MRO Profile: Winner Aviation

 - May 4, 2014, 2:25 AM

Winner Aviation’s roots date back to 1946, when Beckett Aviation opened its doors to the Youngstown, Ohio flying community. The new company was located on Youngstown Municipal Airport, in Vienna, Ohio. One of the last federal Works Progress Administration projects, the airport opened in 1940 and would eventually be known as Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

During the 1950s and 60s, Beckett Aviation operated the largest fleet of privately owned aircraft in the country and grew to having eight FBO locations throughout the country before being sold. The Youngstown operation was Beckett Aviation’s headquarters.

In 1979 Rick Hale had a part-time job pushing a broom and helping out as a student worker at Beckett Aviation. “Many of the people who worked there when I was a student employee still work in our facility,” Hale, Winner Aviation’s president and CEO, told AIN.

Hale had aspirations of being an airline pilot and enrolled in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona. Returning home the next fall to take a break from school he applied for a job with his old employer, Beckett Aviation. Hale worked for the company for a couple of years, first in the tool crib and eventually moving into the parts department. In 1981 CSX bought Beckett Aviation to be a part of its transportation portfolio and he was one of 21 employees laid off in response to a slowdown in the industry.

“Working for Beckett gave me a different perspective on aviation. I discovered aviation isn’t just about that ‘wearing a silk scarf and the wind blowing through your hair’ image. The experience taught me being a pilot is a tough job. You’re up early in the morning, you get to bed late at night and it’s hard on your family. It put a different spin on things for me.…The idea of managing and developing the business aspect of aviation was far more interesting to me,” Hale said.

He returned to Embry-Riddle, switched his major to aviation administration and graduated in 1984. Just before graduation he accepted a position with Manufacturers Hanover Trust in New York City, leasing aircraft and equipment to airlines and business aviation customers. The company subsequently became known as the CIT Group.

Hale remained in New York until 1987, when he took a position as aviation asset manager with Westinghouse Credit in Pittsburgh and left there in 1989 when it was closed by its parent company. Seeing an opportunity to go to graduate school, he returned home, received an MBA from Youngstown State University and in 1993 went to work for Aeroservices International in the same facility where Beckett and CSX had been located.

While working in maintenance sales he became aware that the parent company was considering selling off the Youngstown operation. In 1995 he teamed with a local businessman who owned an aircraft and was interested in acquiring the location as another business venture and to support his own aircraft. He bought the assets, renamed it Winner Aviation and hired Hale as the manager.

Honeywell Engine Specialty

In 2008 Hale bought the company and focused on building the business. “It was a tough time economically, but we managed to survive because we focused on giving our customers what they needed to maximize their investment. We’re qualified to work on many different types of aircraft, including the Beechjet 400A/XP, Hawker 800/XP, King Airs and Citations. However, we specialize on platforms that use the Honeywell TPE331 such as the King Air B100, Mitsubishi MU-2, Twin Commanders and Merlin/Metros. We are currently recognized as the oldest TPE331 authorized major service center in the world,” Hale said. The MRO is also an authorized line service center for the TFE731, and it works on the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 and JT15D, as well as Continental and Lycoming piston engines. Winner Aviation is an OEM-authorized service center for Beechcraft, Cessna, Mitsubishi, Twin Commander and Diamond. “We’re good at meeting expectations for turn-around time and quality of work, and we’re constantly looking for new areas and specializations to serve our customers better. We are interested in talking with OEMs to show them why it would make sense to have an authorized service facility in northeast Ohio. To that end we are always collaborating with our existing OEM relationships to let us expand the services we can offer their customers,” Hale said.

Winner Aviation operates an FBO, aircraft charter and management operation, and MRO facility out of an 85,000-sq-ft complex. The facility has 41,000 sq ft (three hangars and offices) dedicated to maintenance. The company works on business jets, turboprops and piston aircraft, providing inspections, modifications and avionics installation and upgrades. It is a Honeywell major engine shop, has an NDT shop, does unscheduled maintenance and offers mobile repair capability to support AOG customers.

The FAR 145 and EASA certified repair station has 30 employees dedicated to maintenance (18 A&Ps, six avionics technicians and six dedicated to aircraft support).