HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — After 60 years, the last corporate jet owned by Dillon Companies or its parent company, Kroger, has flown away from Hutchinson.
The Learjet 35 flew out of Hutchinson Municipal Airport on Thursday to Kroger’s corporate base in Cincinnati, where it will be sold. The decision to end the aircraft division of the grocery chain was made to reduce operating expenses in a way that customers would not notice, Dillon’s spokesman Sheila Lowery said.
Dillon Stores was founded in Hutchinson and began flying its own planes out of the city shortly after World War II, to allow the chain’s executives to continue living there while flying to stores spread from Kansas to Colorado, Arizona and California, The Hutchinson News reported ( ).
Since Dillon’s merged with Kroger Co. in 1983, the Dillon’s division was reduced to stores in only Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. Dillon’s executives now drive to most of those locations and take commercial flights when necessary, Lowery said.
Three pilots and a mechanic were laid off, the company said.
Hutchinson Airport Director Pieter Miller said the Dillon’s Companies, the firm’s name since 1968, was a main reason many of the hangars at the airport were built.
“Dillon’s has been a part of the airport pretty much since there has been an airport,” Miller said.
Don Rogers of Wells Aircraft, which has provided hanger space for Dillon/Kroger aircraft for decades, said that Dillon’s once had several aircraft in the city but in recent years has had one Learjet and flown three to five flights a week out of the airport.
Information from: The Hutchinson (Kan.) News,