Archive for Saturday, April 24, 2004

Aviation company lands deal

April 24, 2004

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A Lawrence-based aviation company that was nearly devastated by the slowdown after 9-11 has received a new contract to ship airplanes to Great Britain.

Ron Renz, managing partner of GUT Works, confirmed in early April that the company based at Lawrence Municipal Airport had landed a one-year deal with Aviat Aircraft, U.K.

As part of the deal, GUT Works employees travel to Afton, Wyo., the site of a manufacturing plant for Aviat Aircraft, and fly the planes to the Lawrence airport.

GUT Works employees then will dismantle each plane, which had to be flown to meet Federal Aviation Administration requirements, and pack it into a 40-foot cargo container to be shipped to Britain.

The distributor in Britain will reassemble the planes to be sold in England and eventually throughout Europe.

Renz said he was optimistic that the contract, which he expected would be extended beyond its one-year term, would boost his company's business.

"It is not a huge deal, but it is a nice deal," Renz said. "It is allowing our business to diversify, and that is always a good thing."

Terms of the deal weren't disclosed. Renz said the contract wasn't big enough to increase his work force of six employees.

GUT Works specializes in designing and building prototype aircraft for other aviation companies. In September 2001, the company was set to launch a new venture: manufacturing and selling a kit plane for a replica World War II P-51D Mustang.

The company was scheduled to launch its product at an air show on Sept. 11, 2001.

"September 11 was basically an off switch for the aviation industry," Renz said. "9-11 didn't cause aviation to go into a slump. It caused it to turn off."

The company eventually scrapped plans to manufacture the Mustang kits, but it does assemble the kit planes for customers.

Renz said his company was beginning to see a turnaround.

"We're still here," Renz said. "We're still paying our bills and we actually turned a bit of a profit last year. I figure if I can make it through that stretch, I can make it through anything."

Renz said he was excited about entering the international market by partnering with the British company. He said the timing might be right because a weak U.S. dollar has made it cheaper for Europeans to buy big-ticket American items, like airplanes.

He said he was hoping sales would be strong enough in Britain and Europe that the Lawrence company would ship at least one plane per month.

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