A Portage Life in the Spotlight: Michael Partin

Aviation Pros recently awarded General Manager Michael Partin of the Gary Jet Center the “40 Under 40” award, a national honor in the aviation industry. A managing partner at the Gary Jet Center nominated him for his accomplishments.

“I didn’t know they had nominated me,” said Partin. “I was completely surprised. I’ve been the general manager since September 2014, so almost a year and a half. It’s been an adjustment going from a toolbox to a desk.

The Gary Jet Center is an international hub, creating jobs locally and bringing business from all over the world; most notably, the ten year contract with Boeing to provide maintenance on all of their corporate airplanes.

“When the owner of the company, Will Davis, heard that Boeing was moving from Seattle to Chicago, he cold called and negotiated the contract. When Boeing first moved to Chicago they were at Midway, which is very tight. That means that at any time if someone wants to fly out, there could be ten or twelve airplanes in front of them, so there will be lots of delays. The whole point of having a business jet is because time is valuable. Boeing came down here, loved it, and it’s been great ever since. They have seven airplanes in the hangar now.”

Gary Jet Center has been in business for 23 years and recently won Boeing Supplier of the Year out of more than 11,000 other companies for the services, maintenance, parts and administration services they provide. Many people working there are local residents working as contractors for Boeing.

“[We] give a lot of jobs to people in Northwest Indiana. What’s cool about that is you’ve got management and also entry level positions; they are known as the Line Service Technicians. These are the people that fuel airplanes, tow airplanes around the hangars, everything from fueling to cleaning the facilities, these guys do everything. So, we get people who love aviation and are going to school for it, or are curious about it so we’ll hire them and if they show a genuine interest, we’ll help them with their flight training and actually hire them as pilots.”

Gary Jet Center has twelve airplanes that they manage; from single-engine planes up to big jets. Partin explained that someone could start in the Line Department and depending on their work ethic they could end up flying multimillion dollar airplanes.

“It’s cool for us because we have the opportunity to see what the person’s character is like. Will they answer their phone at two in the morning? Are they going to be mad? A lot of times, especially with freight, a company might call at one in the morning. Whenever Ford has a production line issue, if they run out of something, they’re scrambling to get stuff here. Somebody gave me this statistic one time: every minute the Ford production line is down its over two million dollars that they are losing, so you can imagine why they would have a need to fly it in, and of course our responsiveness is a big part of that puzzle.”

Partin was a mechanic with Boeing for nine years before he became General Manager, where he enjoyed traveling the world and servicing jets.

“A Boeing business jet is essentially MTV Cribs on an airplane. There’s a master bedroom, two showers, there’s libraries, kitchens- it’s ridiculous. People say you don’t need business jets, but the reality is that there are over two million jobs that depend on the aviation market. The CEO for Boeing, for example, he would get on a business jet and fly to, say South Korea, and sign a $2 billion deal selling jets. It’s a huge part of the economy.”

Locally, Gary Jet Center also houses all of the airplanes that are in the Chicago and Gary air show.

“It’s crazy busy around that time! The Thunder Birds, the Blue Angels, they are all in our hangars. The lady at the desk-her mom makes food and feeds all the pilots. Then all the transients come out when they know there’s an air show because they want to see what’s going on.”

What are Transients?

“Transients are the people who fly into the airport, say they are coming from Florida and going where ever, and they need to stop for gas up here, we’re like a gas station. There’s a lot of websites where people can go and compare gas prices, believe it or not our fuel on average is about $3 a gallon cheaper. Indiana has really helped us a lot with that, there’s no sales tax on fuel. There’s only a 10 cent per gallon excise tax.”

When he’s not working, Partin enjoys flying his Piper Cherokee around, and serving on the board of directors for Portage Little League.

“I’m the equipment manager and help run the little league for 600 kids. Registration is done now and we have tryouts this weekend. My wife and I raised three boys. One of my sons and my dad actually work with me at the Gary Jet Center. One is a freshman and one is in 6th grade. They all did little league. My 12 year old still does it and he keeps me going with it.”

Partin describes himself as a motor head; he loves riding dirt bikes, fishing, hunting, taking things apart, and the Chicago Cubs.

“I’ve been reading “To Fly and Fight” by Colonel Anderson. It’s about his experience in WWII, flying just about everything in that era. He was an Ace and shot down a lot of planes. It’s cool. I’m a big history buff, especially when it comes to aviation. From where it started 100 years ago to where we are now is just fascinating to me. I’d try to be like him. I think its impossible now because there are so many regulations.”

Airplane engines roar in the background while Partin discusses his role models, a plane taxiing nearby outside the window of his office.

“Will, the owner of the company has really showed how to manage and held my hand through a lot of things. You can’t throw a rock at every dog that barks, you really have to pick and choose your battles and know when to engage-he used to be a fighter pilot, and makes sense he would say that! He has really given me a lot of opportunity and hopefully I’ve given him something in return.”

Partin also credits his father and grandfather as role models.

“My dad is the one that kept me busy when we were younger. If we weren’t working on a dirt bike we were riding snow mobiles all over Northwest Indiana, wherever the cops wouldn’t find us. The whole reason I’m even sitting here with these planes, is because when I was graduating high school my grandpa said, ‘why don’t you go work on airplanes, they’re going to be around for a while.’ And I said ok, and that’s what I did. I went and worked on airplanes. He was always working on vehicles and cars. I always had the natural mechanical ability and he helped steered me in the right direction.”

What is Michael Partin excited about?

“These guys.”

He opens his desk drawer and holds up tickets to the Blackhawks/Bluejackets game on March 27.

“I love the Blackhawks!”