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5 questions with Brian Youngers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, at 12 a.m.

When Boeing’s mega Dreamlifter flew to Wichita last weekend for McConnell Air Force Base’s air show, it made a stop at Wichita Mid-Continent Airport.

While there, it got fuel from Signature flight support.

Its arrival at Signature was fun, said station manager Brian Youngers.

“You’re working with an aircraft you don’t normally see,” Youngers said.

The plane, a modified 747, typically lands at McConnell when it’s in town to pick up composite sections for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner from Spirit AeroSystems.

Working with a variety of airplanes is a fun part of the job, Youngers said.

Signature, headquartered in Orlando, Fla., bought Executive Beechcraft in Wichita in 2008. Signature is owned by BBA Aviation, a London-based company, and has more than 100 locations worldwide.

In Wichita, it also owns APPH, which repairs hydraulics and landing gear assemblies, and Dallas Airmotive, a repair station for airplane engines.

Signature employs 22 in Wichita.

It provides ground handling and fuel for commercial and private aircraft.

It fuels all the airlines and cargo operators that serve Wichita, except for Delta Airlines.

It also leases hangars to aircraft owners.

Youngers grew up in Clearwater, then went to Kansas State University Salina and graduated from its professional pilot program. He also holds a master’s degree in aeronautical science from Embry Riddle.

After college, he went to work for the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. There he worked in its education department, developing and leading aviation camps for high school students.

“One of the highlights of the camp was that they got their first flight lesson,” he said. “That was a really cool camp. I was the flight instructor, and I gave them the lesson.”

He then joined Wells Aircraft at the Hutchinson airport as a flight instructor and was promoted to flight department manager and then to general manager. In that role, he oversaw the flight department, line service and the maintenance and avionics shops.

Youngers joined Signature in May.

He also flies on the side for hire.

Youngers serves as current president of the Kansas Commission on Aerospace Education, and he volunteers at Exploration Place’s aviation camp.

He and his wife, Christy, have three children, ages 1, 3 and 4.

Question: What started your interest in aviation?

Answer: When I was 5 years old, we lived in Orlando for a year. I got to see the space shuttle launch several times when we were there. From that time on, I wanted to be a pilot.

You mentioned that the most fun part of your job is working with so many different types of airplanes and getting to know the customers.

When it’s a mix of planes coming in, it keeps the guys on their toes, and it keeps it exciting. Our business is never boring. … Seeing a Boeing business jet on the ramp — when you see that big plane on our little ramp, that’s pretty impressive, especially when you see it next to a (Cessna) 172.

Not including the airlines, 95 percent of your fuel sales are for jet fuel. Jets burn much more fuel than piston aircraft. But you’ve also made a push to become more friendly to smaller aircraft by lowering prices. How is that going?

I would say that’s working. We seem to see a lot more of them.

How are fuel sales going?

We’re up a little bit this year over last year. Business seems to be improving slightly. The industry as a whole is doing better than last year, but nowhere near where we were pre-2008.

Tugging the various airplanes in and out of hangars and fueling them seems tricky. What’s the secret to handling them?

The trick is to be very careful and always think three steps ahead, because you’re dealing with a multimillion-dollar aircraft in many cases. Even a small ding can cost thousands of dollars. Not only that, but at that point you’ve delayed the customer. … Our employees go through constant training and recurrent training to keep safety in the forefront of their mind when they’re out there working on the ramp.

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