair,” he said. “What I ended up doing was turning over all of the day-to-day operations to the management team.”
He said the team’s performance during his absence made him realize two things: First, others were capable of leading the company, and, second, he hadn’t spent enough time developing new business opportunities for Yingling. With the new structure, he can.
“I really view myself as the chief scouting officer,” Lynn Nichols said.
Andrew Nichols, who has finance and business management degrees from Kansas State University and Wichita State University, has worked at Yingling for the past three years. Prior to that he worked in the finance unit at Cessna Aircraft Co. Nichols said his son, who also is a pilot, worked at Yingling during summers in high school and college, too.
“His comfort and knowledge level is working with numbers, always has been,” Lynn Nichols said.
Lynn Nichols said the management changes are “a little bit of succession planning.” His younger daughter also has been working at the company for the past year as a management trainee.
“They are interested in staying with the family business,” he said. “As long as they show interest and do a great job they will be given the same opportunity to advance, just like anybody else.”
Nichols wouldn’t say what new business opportunities he’s looking into. “I’m busy,” he said. “A lot of the stuff I work on now is so highly confidential I don’t share. But I see this as very much a positive change for Yingling.”
The company provides maintenance, repair and overhaul at the airport and also has worked on numerous projects with Cessna over the years. It employs 100 people.