When the founders of Jet Support Services, Inc. (JSSI) first came up with the idea of offering independent hourly cost maintenance programmes to business jet owners, they approached Lou Seno, then head of business jet finance at McDonnell Douglas Finance, for advice. He liked the concept so much he also found JSSI its first customer.
“We were looking to place a Learjet 24 to an underfunded air taxi company on a short term lease. Our credit manager said we should get reserves. I said to the client there is a new company which offers a product like a manufacturer service programme where you pay by the hour and then never pay for maintenance,” says Seno. The air taxi operator enthusiastically signed up and for many years a copy of the first cheque was on display in JSSI’s board room.
Some 22 years (and three months) after that first deal, Seno was appointed chairman of JSSI’s board of directors, alongside his role of CEO.
Seno stayed involved as an adviser and shareholder throughout JSSI’s early years. “The first founders were smart finance people but they were not aviation people,” says Susan Marr, executive vice president, chief administrative officer and general counsel of JSSI “They needed Lou and others for their aviation knowledge.”
Other early advisers included William Quinn founder of Aviation Management Systems and Marr herself – whom was a partner at Chicago law firm Holleb & Coff, and Schiff Hardin, JSSI’s external legal counsel, who later joined the company as general counsel.
Following the first agreement, JSSI continued to sign up a number of General Electric CJ610-6 turbofan engine owners. “As a financier this lack of diversity of the JSSI fleet concerned me so I remember saying at one board meeting that we should look at other engine models,” says Seno.
He suggested they target Pratt & Whitney Canada engines where there was no manufacturer service programme. JSSI hired a consultant who built up a list of PT6 and JT8D owners (this was before the creation of databases like Amstat or JetNet) that the company called.
This was not the first time that JSSI launched a maintenance programme before the manufacturer. In 1995, whilst at a hotel swimming pool, the weekend before NBAA 1995, Seno bumped into Dan Dixon, a Pratt & Whitney Canada employee. Dixon said he was there to launch a programme because of: “Those damn guys in Chicago.” Seno, then an employee of Boeing Capital Corporation (following the company’s acquisition of McDonnell Douglas) admitted that he was one of the Chicago guys.
Seno continued to work full time at Boeing Capital. In 2004 Boeing sold its business jet portfolio to GE Capital and Seno moved with the business. Four years after that, in May 2008, JSSI was bought by two private equity firms RH Book Enterprises and 1848 Capital Partners .
Seno sold his shares as part of the deal ending his links with JSSI. It was a short break, however. At the NBAA convention in October 2008, Bob Book, the owner of RH Book Enterprises reconnected with Lou and soon asked him to join the company as President.
After more than 30 years in business jet finance Seno says he loves working at JSSI. He and his wife have just completed a year in London helping to establish JSSI’s Farnborough Airport office and he says he excited is about growing JSSI.
And this seems a realistic ambition. Especially since JSSI has already signed thousands of contracts since he spoke to that air taxi operator 22 years ago.