up up and away
Aerospace and Aviation
Story and photography by Kathryn R. Burke
[50th Anniversary Publication] In 1993, Al Head, and David Leis came together along with two additional partners to create a piston aircraft engine shop—Western Skyways. The company’s first location was in the Stryker Industrial Park on North Townsend, not a likely place for an aviation business. It wasn’t long before they outgrew their 4,000 square foot facility.
With encouragement from MEDC’s Joe Whitley, Steve Glasmann, and Steve Savoy, the partners wound up knocking on MEDC’s door. Soon they were the second tenant in the Aerospace Research Park. “The lot we are on was slated for a bigger operation,” Head says, “but we took it and soon grew into it. It was a dream come true!”
Western Skyways, which employs 79 people, continues to grow, with a piston engine shop at their main location and a turbine engine shop in space rented from JetAway Aviation in an adjacent building.
Why two locations? “Piston and turbine engines don’t mix,” Head says. “The mechanics don’t run in the same channels, so we keep them in separate buildings.” Over the years it has been recognized that the customer base has changed to turbine powered aircraft. This created an incentive incentive was created to advance and expand into a turbine engine repair shop. They purchased the assets of an existing shop in Georgia and relocated it to Montrose.
Both shops in the Aerospace Research Park are well situated, with enclosed hangar space and runway access. Mechanics can work inside or out, and clients have fly-in fly-out access if they need it. “Planes come in from all over the country, even around the world, for repairs,” notes company president, Head, who along with David Leis, VP of Sales is one of the two remaining partners of the original four.
JetAway, which currently rents space to house the turbine shop, was originally built by Scaled Technology Works (see related story). The company closed the facility in January 2003 and it sat empty until November 2004 before Steve Stuhmer purchased it with the intent of putting a resort condo community for pilots on the site. At this time his plans are still pending. Currently MEDC has two lots left at the park, all with prime runway frontage and good highway access.
Top left: Engine undergoing repair at Western Skyways turbine shop.
Right: Master Mechanic Melanie Medina, a graduate of Montrose High School’s School to Career program works on engine in Western Skyways ‘prop shop”.
MEDC photos by Kathryn R. Burke.
This article appeared in the Montrose Economic Development Corporation, 50th Anniversary Publication, 2007, which we published for them. During that time, I had an office in the MEDC headquarters, so my staff and I could work closely with Sandy Head, MEDC Executive Director.