Being a hands on thing running an aviation business, we haven't had as much time to blog and update social media as we had hoped. The focus on out business for 2016 was to shift from parting out and brokering aircraft. After accumulating 3,000 aircraft parts the real task was properly organising and marketing the parts stock. We sourced an additional 1000sq ft external facility to store wings on custom made racks, and flight control surfaces on trolleys with castors. These bulky parts along with the cowlings & doors leaving the hangar left a lot more space to work. A large number of bulk storage shelves were bought from Duffy’s in Ballydangan and we arranged these in rows, and built a loft overhead for out own stores. We still have 4 aircraft ahead of us to part out so there is a lot if work in hand. Our parts listenings are largely on our online store with about 400 parts awaiting photography and online listing. The trade databases we use, Partsbase & Stockmarket.aero are all updated each fortnight. Strong parts sales at the start of the year were welcome with an engine gone to Reno, PA38 wings to the UK being the bulky ones. We have great transport links and a local joiner who can custom make awkward boxes for shipping. There was a steady stream of fairings, avionics and trim pieces leaving by courier also.
The focus on brokerage in previous years paid dividends in establishing a brand. It became time to leverage that and the vast range of contacts we have to trade more on our own account. We were pleased to move along a couple of Cessna 172’s, Baron, Twin Comanche, Roko Aero, Cessna Aerobat Project, Socata TB9, Sonnerai, Piper J3 project, Rallye, Luscome 8E, Cessna 150. There are a couple more sale agreed, but one change we needed to make was to increase the amount of deposit held via our online store to prevent false starts. The deposit amount is now €1,000 (or 10% in certain cases) and it holds the aircraft for 14 days to allow a pre purchase inspection to take place and a final price negotiated. Deposits are non refundable in all cases, and the deposit removes the aircraft from the market. The core sales activity has moved from Abbeyshrule Airfield to Birr Airfield. This is a logical fit, as its equidistant from our office space in the MIRC building from Athlone to both Birr Airfield and Milltownpass Airfield. Birr Airfield is the home of the Ormand Flying Club who offer both Group A training in a Reims Cessna 172M (sourced through WF Aviation) and microlight training on the Eurostar. The move to Birr Airfield gave us 2500q ft of aircraft hangarage, which will keep 4 aircraft of our own stock ready for sale in a showroom environment. The facilities at Birr are great with a nice tarmac apron, new grass runway, fuel and a great club house. Wifi, toilets, flight planning room and a great club feel to the place make the move a welcome one. Plans are to hang signage and branding in the hangar, along with painting the floor which should make for a smart appearance for our customers. It’s a series of small steps but we are getting closer to where the business needs to be. Progress has been largely self financing, no debt and the overall objective was to have a good living doing exactly what we love doing. The motives are a lot more genuine than corporate here, as we never planning to be world leader by volume in the parts business or the aircraft sales business. It might be nice to have Discovery TV series made about us, but it there are different ways in which we plan to measure out success. Things like;
Do all the above make WF Aviation a lifestyle business? Perhaps - but it’s not all blue skies. Progress still takes early starts, late home and many miles down a long road.
Many of us like to save money, when we have the time and opportunity to do so. Airplane ownership costs can be effectively reduced by several maintenances that you can do yourself, and these are listed in an aircraft's service manual. If you are mechanically inclined and looking to keep your plane in good running order while learning more about and understanding your plane's inner workings, doing the upkeep yourself will help.
We don't just spend all day selling aircraft, it is rare that a day goes by when we don’t consider buying something either for resale or to part out. We’ll leave the parting out side of things to the experts, and just consider potential flying aircraft here. So armed with a torch and a Phillips No. 2 screwdriver we set off to look at two Cessna 172’s last week and bought the less obvious one of the pair.
You could look at all the Beechcraft, Piper, Cirrus and Grumman Aircraft but still come back to the Cessna 172 as the one airplane that does more things better than any other, for the average PPL. The 172 range encompasses everything from the straight tail 6 cylinder classics to the 180hp Lycoming glass cockpit version you can still buy fresh from the factory.
I am biased on this topic, so I need to put my objective hat on for this one. Most PPL training is done on Cessna 152’s, Piper PA28/38 or if you are lucky enough some of the new generation Rotax powered aircraft. GPS will not have been a big feature of your training, and your dead reckoning skills will be at an all time peak.
WF Aviation has struggled on the “buy side” with other brokers in the business who simply were not up to snuff with the technical aspects of aircraft sales. There are so many issues like Airworthiness Directives, VAT, CAMO Contracts, Airworthiness Limitations and so on that require you to have owned, operated and maintained aircraft to really understand them fully.