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When William Hurt hears that the aviation industry has grown to a $4 trillion-a-year business and jet sales have risen by 20%, he can’t help but smile. “After all, when more airplanes are being purchased, it means more business for us,” says Hurt, owner of Airborne Innovation Technologies (AIT).
Launched in 1995, AIT specializes in customizing and refurbishing private and commercial plane interiors. The 15-employee firm provides services ranging from basic carpet installation and seat belt repair to the more elaborate gold faucet placements. Revenues in 1997 were $2 million.
Hurt, 30, served four years in the Air Force before entering the airline industry. In 1989, he joined Page Avjet, then one of the country’s largest aviation refurbishment companies, as an interior supervisor. But when the company closed in 1994, Hurt parlayed his skills into a consultant position working with former Page Avjet clients to refurbish aircraft.
In 1995, after six months of research and courting potential clients, Hurt used $30,000 in personal savings to launch AIT. The company’s first project was to refurbish a private Kuwaiti jet. Next came jobs for Continental, Scandinavian and Midway airlines as well as business tycoon Donald Trump.
AIT is also the Southeast interior mechanic for Cessna, an airplane manufacturer. This deal brings in three planes a month to AlT’s 30,000-sq.-ft. hangar in Orlando, Florida. AIT also works on two $60 million Kuwaiti planes twice a year.
Hurt is selective about the types of planes AIT refurbishes. Many are higher-valued aircraft, but no matter the cost of the plane, Hurt says the workload remains the same. “It takes the same amount of time to work on a $600,000 plane as it does a $30 million aircraft.”
AIT has a reputation for completing jobs on time, but while promptness attracts more work, Hurt says he does not want to grow too quickly. “That’s what happened to Page; they got too much business and started to do projects behind schedule and over budget,” he says. “I don’t want to get that busy. I always want them to be able to call me personally, so we don’t overbook. When we book someone in a slot, that’s their slot.”
Alan Schmitz, director of maintenance at G-Tech Corp., a lottery systems company in Warwick, Rhode Island, says he is impressed with AIT. Hurt did a complete overhaul of one of his company’s planes. “Their workmanship is impeccable and the prices unbelievable,” says Schmitz.
Schmitz says he was also pleased by how accommodating AIT can be. He recalls that when G-Tech staffers picked an unsuitable color for seating, Hurt and his crew were flexible and redid the seating at minimal cost.
Fred Cornicelli, maintenance manager for New World Jet, which manages corporate and private jets in Ronkonkoma, New York, enjoys AIT’s personalized attention. “AIT was subcontracted by another firm hired for a $400,000 upgrade, and we were so satisfied with the work that we used their services,” says Cornicelli. “They go the extra mile to make sure everything is correct, and they work within your schedule,” says Cornicelli.