By Bradley J. Fikes
Mid-Continent Instruments, an avionics repair company, opened its Van Nuys office 11 years ago with 1,500 square feet, and has repeatedly outgrown its space.
After its most recent move to facilities on Stagg Street, the facility uses 15,000 square feet to house a constantly growing staff that now numbers 26.
Handling this rapid growth and day-to-day challenges is the responsibility of Matt Fowle, the facility’s manager, who has guided the branch since its inception in 1991.
“I started it by myself and just started adding people,” Fowle said of the branch of Wichita, Kansas-based Mid-Continent.
The Van Nuys presence brings Mid-Continent a local presence to one of the country’s biggest aviation markets.
“This is the busiest general aviation airport in the world,” Fowle said of Van Nuys.
Being in the Pacific Time Zone is advantageous to doing world business, Fowle said, and the Van Nuys location functions well as a global hub.
Ticking off his daily routine, Fowle said he can deal with Europe first thing in the morning, and then talk to someone on the East Coast and in the Midwest and finally this time zone.
“Later on, it’s Hawaii and I deal a lot with Australia. It works pretty well,” he said.
Although the office officially opens at 8 a.m., Fowle arrives an hour earlier, makes the coffee and begins taking and receiving calls.
Fowle got into aviation working at an FBO while in Portland, Ore. After getting a degree in electronics, he decided to make his career in avionics—a natural choice since his father worked for United Airlines and his brother was a fighter pilot.
Fowle worked at an airport instrument shop before being laid off due to an ownership change, and then moved to San Diego in the 1980s.
“I got a job at the only instrument shop there, out at Gillespie,” he said.
Fowle later moved on to McClellan-Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, where he was hired to run the instrument shop at Air Resorts Airlines.
While working in Carlsbad, he got acquainted with Mid-Continent as a customer. He impressed company management, which hired him, along with some trusted colleagues, to set up Mid-Continent’s West Coast operations.
Originally, Mid-Continent planned to open its West Coast base in Santa Monica, but it didn’t work out because of the city’s politics, which frowns on growth. Van Nuys proved to be a much better fit, although the facility has had to search for new locations near the airport, as more space was needed.
Mid-Continent gets good marks for its work, including praise on the website of Santa Maria-based Avionics West (www.avionicswest.com), from a customer who had received a horizon indicator from an unnamed avionics shop. The unit was an exchange while the original unit was being overhauled. However, the exchange unit promptly failed.
Avionics West was called in to figure out what had gone wrong. A big clue: the hoses attached to the unit were found to be badly crumbling.
“As we removed the failed horizon indicator, it was obvious to Dave, our tech, that these hoses had to go,” wrote owner Tom Rogers. He added that the other avionics shop had noticed the hoses’ bad condition.
“What amazes me is the shop didn’t even think to change the hoses or look at the condition inside the hoses,” Rogers said. “It stands to reason that if the outside is flaking the rubber, chances are the insides are doing the same.”
Mid-Continent stepped in, and repaired the horizon indicator.
“I’ve found throughout the years, it pays to deal with reputable vendors such as Mid-Continent,” Rogers wrote.