Archive for Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Vinland airport manufactures parts

April 10, 2002

On the outside, it appears to be just a small country airport that houses a few privately owned planes.

But as the saying goes, looks can be deceiving.

McFarlane Aviation, located on the Vinland Valley Aerodrome in Vinland, actually manufactures replacement aircraft parts for small Cessna, Piper and Ag-Cat planes around the world.

"We started manufacturing parts in '89 and it's just kind of grown," said owner Dave McFarlane.

The Vinland airport was built by Delbert Chaney in the mid 1960s and focused on aerial application, flight instruction, aircraft rental and aircraft repair.

McFarlane bought the airport in 1979.

"This is kind of what we were looking for," he said. "A base to operate aerial application, flight instruction and aircraft rental and repair."

He said he quit aerial application in 1992 and also phased out the flight instruction and aircraft rental and turned his focus to parts manufacturing.

"We did that because of the profitability," he said. "Flight instruction and aircraft rental are only marginally profitable."

McFarlane said there was also a need for what he was manufacturing.

"We saw a need for improved replacement parts at a cheaper price," he said. "Aircraft are a durable product. Being a durable product, replacement parts are very important."

To further his operations, McFarlane converted the airport's maintenance facilities into a manufacturing plant.

Not only does McFarlane Aviation and its 18 employees manufacture parts, he said it is also constantly looking to improve and modernize those parts it manufactures.

He said his parts are shipped all over the world including South Africa, France, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and places in South America.

"We ship about $1.5 million a year worth of products," he said.

McFarlane Aviation still houses a few privately owned planes, provides fuel services and sees about 20 flights a week, but the focus is on the parts manufacturing.

His successfulness hasn't gone unnoticed. McFarlane Aviation received the 2000 Award of Merit from the Kansas Department of Commerce and Housing.

"It was a real honor they recognized us for achievement in southern Douglas County," McFarlane said. "Our area is not exactly known for being a manufacturing area."

Which is why he said most people in the area don't know what McFarlane Aviation does.

"We stay fairly well hidden out here," he said. "We feel we blend well with Vinland. It's a neat little spot in the world."

When McFarlane bought the airport more than 20 years ago, he said he would never have imagined he would have gotten into the manufacturing business.

"Our challenge at the time was just to provide maintenance," he said. "I had no idea we would go into doing what we're doing today."

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