Airport firm Gulf Aviation files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

HARLINGEN — Gulf Aviation, one of two fixed-base operators at Valley International Airport, has filed for reorganization under federal bankruptcy laws.

The local company this month filed a federal Chapter 11 petition in Texas Southern Bankruptcy Court.

“I wish them the best,” Marv Esterly, director of aviation at Valley International, said Friday. “We’re really pulling for them to pull through.”

Gulf Aviation, like its competitor, Sun Valley Aviation, provides commercial aviation services at Valley International, including full-service aircraft maintenance and repair as well as aviation fuel and a flight school.

The VIA airport board met in executive session Friday morning to discuss the effect the bankruptcy filing might have on the airport’s lease agreement with Gulf. Esterly declined to divulge any of the discussion in the privileged executive session with the airport’s legal counsel, Gene McCullough.

Jana Whitworth, a McAllen attorney specializing in bankruptcies, said her client is eager to work with creditors and continue operating at VIA.

“They fell into a couple ventures that didn’t become profitable so they filed a Chapter 11 to reorganize and continue giving the great service and the business they’ve done for two generations,” Whitworth said.

“We are working with the airport and other creditors to negotiate favorable terms to be able to put a plan in place and pay everybody back,” she added.

So-called fixed-base operators like Gulf are key components of airports, providing services to not just airlines but to smaller commercial aviation enterprises as well.

According to its website, Gulf employs three full-time Federal Aviation Administration-authorized inspectors who also perform modification and repair work. They have expertise in aircraft such as Cessna, Piper, Mooney and Beechcraft. They are qualified to service single and multi-engine airplanes for corporate clients and commuter airline-type turbines.

“People hear bankruptcy and they panic and they think the doors are shutting down,” Whitworth said. “Gulf Aviation is not, they’re in business. Their clients have been amazing. Southwest and all the airlines have been so cooperative and encouraging.

“Two FBOs at the airport in competition is a good thing,” she added. “We hope that Valley International Airport and the City of Harlingen agree with that.”