Spend any time at Aircraft and Avionics Sales in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, and it's obvious that the gentlemen working there have an immense wealth of experience. Father and son, Paul Haubert and Wayne Haubert, started the FAA-certified Part 145 repair station just six years ago. But, previously, they operated an FBO, rebuilt and sold like-new aircraft, and manufactured slide-in tray adapters for avionics.
Throughout the years, Wayne Haubert also worked for Lockheed on the space shuttle program at Cape Kennedy as well as served as an avionics technician and manager for several aviation companies.
Their avionics repair station came about almost accidentally. When the FBO at Capital City Airport where Wayne worked as avionics manager closed in 2009, he teamed with Paul to start one of their own.
"We purchased the existing repair station certificate, but it was only good for performing pitot-static checks," explained Paul Haubert, who has nearly 50 years experience in aviation, including serving in the U.S. Air Force as a crew chief and working as an avionics technician and maintenance manager at several well-known aviation companies. "We built some of our own test panels and test harnesses, and purchased others, bought test equipment, and added to the repair station certificate to provide us with the capabilities we needed. We began repairing radios and doing avionics installations."
The family business also includes a third generation with grandson Jacob McLaughlin and grandaughter Kelsey McCauley handling shipping and receiving. Technician Travis Rife rounds out the five-person shop.
"Shortly after opening, we hired Travis as our inspector and technician, who had worked with me at the other avionics shop," said Wayne Haubert. "He is exceptional, especially at troubleshooting and bench repairs."
Today, Aircraft and Avionics Sales performs inspections, repairs and installations on single-engine, twin-engine, turboprop and rotary aircraft. The company is an authorized dealer for Garmin, Genesys Aerosystems, S-TEC, Aspen Avionics, FreeFlight Systems, PS Engineering and JPI instruments. It also specializes in repairing Narco radios, which helps keep the technicians busy year-round.
"It used to be that every radio shop could repair Narco radios," said Paul Haubert. "Years ago, most of the avionics shops stopped repairing the radios and discarded their maintenance manuals. But today, we're one of the few companies in the United States that has the original manuals and are able to repair Narco radios.
"We saw a need developing. We researched the regulations regarding replacement parts and set up a meeting with our PAI to discuss our findings. He agreed that what we wanted to do was within the limits of the FARs, and also made some other suggestions that allowed us to go further.
"Today, we get radios sent to us not just from all over the United States, but worldwide. We have radios sitting here on the shelf to be repaired all the time. We can't keep up with them. That's very good because it gives us additional work to do between installations."
Aircraft and Avionics Sales also specializes in avionics installations in addition to repairing radios at the component level.
"Being able to repair our customer's radio is usually a more cost-effective way to keep him flying," said Paul Haubert. "Nothing seems more unjust than having to replace an entire module because we are not permitted to replace a $2 part."
In addition to fixed-wing aircraft, Aircraft and Avionics Sales provides services for helicopter operators. The repair station's customers include Pennsylvania state agencies as well as companies that check high-tension power lines and spray crops.
The service center is a Class 1 and 2 repair station with limited Class 3 radio, limited electronic, limited gyroscopic instrument, and limited airframe capabilities. Although Narco radios take up a great deal of their time, the technicians also handle a lot of Garmin, S-TEC, and Aspen installations, too, according to Paul Haubert.
"I first started working on tube radios," he said. "They didn't have transistors. The first radio was called a coffee grinder because the transmitter was crystal-controlled. Tuning the receiver was like tuning a radio. It was actually called whistle-stop tuning. You selected the transmitter to say 119.50 megahertz and cranked the receiver until you heard an audio sound like 'errr, err.' The down part of that sound meant it was tuned.
"Of course, today, the avionics are incredibly sophisticated. Manufacturers like Garmin are coming out with some great stuff. We see training as very important to keep up with it all. Our technicians use the AEA's online training all of the time. We've been an AEA Avionics Training Excellence Award recipient since the shop began."