Our Team

Jim Gardner

Jim Gardner


Jim is a former fireman and fire investigator for the City of Reno, Nevada and later as the owner of Cause and Origin Fire Investigations.

Jim holds degrees in Fire Science and Fire Management, and is a certified fire and explosion investigator.

Born in Chattanooga, TN, Jim enlisted in the Army at age 19 and served 4 years between Fort Hood, Texas and duty in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 1992 as an Armor Crewman and Tank Gunner. In 2011, after earning his private pilot’s license from Murfreesboro Aviation, he bought the company.

Since that time he has doubled the training fleet of aircraft, started a maintenance department, and substantially grown the business.

Since earning his private rating, Jim has added the ratings of multi-engine, instrument, and commercial pilot.

Blake Tumbleson

Blake Tumbleson

VP-Aircraft Sales

Blake is a veteran in the aviation business.

Blake’s first job was washing aircraft for his Dad, Bill Tumbleson, who ran the largest Cessna Aircraft dealership in the world at the time.

Blake took his first flying lesson a few days after turning 14. He later earned a mulit-engine rating, but discovered that his interests were more on the business side of aviation than the flying side.

In 1987 Blake earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He has since spent his career selling hundreds of aircraft (from single-engine piston to corporate jets) delivered in over 15 countries around the world.

Over the years Blake has held positions of VP of Ground Services, Director of Sales and Marketing, General Manager, and created an aircraft sales division and brand from the ground up for a major U.S. FBO.

Chelsea Thomas

Chelsea Thomas

Office Manager

Chelsea was born and raised in Murfreesboro, TN. and is a proud mother of 5 kids and wife to her husband Dave. Like most moms, Chelsea is devoted to her kids who are involved in Baseball, Football, Basketball, Gymnastics, and other activities. This, of course, keeps her very busy!

Chelsea has a double major in Finance and Accounting, with a Minor in Business Management and has been working in small business since 2011.

She previously worked for her family dealership where she gained extensive knowledge and experience working in the automotive industry.

When not working, Chelsea enjoys attending sporting events, comedy shows and traveling with her family, to whom she is very devoted.
Chelsea is the face of our company and keeps us organized, the customers happy, and the flight instructors flying!

Give her a call sometime!

Norman Buhl

Norman Buhl

Director of Avionics

Norm is a 23-year USAF military veteran who worked on some of the most advanced military aircraft including special assignments with NATO working on the AWACS and the U2 Dragon Lady spy plane.
He was born and grew up in Michigan, where he spent time hunting, camping, fishing, skiing, building model aircraft and cheering for the Wolverines.

After graduation, joined the Air Force and traveled the world including Germany, England, and multiple locations throughout southwest Asia. He earned his private pilot license while stationed in California and enjoyed flying to the beach to surf or dropping into hidden mountain airstrips in the Sierra Nevada’s.

Norm has been installing, troubleshooting, and repairing general aviation avionics for another 20 years and has experience with all major manufacturers including Garmin, Avidyne, Aspen Genesys (STEC), Bendix King and with JPI and Electronic International engine monitors.

Now when he’s not working, you can usually find him on a nearby lake riding his Kawasaki stand up jet ski or spending time with family and friends.

Our Story — Murfreesboro Aviation

Cause & Origin
In 2009, Jim Gardner owned Cause & Origin Fire Investigations (C & O Fire Investigations). His business was to arrive on the scene of a fire as quickly as possible during or after the fire and determine the location, or origin of the fire and the cause of that fire. After many hours (and sometimes days) of, interviews, and testing, Jim would write up his report, submit it to the insurance company, and move on to his next investigation. In addition, Jim would regularly testify in court as to the findings and conclusions in his reports. Jim’s reputation spread as an outstanding investigator and reliable witness. As a result, his business thrived. He was so busy that he had to hire a driver to get him from one investigation to the next while he wrote up his report. When the report was completed and submitted and the phone calls caught up, it was just a matter of driving…and driving….and more driving.

As you can imagine, the time wasted driving became frustrating. In 2009, Jim decided that he would learn to fly and purchase an aircraft. Utilizing an aircraft for his business would allow him more flexibility, greater geographic coverage, less wasted time, and more importantly, more time to be at home between fires and court appearances. That same year Jim earned his private pilots’ license from Murfreesboro Aviation, and bought a Cessna 150.

Following Your Passion
Jim fell in love with flying! Every opportunity he could find he would jump in his plane and fly. In 2010 Murfreesboro Aviation became available to buy, and Jim seized the opportunity! The intention was not to stop investigating fires, but to invest his energy into a business for which he had great passion and might eventually allow him more time at home.

Jim’s first order of business was to ensure that the culture throughout the company was the same as he had learned through his fire investigations business…safety, prevention, thoroughness, and accuracy. Jim always felt that the first rule of customer service was to ensure the customers safety and proficiency as they fly. As a result, Jim coined the Murfreesboro Aviation signature phrase; “Up here, it’s about trust.”

Up Here, It’s About Trust
We asked Jim about his philosophy on business and the business of flying, he had this to say;

“I understand the enormous responsibility that we assume when we take someone flying. They place great trust in our people and our equipment. My job is to ensure that we consistently earn that trust, and that we do everything in our power to keep our students/customers safe, every moment, of every flight.”
-Jim Gardner

Murfreesboro Aviation Expands
Jim extended that philosophy in 2013 when he opened the Murfreesboro Aviation Maintenance Department. This was a logical next step for the business since the flight training fleet of aircraft was growing and the expense of outside maintenance could be reduced. As logical as that was for Jim, he stated that the bigger reason was to control the quality of the maintenance of the training and rental fleet.

“By assuming the responsibility for maintenance in-house, we could also ensure the highest level of quality control.”
-Jim Gardner

In addition to maintaining the Murfreesboro Aviation expanding fleet of aircraft, other aircraft owners began bringing their aircraft in for annual inspections, major inspections, AD compliance, avionics issues and upgrades, and minor discrepancy repair. To accommodate the growth of the maintenance business Jim continued to add mechanics and technicians. It’s always been the case that we have 3 or more IA’s on staff in addition to our A&P’s. It is also true that the overwhelming majority of our mechanics are pilots and aircraft owners. Our belief is that this allows our mechanics to understand and treat you as a colleague in aviation, not just as a customer.

Shortly after opening our maintenance business, Cessna Aircraft was pleased to offer Murfreesboro Aviation the opportunity to earn the designation as an “Authorized Cessna Service Center”. While the numbers vary from year to year, about 30-40% of our business is on Cessna aircraft. We routinely maintain Piper, Beechcraft, Cirrus, Mooney, and other aircraft. Our services have grown as well to include avionics, full avionics panel cuts and rebuilds/upgrades, and many other capabilities.

Trust on the Ground
So, how did Jim go about employing that same “up here, it’s about trust” philosophy into the Murfreesboro Aviation maintenance business? We asked him…

“Trust is earned in many ways. Consistency, fairness, and open and honest communication are a few of the more powerful ways. Bringing your plane to us for the FIRST time is probably the most difficult. We don’t know each other and we don’t have a history. I ask owners to trust us and give us an opportunity. Then, it’s our job to earn that trust. I hire experienced IA’s and A&P’s. They talk to each other, help each other, and have the freedom to disagree. I think that we are better because of this philosophy.”
-Jim Gardner

So, How do you Build a Successful Maintenance Business?
But there is more to running a maintenance facility than just earning trust. Aircraft owners are passionate about their planes. Some use them for business, some for pleasure, and some for both. There is a natural and healthy skepticism about trying a new shop. Jim was aware of this since he’s also been an aircraft owner for many years. Jim knew that, like most businesses, there was likely a common thread of likes and dislikes when it came to having your aircraft serviced. Once he opened Murfreesboro Aviation Maintenance and Avionics, Jim set out to identify those threads.

“I visited other shops and talked to customers. I quickly identified the top frustrations that customers had with their maintenance facility as well as what they liked the most. I set out to implement the best and take a fresh approach to address the frustrations. The result is an approach that offers fair prices AND fair number of hours worked on your plane, regular communication before and during the repairs, and no surprises. I’ve tried to wrap this in a very comfortable and real environment. This is a formula that we continue to improve upon each day.”
-Jim Gardner

What’s Next?
The rest of our story is still being written. We are so grateful to live in a growing and friendly part of the United States. We are grateful for all of our customers and those who soon will be our customers. We are not perfect, but we do our very best to learn from each experience so that we continue to move forward and be better each day. If you are one of our customers…thank you. If you are not yet a customer, please give us a call and see if we can offer you the comfort level that you need to trust your aircraft to us.