A SEASON FOR EVERYTHING – INCLUDING AVIATION
It was recently announced that my old company, Associated Air Center (AAC), will be closing at the end of this year. It is sad to see a seventy year old company go away. Unfortunately, there are several other businesses that you and I can also recall shutting down in a number of other industries.
I was the President and General Manager at AAC from 1979 until 1991. Several people have recently asked me what I thought about AAC closing. While I was there we grew from one hangar to three. We had about eighty employees when I started and had, as I recall, about four hundred when I left. After I left AAC to start the KING AEROSPACE Companies, AAC was sold a couple of times.
The first and foremost thought that comes to my mind when I think of AAC’s closing is to wonder what will happen to the approximately two hundred AAC employees and their families. I wonder where all of the talented people who worked hard to customize and maintain countless large custom aircraft will find new jobs in a slow market. I would hate to see the aviation industry lose the craftsmanship and tribal knowledge possessed by the people who worked at AAC. For me, the closing of AAC is like an old friend passing.
From a business perspective, it is very unfortunate that the leadership or ownership of AAC was not successful in determining how to make the company economically viable. There is real meaning in the saying that “if you’re not growing, you’re dying.” If you don’t reinvent yourself as markets, products and consumers change, you are on the wrong path. The Texan in me knows that if you don’t catch fish, then switch bait and techniques and if that still doesn’t work, then it’s time to go fishing in a different lake. If you still don’t catch fish then it might be time to go hunting for whatever you can eat, like rabbits, squirrels or anything else. Sometimes businesses become “perceptually frozen.” I think of businesses involving liquid paper, carbon paper and video rental — the list of examples are endless. I can clearly remember when our American auto industry was “perceptually frozen” in the early 1960’s and the words were “no one wants those foreign cars, the American people want lots of chrome and big tail fins.” Guess what? Someone was wrong.
At KING AEROSPACE, we have been blessed that we have quietly had over thirty-five Boeing sized aircraft in and out of our hangars in just a couple of years. We have and continue to grow our large aircraft team of technicians to fill the domestic gap in the industry with AAC’s departure. We have been strategically blessed that we are the only major modification company in the United States that is privately owned and managed that does paint, maintenance and interior refurbishment on large private and government VIP aircraft and supports special mission aircraft. What caused AAC to grow on my watch was personalized service and engaged ownership. When I was there, we delivered aircraft on time and worked as a partner with the aircraft owners and those who oversaw the projects. The same entrepreneurial spirit that I used to facilitate growth at AAC is what is in place at KING AEROSPACE. Oftentimes, privately owned companies are sold to people whose sole focus is return on investment. The entrepreneurial or sense of customer commitment changes. Sometimes it changes just a little, but most of the time it changes a whole lot. Earnings and growth then become goals and the elements of a servant leadership environment are forgotten. That might be good for the shareholders but it is not good for me.
I strive to use some specific guidelines in the operation of KING AEROSPACE. One is from a book entitled “How to Run Your Business by the Book (The Bible).” Another book that I use to question our business approach is “The Leadership Lessons of Jesus.” It is my opinion that these principles and concepts don’t change with time. I often remind myself of the words of one of my favorite passages to help keep all things in perspective.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to week, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
When I think about my time at AAC, I think about all of the hours that I worked over my ten years at AAC and hope they had a good purpose. I recall the holiday meals that my wife, Barbara, brought to the hangar for me and our employees because we were at work pushing an aircraft to ensure we made our scheduled delivery. I think about the many nights that I ended up sleeping in my office at AAC so that I would be present to support our efforts. I think about the many good people who have passed through the doors of AAC that shared in the commitment to deliver safe and beautiful projects. It is my prayer that the AAC facilities that were originally the American Airlines and Delta Airlines facilities at Love Field prior to the opening of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are put to good use to honor the many aviators who once walked on those very same hangar floors. I’ll never forget that it was at AAC where I began my aviation career almost forty years ago and that I had two different wedding receptions in the Associated Terminal Building (the former Sky Chef kitchen facility)!
Attached are two articles that recently appeared in the Aviation Week/ShowNews Magazine for your review.
Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.