In 1986, Mario Diaz came from his native Argentina as a boy "to spend a couple of months." Twenty-five years later he is CEO of Cabin Crafters, a fast-growing completion and refurbishment center tucked away in the suburbs of South Hackensack, N.J., five minutes from Teterboro Airport, where his father began his own career in aviation.
Bitten by the aviation bug, his father, Celso, had earlier launched a small aircraft refurbishment business called Intercraft. Mario Diaz remembers his father's first full refurbishment contract, a Falcon 10. "I was bitten by the same bug, and from then on, this is all I've wanted to do."
Fast-forward to 2010 and Diaz's father has retired, and the company has been Cabin Crafters since 1990. But it remains a family business, with Mario at the helm and his wife, Yelana, handling the books. Business is "good and getting better," confirming Diaz's decision to move into a new 23,000-sq-ft facility last year. Cabin Crafters currently takes up about 15,000 sq ft of the space, and a tenant occupies another 8,000 sq ft.
With a total of 21 employees, much of the business at Cabin Crafters comes in the form of interior components construction–seats, cabinetry, shell liners. Shops for these items are located at the South Hackensack facility, which also houses the design, engineering and administration portion of the business. The company holds a Part 145 repair station certificate and recently received an STC and PMA for a cabin liner kit for the AgustaWestland AW119 Koala.
While the company has no direct access to Teterboro Airport, a specially outfitted heavy truck carries cabin components and an installation crew to Teterboro, and further. Cabin Crafters has managed major refurbishment installations at airports throughout the New York tri-state area and as far away as Maryland.
According to Diaz, Cabin Crafters can handle major refurbishment work on helicopters as well as fixed-wing aircraft as large as a Gulfstream G550. Helicopter contracts have included green completion work for AgustaWestland and Sikorsky. In fact, said sales manager Wendy Pimentel, "We did five green completions for Sikorsky in 2008."
Cabin Crafters is currently developing a 16g side-facing divan, as well as a 16-g seat re-upholstery job with support from B/E Aerospace. In terms of support, the company also keeps an interior maintenance specialist on call 24/7. "It doesn't matter whether it's a drawer that won't close or a broken seat," said Pimentel.
Diaz estimates the $500,000 investment in the new facility was money well spent. "In 2008 we were beating the bushes for skilled workers and had four and five refurbishment projects going at the same time; then came the recession, which hit the bottom some time in late 2009," he said. "But this year we've seen things starting to improve. We survived [the recession] rather comfortably. We had a good backlog of work, and a good backlog of customers who remembered a small job we did for them and came back for a bigger one.
"As for this year, if things continue to improve, we have that additional 8,000 square feet, and I guess we'll have to start beating the bushes again for more skilled workers."