Helicopter company operating multimillion dollar dealership at Lawrence airport, has plans to grow employees, facilities

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Chad Decker, president of Eurotek Vertical Flight Solutions, stands in the new conference room of the company's Lawrence facility at the Lawrence Municipal Airport. The conference room table is made from part an airplane wing, and the company's helicopter showroom is visible in the background.

Lawrence is a town that likes to go round and round about lots of things, so maybe it is appropriate that it is gaining a national reputation for the ultimate whirling machine — helicopters.

While locals may picture airplanes when they think of the Lawrence Municipal Airport, the airfield in North Lawrence actually may have more of a national — or even international reputation — for helicopters.

The reason why is simple: Unbeknownst to many locals, the Lawrence airport is home to a multimillion dollar helicopter dealership. And soon, it may be a lot more visible as expansion plans are being discussed.

Eudora-based Eurotec Vertical Flight Solutions has long rented hangar space at the city-owned airport to do some maintenance work on helicopters. But as I reported back in November of 2019, the company signed a deal to purchase a hangar owned by longtime local aviation entrepreneur Al Stuber.

At the time, it wasn’t real clear what the company would do with that hangar, but it is now. The hangar basically has become a showroom for helicopters that are for sale. With a price tag for a used helicopter often in the $1 million to $5 million range, this isn’t like a trip to the used car lot, and it shows in the business’ clientele. Their customers often arrive in jets that land at the Lawrence Municipal Airport and then the potential buyers walk the few yards over to the hangar/showroom.

“We’ve already had customers in from Japan this year,” Tina Decker, who owns the business with husband Chad Decker, said. “And they stay. One client stayed at The Eldridge for a week.”

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Chad and Tina Decker look at wall of photos illustrating projects their company Eurotek Vertical Flight Solution has undertaken over the years.

Chad Decker started the business in their west Lawrence home in 2000. He’s a fixed-wing pilot who loves aviation. He particularly became fascinated with helicopters.

“I just love the way a helicopter works,” Chad Decker said.

And why wouldn’t you? They can fly vertically, they can fly backwards, they can hover, and as the world’s greatest detective (Hawaii’s Thomas Magnum, of course,) shows each week, they even can be useful in solving crimes.

“I just love the way a helicopter works,” Chad Decker said. “For the most part, helicopters are a tool. The vast majority of them are owned by companies.”

That is a bit different than airplanes, especially the smaller aircraft that you are likely to see at a regional airport like Lawrence’s. There are plenty of individuals who own airplanes as a hobby or as enthusiasts. That makes the fixed-wing aircraft market a bit volatile as a business. As disposable income drops, aircraft activity does too. That hasn’t been the case with helicopters, and it has been one of the faster growing segments of the aviation industry.

Chad Decker started out by being a broker for helicopter sales and gained a reputation as being one of the experts in valuation and financing of the machines. Then, customers wondered if he had advice on where they should maintain their helicopters, which have to be serviced at regular intervals in order to keep their certifications to fly.

Eurotec got into that servicing business several years ago, and the company continues to grow both on the sales and service side. When I was at the airport recently, it had 16 helicopters on site, and dozens of more partial helicopters.

That’s so many that they don’t all fit into the hangar the company recently bought. Eurotech, in addition to its showroom space, has completely filled another privately-owned hangar next door.

That’s where the expansion talk comes into play. Chad Decker confirmed he’s evaluating his options to build a new 50,000 square foot facility at the Lawrence Municipal Airport to house showroom, service shop space and corporate offices, which still are located in a Eudora office park along Kansas Highway 10.

He figures the quickest such a project could develop is in the next two years, but there will be a lot going on between now and then. The company currently has 22 employees — everything from FAA certified technicians to customer service representatives — but Chad Decker said he expects the company will be at about 30 to 35 employees by the end of the year.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Helicopters are lined up in the showroom facility of Eurotec Vertical Flight Solution as the Lawrence Municipal Airport.

There are multiple reasons for the growth, but Chad Decker credits the company’s location for part of it. There aren’t a lot of helicopter dealerships in the country, and being centrally located is helpful because it puts the business close to lots of clients.

“It has given us the opportunity to deal with clients who otherwise wouldn’t deal with us if we weren’t centrally located,” Chad Decker said. “Plus, Kansas is still essentially the aviation capital of the world. We have been able to harness some of the talent the industry has — everything from technicians to engineers.”

Lawrence actually has two helicopter dealers. Hetrick Air Services, the company that manages the airport for the city, is a licensed dealer for a smaller brand of helicopters.

Eurotec has dealt with a lot of different types of helicopters, and many of them get heavy duty use. When I was I at their shop, they were converting a former tour helicopter (think of Magnum’s friend T.C. and an island hopper helicopter business) into a medical air ambulance. They also equip helicopters for utility companies that need to inspect power lines, news companies that want an eye in the sky, and sometimes they just take an ordinary helicopter and turn it into a VIP machine, which basically is a flying limousine.

Perhaps one of the more interesting projects, though, is when the National Science Foundation came calling looking for two helicopters that could be used in research at Antartica. Eurotec basically had four months to equip the helicopter to survive the harsh arctic conditions. The helicopters ended up being a prominent part of the international researcher community that exists in Antartica.

“We were real proud to be part of that,” Chad Decker said. “They were essentially representing the United States, and they were really nice and everybody would ask, ‘where did you get those?'”

Whoever would have thought that Lawrence, Kan. would be the answer?

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Eurotek Vertical Flight Solution does a lot of fabrication for helicopters, and sometimes that work spill over the office. The table and chairs in the company’s Lawrence lobby are made from helicopter parts.

photo by: Chad Lawhorn/Journal-World photo

Helicopters that are being serviced and retrofitted, plus helicopter parts, occupy a full hangar at the Lawrence Municipal Airport, as Eurotek Vertical Flight Solutions is considering expanding at the airport.


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