When Tim Keenan relocated to Kokomo in 2005, Hangar 2 at the Kokomo Municipal Airport wasn’t much to look at.
“The hangar had been empty for several years, and the door had blown off its hinges,” Keenan said. “I wasn’t real excited about Kokomo to begin with; it was kind of a last choice. But the rent was cheap.”
Eight years later, Keenan is quite a bit more positive about both Kokomo and the municipal airport, where he’s brought his aircraft sales company, Aircraft Ownership Solutions, through a major recession as a profitable concern.
It’s a specialized business, and Keenan gets most of his customers through online inquiries. Most people in Kokomo have no idea there’s a business selling one and two-engine prop planes out at the airport. Even fewer know that Keenan and his staff sell upward of 70 aircraft a year.
“This location has been great for me and the business,” he said, recalling how at his former location, the Mt. Comfort Airport east of Indianapolis, prospective customers would take a $45 shuttle ride from the Indianapolis International Airport. If they didn’t buy a plane, Keenan or one of his staff would have to drive them back to the airport.
“It’s a really long drive if they didn’t buy the aircraft,” he said.
Eight people work full time at the dealership, and four of them find and purchase aircraft. Running an aircraft dealership, it turns out, isn’t like running a car lot, where auctions supply most of the new stock.
At AOS, they have to go out and find planes they can sell for a profit. That means they send out a ton of direct mail, hoping aircraft owners will get sick of their current planes and feel like selling.
Keenan, who worked as a delivery pilot and flew for an IndyCar team, just got back from picking up a plane in North Carolina. He was back in two hours, five minutes. That kind of rapid, independent travel is the main selling point at AOS, but then again, most of the customers come ready to purchase.