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Airport Firm Plans Big Expansion to Land More Clients

October 01, 1985|JEFF ROWE

Tallmantz Aviation, a fixture at John Wayne Airport for 24 years, is shedding the wild-and-woolly image engendered by its now-deceased stunt pilot founders as new management institutes a $2-million expansion that will make the aircraft fueling and repair depot the site of one of the few fly-in business conference centers in the nation.

Plans for the center, revolving around John Wayne Airport's status as a major corporate airport, were developed after Tallmantz was sold in March to a group of Orange County businessmen led by Chuck Seven, a real estate broker, and Marty Cooper, a commercial banker. In addition to the conference center and executive jet terminal, two new hangars are planned, which will make the company the largest fixed-base operator at the airport. The existing hangars and office space will be razed to make room for the new facilities.

The company said it expects the two-story, 14,000-square-foot executive jet terminal to be the keystone of the expansion project. A 400-square-foot conference room, which will be fitted with computer links and teleconferencing equipment, will allow executives flying in from different points to meet and complete business while their planes are being serviced. There will even be a pilot bunkhouse equipped with a sauna and weight room.

"We expect the conference center to be booked all the time," said Cooper, general manager and executive vice president of the company. "Airports are becoming meeting centers, reducing time and expenses" for executives.

Corporate Air Traffic Growth Seen

Because of the vigorous expansion of the Orange County economy, Cooper said, strong growth in corporate air traffic is expected at the airport, already the busiest such facility in the nation. Thus far, there are only "five or six" such conference centers in the nation, he said.

Tallmantz had about $5 million in sales last year but the company has expanded its fueling and maintenance service 50% since Seven and Cooper took control in late May.

Terms of the acquisition weren't disclosed, but Cooper said the company expects annual revenue to grow to between $12 million and $15 million within two years. When the expansion work is complete, he said, the company will have boosted its aircraft parking space by 60% and added a total of 34,000 square feet of hangar space. Approval from the county, which owns all of the airport land, is expected to be "routine," Cooper said.

Work is slated to begin on the new hangars in December and onthe executive jet center early next year.

Under famed stunt pilots Frank Tallman and Paul Mantz, who founded the company in 1961, Tallmantz's principal business was stunt flying and aerial photography for the movie and television industry.

Reflecting its founders' interests, the Tallmantz facility until recently housed the Movieland of the Air Museum, which featured dozens of antique aircraft and memorabilia and photos from many of the more than 250 movies in which Mantz and Tallman performed as stunt fliers or did the aerial photography work. Earlier this year, the museum was sold and moved to Florida.

By the mid-1970s, the glory days of aerial movie filming had waned, and Tallmantz Aviation had turned for its major source of income to servicing the private aircraft that jammed the booming Orange County airport. Mantz was killed in 1965, while filming a movie flight scene and Tallman died in 1978 when he flew his plane into a ridge of the Santa Ana Mountains during a storm.

Seven and Cooper, who purchased the business from the Tallman family, moved immediately to boost the Tallmantz maintenance business, which already had a strong reputation, they said. In addition to servicing corporate aircraft, the company has contracts to service the Hughes helicopters flown by the Orange County Sheriff's Department and several county police departments.

38 People Employed

Tallmantz employs 38 people, but Cooper said the company expects to expand to 50 employees within a year.

Tallman and Mantz won't be forgotten in the modernization and expansion of the company, Cooper said, and numerous pictures and memorabilia of the two fliers will be displayed in the new offices.

One memento that will go, however, is a home-built missile that Tallman installed in front of the business 18 years ago. Cooper said he wants to give the 40-foot missile away, but the company so far has not found a taker.

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