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Meet the crew at SRQ that helps keep planes up in the air

Sarasota-based Aviotec is the airport's 'eyes and hands' that maintains private aircraft and commercial jets.


  • By Jim DeLa
  • | 9:30 a.m. June 24, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Aircraft technician Robert Heing prepares to inspect the engine of a Piper Saratoga inside the Aviotec hangar at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. The maintenance company has also been servicing commercial airline aircraft at SRQ for the past year.
Aircraft technician Robert Heing prepares to inspect the engine of a Piper Saratoga inside the Aviotec hangar at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. The maintenance company has also been servicing commercial airline aircraft at SRQ for the past year.
Photo by Jim DeLa
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Aviotec, an aircraft maintenance company based at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, has served the general aviation community since 2008.

And now, a new owner is expanding the business, with contracts with nearly every airline operating at the airport, under the call letters SRQ, to perform maintenance when issues arise with their aircraft.

Victor Mena, who bought Aviotec two years ago, says it was simply a case of recognizing the opportunity during meetings of SRQ’s tennant managers. “It started as a series of conversations,” that led to the agreements.

Aircraft maintenance technician Jason Dolan examines the wing of a Piper Saratoga during the plane's annual inspection inside the Aviotec hangar at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
Photo by Jim DeLa

Since most airlines don’t have their own maintenance teams at smaller airports like SRQ, it’s an arrangement that minimizes the amount of time airliners are stuck on the ground when problems arise. 

Aviotec provides services for every airline at SRQ except Allegiant Air, which has its own crew in the area, and Air Canada, which operates under Canadian rules which are different from the Federal Aviation Administration. 

Aviotec’s five aircraft technicians work closely with the staff of each airline, to do the work according to each company’s procedures. “We’re the eyes, ears and hands of the airlines,” says Frank Albritton, Aviotec’s director of maintenance.

Work performed by Aviotec can include diagnosing issues with cockpit systems, hydraulics, fuel systems, lights and tires. 

Aircraft technician Jason Dolan inspects the landing gear of a Piper Saratoga inside the Aviotec hangar at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. The maintenance company has branched out, servicing airliners at SRQ for the past year.
Photo by Jim DeLa

Even things like a broken seat or malfunctioning toilet can be handled quickly, so the aircraft can return to service. 

“If a plane is sitting on the ground, it’s not making money,” Mena says. 

Mena says Aviotec was built on servicing general aviation aircraft. Their technicians are certified to work on a wide variety of airframes, including Beechcraft, Cessna, Hawker, Learjet, Piper and TBM.

Aviotec also specializes in servicing the Beechcraft Bonanza, a single-engine aircraft first designed in the late 1940s that has an enthusiastic following. Aviotec is a member of the American Bonanza Society, which claims more than 10,000 members. 

Aircraft technician Robert Heing inspects the engine of a Piper Saratoga inside the Aviotec hangar at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport. The maintenance company has been servicing airlines at SRQ for the past year.
Photo by Jim DeLa

Mena credits the employees who have built a solid reputation in the aviation community. The five maintenance technicians have more than 150 years of experience between them, Mena says.

“No one has less than 20 years’ experience,” Mena says. “There are no rookies on this team at all.”

Since the first contract was signed a year ago, Mena says work with the airlines now accounts for about half of Aviotec’s business. 

And Mena is not stopping there. He’s branching out into other areas, including terminal and passenger services and ground handling. 

“It opens new doors,” he says. “We can offer more than just maintenance.”

Victor Mena, the owner of Aviotec at Sarasota Bradenton International Airport.
Photo by Jim DeLa

It’s something Mena knows something about. Before moving to Florida, he owned a company at Los Angeles International Airport, providing similar services to several foreign airlines. He sold his interest in that company during the pandemic and moved to Florida.

“The pandemic was the perfect time to sell and come to Florida,” he says.

But even as the work with airlines expands, Mena says he’s not abandoning the general aviation community. 

“The airlines will sometimes pull us away, but we always try to make time,” for general aviation. “Our goal is to keep the community flying.”

This article originally appeared on sister site YourObserver.com.

 

author

Jim DeLa

Jim DeLa is the digital content producer for the Observer. He has served in a variety of roles over the past four decades, working in television, radio and newspapers in Florida, Colorado and Hawaii. He was most recently a reporter with the Community News Collaborative, producing journalism on a variety of topics in Sarasota, Manatee and DeSoto counties; and as a digital producer for ABC7 in Sarasota.

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