Aeronca Community Expressing Concerns Over Pricing,
A well-known and much
trusted aviation parts manufacturer is selling out... to another
such business. Safe Air Repair, an Albert Lea, Minnesota, based
operation, is the FAA-PMA approved manufacturer of over 11,000
parts for the Aeronca, Champion, Bellanca, 7,8,& 11 Series
Aircraft, as well as a number of Taylorcraft parts (though that
remains a fair but small part of the total business).
The new owner, as of a few hours ago (when we promised
"Real-Time," we weren't kidding), is Wisconsin based Aero
Fabricators, an arm of Wag-Aero, a well-known aero-catalog house
started by the highly-respected team of Dick and Bobbie Wagner and
sold in 1995 to Bill Read and Mary Myers. Since then, Wag-Aero has
been on something of a buying spree, having acquired (among others)
the assets of Viking Aero Manufacturing in April 1997 (MFR of
hand-held tow bars, hitch towbars, windsock frames and aircraft
jacks), Leading Edge AirFoils, a major Rotax support business, in
2000 (after the death of the irrepressible Bill Raisner in 1999)
and Ground Support Manufacturing (tow-bars, jacks, engine stands,
chocks, winches, etc.) in 2002.
Wag-Aero's Bill Read
has acknowledged that their acquisition may be viewed with concern
by the Aeronca community, in particular, who had come to have a
very high regard for Safe Air, it's staff and owner, John Roscoe.
"John is a tough act to follow... but we will be able to rely on
his expertise through the transition. We do expect to have all the
assets in Lyons, WI, by this weekend and the reissuance of Safe
Air's PMAs within a matter of days."
Read noted a few promising aspects of the new acquisition will
result in the availability of Aeronca spars for the first time in
nearly a year and that the cooperation he's received from the FAA
has been exceptional. He also promises to increase attention to the
Taylorcraft product line once they have a handle on the Aeronca
side of the business.
Some Aeronca flyers
note that this is going to be a tough sell to the somewhat
polarized community... some of whom have claimed to have made
offers to Roscoe for the business before the surprise announcement.
While Wag-Aero and its associated operations have great expertise
in tube and rag component fabrication, the biggest issue among
those talking to ANN has been one of price. The general consensus
expressed concerns over price increases for the future, as well as
for the welfare of some of the key employees that buttressed the
positive reputation Safe Air earned over the years. Read notes that
he is in negotiation with a number of key Safe Air personnel but
had no concrete announcements as to who (if any) may be coming to
Lyons as part of the sale.
In the meantime, there is yet another aeronautical changing of
the guard to complete. "The fine folks at Safe Air were (some) of
the best customer service professionals in the business,"
noted one Aeronca rebuilder. "Joe (Bolinger) and Dan (Schumaker) at
Safe Air knew our aircraft inside and out and could help with
suggestions in order to save us some money and decide which part
would be a better fit."
ANN will be following up on this story in the near future...