Hill Aircraft celebrates 55th anniversary

 - October 27, 2010, 6:31 AM

Hill Aircraft & Leasing celebrated its 55th year at Fulton County Airport-Brown Field in Atlanta, Ga., last month with a waffle breakfast catered by the Waffle House restaurant chain. Waffle House also had a 55th anniversary this year, so it seemed fitting to invite the ­restaurant company to serve waffles, biscuits and gravy, eggs, bacon and sausage to Hill Aircraft patrons and airport colleagues, according to Hill Aircraft president Larry Westbrook.

Hill Aircraft was founded by Naval ­aviator Guy Hill, Sr. in 1955. A pilot for Eastern Airlines, Hill started buying and selling airplanes then bought an FBO at Fulton County for $10,000 and built that into a diverse business with FBO operations, aircraft management and charter, maintenance, parts distribution and ­aircraft sales. Westbrook married one of Guy’s daughters, Carol, and joined the company in 1984, starting out in line service.

The Hill family did a major renovation of the FBO in 2005 to coincide with its 50th anniversary and prepare for the 2007 NBAA Convention, which was held in Atlanta. That year, Fulton County hosted the static display. The airport enjoys an advantage over other Atlanta-area airports, according to Westbrook, the only 24/7 control tower besides Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Fulton County can accept international arrivals, with on-call U.S. Customs officers available.

Business has been challenging, but having multiple operations under one roof has helped, Westbrook said. “Fuel and ­hangar sales are our bread and butter, but when it’s off in one department, ­others can take up the slack. I think ­pricing on airplanes is still depressed and probably will be for a while. It’s still going to be some time before it picks up. I don’t know if it’s the worst I’ve seen, but it’s different. It has affected everybody, no matter what business they’re in.” Although fuel sales were down last year, volume grew during every month of this year except July and August, he said, thanks in part to a military fueling contract. Hill Aircraft “has been here a long time,” he said, “and hopefully we’ll be here for a long time to come” delivering the “sensational Southern service” that the company is known for.