Path Home Shows 2017 Show Archive March 2017 Show 1710 High Flying Enid

High Flying Enid

Enid has a rich aviation legacy from Clyde Cessna to Vance Air Force Base -- and Aircraft Structures International, which has found an industry niche.
High Flying Enid

High Flying Enid

For more information visit these links:

ASIC

Autry Technology Center

Mid-Del Technology Center

CareerTech

City of Enid Oklahoma

Enid Regional Development Alliance

Vance Air Force Base

Show Details

Show 1710: High Flying Enid
Air Date: March 5, 2017

 

Transcript

Rob McClendon: Well, Enid, Oklahoma, has long had its eye on the sky. Clyde Cessna, founder of Cessna Aircraft was born in Enid and test flew his first airplanes over the Great Salt Plains. Enid native astronaut Owen K. Garriot spent two months orbiting the earth during the Skylab Three mission in 1973, while today, one-third of all the Air Force pilots get their training at Enid’s Vance Air Force Base, which is also a major employer for the area. And it’s an aviation legacy that extends to industry. Austin Moore takes us inside Aircraft Structures International.

Austin Moore: Accidents happen [car crash sounds], and when they do, we find the nearest body shop. That’s all well and good if you drive a Chevy or a Ford, but when your vehicle of choice is a Cessna Caravan, there is a shop here in Oklahoma that services the world.

Scott Bengtson: The one we’re standing in front of what was originally an airplane in Colombia in the military. The other one behind us over here was from Indonesia; it crashed on the side of a mountain, and we had a crew that we sent over, and it literally was helicoptered off the side of the mountain. They had to recover it that way because there was no roads to where this airplane was from.

Austin: Scott Bengtson manages Aircraft Structures International, an Enid company where they specialize in rebuilding this aviation workhorse.

Bengtson: We’re one of the unique places in the world. The factory builds them up in Wichita, they’ve the tooling, but we’re about the only other place in the world that you can get this kind of level of work done.

Austin: Owner Mickey Stowers says his company has found a niche in the aircraft industry.

Mickey Stowers: We deal exclusively with that one airplane. The first one came out in 1985, and they’re still in production today. There’s roughly 3,000 of ‘em. They produce about 100 a year. And we do everything with this aircraft. You give us a data plate and we can build an airplane.

Austin: That ability means even during a recession, this company stays aloft.

Bengtson: Airplanes are workhorses, so they’re not parking them when the financial crunch hits. They just keep working. So we found a niche, and we’re sticking with it.

Austin: But that steady supply of work demands a steady workforce.

Kyle Hockmeyer: Enid is a great town, but unless you have been here and know a lot about it, from the outside looking in, the perception is its small town America.

Austin: Posing a challenge to finding and keeping skilled employees.

Stowers: We’ve found in the past, when we bring somebody in and they’re not local, they might stay here, and they find a better opportunity somewhere else, and they’re gone. If they’re local, they don’t want to go anywhere; they stay here. So it’s a stable workforce.

Austin: Yet the work done here is unique and requires special skills. So the company approached Autry Technology Center. Partnering with Mid-Del Tech, they built a program to homegrow workers for this homegrown company. Autry Technology Center’s Kyle Hockmeyer.

Hockmeyer: Giving them a trade or a skill and not only just giving them that skill but actually helping them be placed into the job, which helps the company expand. So it’s full circle of what we’re trying to do, and it all comes together in this one program.

Austin: Instructor Bill Hersey takes his students through every rivet of the aircraft.

Bill Hersey: They know where it goes and why, not just, well, just do it that way because I told you to do it. This way they actually see where it fits on. The product they’re making, they’re gonna install it also.

Stowers: We’ve furnished an airframe which will never fly again, and they’re drilling it apart and putting it back together several times so that when these, they finish with their course, hopefully we can put ’em right to work here.

Austin: Student Devon Grubb appreciates the security of this program.

Devon Grubb: There is good benefits and good people. They’ve got good staff here so everyone’s pretty friendly even though we’re just new people.

Austin: That’s a point of pride for co-owner Kay Stowers.

Kay Stowers: There’s opportunities for people here. That they, you know, they need the opportunity to have a good career and not just a job. And that’s what we work really hard to make sure that they have a good career.

Austin: A partnership looking to help students, an employer and the local economy all take flight.