Q. How did you get involved in the aviation industry?
A. After 10 years in retail with Sears, I knew that was not what I wanted do for the rest of my life. I felt like I needed to sell something that was along the lines of other outside interests — one was aviation. After taking a flight in a private aircraft, I knew I had to be in this industry someday. That opportunity came when I joined an industrial specialty chemical company that had all kinds of maintenance cleaners for aircraft and GSE. We had paint strippers, engine overhaul products, appearance products and much more. My very first experience was at the GSE shop of Allegheny Airlines. This was going to be interesting and easy because it didn’t look too much different than my garage when I was tearing apart my cars at home (yeah, right — oh, how little did I know). After stripping my first aircraft and working in the engine overhaul cleaning line and being out on the ramp, I knew I had found a home. I was like a sponge trying to absorb aviation “speak”. That was 30 years ago and while a lot of water has gone over and under the bridge, I remember those first experiences and still can’t get enough of this industry.
Q. What are some of the major trends you have seen develop over the past 20 to 30 years?
A. In a word Green — I founded AeroSafe Products 15 years ago, although the name meant a lot to me even prior to that. Our products are safe for the aircraft, safe for the airline employees and above all safe for the environment. It was with that goal in mind that we achieved our recognized standing within the aviation community as a supplier of safe specialty cleaners, water disinfection products, sealant and adhesive removers, LED lighted personal safetyware and the revolutionary ODV (Omni Directional Vehicle). AeroSafe is the proper name for our company. Green is definitely the way for the airlines to go in every department.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced over the years?
A. By far my biggest challenge was a personal one. Learning I had cancer seven years ago and realizing what I was going to have to endure was not easy for a guy like me who exercised regularly, did triathlons and ate right. The physical and emotional scars will never go away. Hopefully after seven years I’ve licked this thing. A lot of friends within the aviation community supported me and made life a little easier, just knowing people cared.
The normal cyclical nature of aviation will sometimes give you gray hair and heartburn, but 9/11 almost did us in. For many, it did. Not only was AeroSafe suffering while many of our clients claimed bankruptcy, but we have another company called 360Check (formerly InterSearch). We do pre-employment background checks. A lot of our clients were FBO’s and ground handling and other airline service companies. Having one company tied to this industry at that time was bad enough but, having two was almost unbearable. However, like many of us we have survived, but it hasn’t been easy.
The financial health of the industry right now is questionable to say the least. High fuel prices have created and generated austerity in some departments. GSE has since 9/11, been hit the hardest. A lot of airlines are “making do” but that’s going to have to change. Replacement GSE is needed soon.
Q. What do you favor most about working in this industry?
A. A long time ago, a sales manager of mine asked me what I did for a living. Thinking it was a test regarding my loyalty, I responded with: “I sell chemicals and equipment to the aviation industry.” He responded: “You’re in the people business.” That stuck. He’s was right. It takes good people to make things happen in any business. From the mechanic to the ramper. No matter what your position is in this industry it’s still about people. The aviation community has tons of good and interesting people in it — I’m glad to be a part of it.