Well-established customers of the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in eastern Ohio probably would agree with the adage that “The only constant is change.” What has changed is the FBO on the field, which has been in continuous operation since the airport opened in 1941. It began as Youngstown Airways, soon to become Beckett Aviation, named after founder Forest Beckett. Then, in 1985, it became Aero Services, and in 1995 Winner Aviation, which it remains to this day. “We’ve been around for a long time,” says Winner’s President, Neil Gallagher.
One thing that has remained unchanged at Winner Aviation is its full-service capability. Back in the day Youngstown Airways, like FBOs at every airport, offered one-stop shopping for just about every product and service involving aircraft and aviation. It’s not that different today at Winner. Gallagher goes through the list: Fuel provider, ground handling, maintenance repair organization, parts retailer, aircraft management and charter, avionics sales and service, engine shop, and factory-authorized service center for a variety of manufacturers including Twin Commander Aircraft.
“Not everyone offers all the services we provide. I’ve been in the industry a long time, and you don’t often see that today. It can be a challenge focusing on all of that, but we do it very well.”
Winner has a “very capable maintenance shop,” Gallagher says, “and an extremely capable Twin Commander shop. They are very well versed.”
One of Winner’s predecessors, Beckett Aviation, became a factory-authorized Aero Commander service center and an AiResearch (now Honeywell) engine major service center in the mid-1960s, so it rings true when Gallagher says that “There is more tribal knowledge here on Twin Commanders than at most shops.
“Our maintenance shop cut their teeth on the airplane,” he says. “The thing I like is how flexible they are. They set the standard on thinking outside the box, and they provide some pretty valuable feedback to the Twin Commander community.”
It’s not unusual to find a technician in Winner’s shop who has 25 years or more experience at the company. The most senior employee was Ron Butler, who ran Winner’s Honeywell engine shop for more than 40 years. Butler retired recently, but still comes in occasionally to help catch up during high-volume periods. Tom “Woody” Hudak, the next most experienced and knowledgeable person in the engine shop, succeeded Butler.
Gallagher, who has both a maintenance and pilot background, says that aircraft technicians “typically specialize in one area of expertise. When I came here I was surprised at how they did not behave that way. Whatever needs to be done gets done. One day they are working on an engine removal and replacement, and the next day it’s avionics support or a landing gear inspection, hydraulics work, whatever. And when we get to those stumbling blocks, the unforeseen, these folks come up with some amazing workarounds—how to get the job done.”
Whereas Winner Aviation’s Chairman and CEO, Rick Hale, is “forward thinking, looking for the next big opportunity,” Gallagher is more narrowly focused on growing Winner Aviation. “As of recently we’ve done some soul-searching on who we want to be when we grow up,” he says. “That’s funny to say because we’ve been in business for so long but it’s exciting to see the opportunities that lay in front of us.”
For more information, see Winner Aviation’s website at www.winner-aviation.com.