Aero Instruments and Avionics
flying on the best solutions
With a view to excellence, Aero Instruments and Avionics takes off
Providing superior quality services to the aviation market for more than half a century, Aero Instruments and Avionics has a corner on the market. The company has earned its leading position, renowned throughout the high-flying world of aviation for top-quality precision repair services for Avionic and instruments.
We recently spoke with Anthony Imparato, Connie Schaeffer, and Kevin Vail, respectively the company’s Chief Operating Officer; Secretary on the Board of Directors; and Board Chairman.
As Schaeffer reveals, Jack and Rose Blickenstaff created the company in 1968, working out of a small facility at Niagara Falls International Airport.
By 1983, the company expanded into a much larger location in Tonawanda, N.Y. It earned a reputation for unparalleled quality in technical expertise and customer service. Two years ago, Aero moved into a state-of-the-art facility in Depew, N.Y.
Today, the Aero business is booming with an annual business of some $28 million, according to Vail.
Schaeffer says the company opted for an ESOP (employee stock option plan): all the rage these days in the business world. Some 20 years ago, the Blickenstaffs were looking to retire in Florida, and Aero was advertised for sale.
The couple realized that most all of the viable buyers wanted to move the company out of state. They were concerned for the future of the loyal employees who had helped them to grow and maintain their business over the years.
Mr. Blickenstaff began exploring the idea of an ESOP, and he eventually decided that this was the best option for everyone concerned. Thus in 2005, Aero Instruments became an ESOP company. It is totally ESOP-owned, and it is no longer even leveraged, as Schaeffer informs.
“ESOP shares are undoubtedly a huge perk to employee shareholders,” she adds. “Some of the areas that set us apart are that each year everyone in the company strives to bring that share value up, and it has increased from a low of $64 per share about six years ago under previous management to $528.40 this year. As part of new employee onboarding, we explain the benefits of the ESOP, and we have a successful “Ideas Program “engaging everyone to suggest improvements. In addition, Anthony conducts a state-of-the-company presentation with the employees.”
Vail informs that the company does business with all major airlines.
“We advertise in all the aviation magazines and conferences,” he adds, continuing, “The true advertisement of Aero Instruments is that it’s a 55-year-old company and the reputation that this company has built in the industry over the years is just the best.”
“Aero offers value added to our customers,” he says.
“That’s what sets us apart. Today most shops will do a particular item and service the item, and then they ship it back to the customer. However, we take it to another level, and Aero has been known for that. One key point is our adaptability to what the customer needs, and then we also offer value-added. This is a necessary thing today, we believe. It’s in our policy and in our culture.”
Imparato says the company is known for its problem-solving abilities.
Schaeffer returns to the topic of the ESOP and its structure.
“The ESOP has a twofold effect on us,” she says. “Most everyone is pleased and grateful to receive shares every year. We distribute shares every year, and those who are 65 and older can start withdrawing from their accounts. Those 55 and older can start diversifying from their ESOP shares to other investments. We have a mixed bag of age groups within our company, so I would say those from about 40 to 65 are involved, and appreciate the value of having ESOP shares. It’s a little bit too far for the younger folk to appreciate them as much.”
She adds that when you’re 25 or 30, you’re 35 years away from realizing any of the profit coming out of an ESOP. “It’s a little abstract for them,” says Schaeffer, “so we engage them with the help of our Trustee, Kim Serbin of TI Trust.”
Additionally, when new Aero workers come in, they’re offered the 401K program. They’re also offered eight paid holidays, health, dental, vision, life insurance, and tuition reimbursement. A wellness program, consisting of exercise and Internet-based seminars for fitness information, is also offered.
Some workers have four 10-hour days, and there’s also a second shift available. The appeal of an ESOP is quite attractive these days, as Schaeffer notes.
“When they see their wealth increasing every year, it becomes another reason for employees to really engage,” she says.
In addition, we rely on Steven Greenapple, of Stevens and Lee as our ESOP legal counsel to ensure that we comply with ERISA regulations and all other legal matters.
“One of the other areas is our focus on safety. As far as our (computerized) security goes, we have an excellent business partner with MVP Network Consulting,located in Buffalo.” She credits MVP Ben LaMonte and his team for their protection of the company’s computer-related matters, such as servers, telephones, data, and email accounts.
Schaeffer also cites the company’s competitive wages and excellent benefits.
“We’ve estimated that our benefits package is better than 98 percent of the aviation companies in the country,” she adds.
Further, Schaeffer cites the company’s green initiatives, such as recycling and LED lights. As a forward-thinking company, Aero believes in the importance of such efforts.
Overcoming supply chain problems
Imparato notes how Aero’s supply chain has been affected over the past three years.
“It’s been improved, but we are not fully all the way yet,” he says, citing the Honeywell International conglomerate, the French-based Thales company, and other such entities.
Imparato notes that Aero is very choosy when it comes to selecting suppliers. It maintains the highest criteria for these important decisions. Being a regulated company and one that must abide by the rules of the Federal Aviation Administration, a very strict quality policy is in place, and all suppliers are put through this, as Imparato emphasizes.
Conducting business with the right type of suppliers is paramount. Dun & Bradstreet (the American data and analytics company that helps businesses by providing them with relevant information), the United States Departments of Customs and Border Control, and other such entities help Aero when it comes to making these choices for just the right suppliers.
“We run them through to make sure that they meet our criteria, they’re supportive, and that they have good performance,” says Imparato.
He adds that having the right inventory on hand at the right time is another critical aspect of Aero’s business model. Most of all, says Imparato, it’s a commitment to top-notch customer service that makes Aero Instruments and Avionics what it is.
“We’re known for our quality, our adaptability, and our abilities in supporting our customers,” he says, “so that’s a plus. We’re fortunate. We put a lot of time and effort into it, and this is part of our culture and vision that every employee shares within the company.”
Aero, he adds, wants to be the top repair supplier to its customers, and their efforts are paying off.
Last year, the company earned four awards. This was of course a team effort, says Imparato, with victory coming from everyone, from the board of directors to the management teams to the employees themselves. A large cargo operator recognized Aero with the Top Repair Supplier and Most Improved Repair Shop awards.
“We’re very proud of that,” Imparato declared, “and I can tell you: the competition is really, really high.”
Also last year, Atlas Air awarded Aero with its Component Repair Supplier of the Year award. Aero earned the MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) 145 Top Repair Shop award in the avionics and instruments category as well for 2022.
“That’s one of the things that I’m really proud of,” says Imparato, “that we’ve won that award for seven consecutive years. That just goes to show you the type of people we have and the type of culture we have in the company to do this.”
The future looks very bright for Aero Instruments and Avionics.
Vail says one big goal is to grow the company by a great leap: twofold at a minimum within the next four years. Vail adds that he, Imparato, Schaeffer, and their fellow colleagues are constantly looking at what Aero’s new capabilities, even beyond instruments and avionics, are going to be.
“It’s all very doable!” he declares.
AT A GLANCE
Aero Instruments and Avionics, Inc.
What: A leading company renowned for providing or top-quality precision repair services for Avionic and instruments for over 50 years
Where: Depew, N.Y.
Freed Maxick – FREEDMAXICK.COM
Freed Maxick, a leading advisory firm, partners with public and private companies across the US to optimize profitability, reduce risk, and enhance accountability. Our expert professionals offer a diverse range of services, supported by extensive industry experience. We maintain local decision-making while providing nationwide reach, ensuring exceptional service that matches market standards.
MVP Network Consulting LLC – www.mvpworks.com
MVP Network Consulting is Western New York’s premier IT Managed Service Provider offering top-tier security and network management services for local businesses. Since its establishment in 2002, MVP has provided organizations with unparalleled cybersecurity protection and proactive issue prevention solidifying their reputation as industry leaders. For more information, visit www.mvpnetworkconsulting.com.