Under the parent company of Top Aces USA and based at Williams Gateway Field in Mesa, Arizona, Advanced Training Systems International (ATSI) was established in 1997 to offer tactical aviation training and professional flight test services to the international aerospace industry. ATSI specializes in the training of aggressor service, maintenance, and flight training to fighter weapons school curricula and applications. Part of the ATSI fleet includes the Douglas A-4 Skyhawk, a single seat attack aircraft developed by the United States Navy and Marine Corps. In addition to playing key roles in the Vietnam War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Falklands War, the A-4 Skyhawk remains in service today with several air arms around the world including the Israeli and Argentine Air Forces. Nelson Engineering houses a robust FAA repair station with over 300 part numbers and completed some repair work for ATSI on several of their A-4 Skyhawk tailpipes–including flange removal and seam weld. We sat down with our own overhaul and repair supervisor Gib Donovan to pick his brain about the work that he does and the future of the aerospace industry.
Can you provide a little background information into your experience in the overhaul and repair industry?
I’ve been in manufacturing since 1977 and received my aircraft mechanic’s license in 1989. After receiving my aircraft mechanic’s license I wokred in sheet metal manufacturing and eventually owned my own company. Basically if you’re going to be around airplanes you have to have a passion for them, if I’m not working on repairing aircraft here I’m working on them at home, it’s what I really enjoy doing.
What makes a customer like ATSI so unique or interesting to work with?
ATSI trains pilots to fly military jets–anytime I can work on a military jet is great. Commerical airlines are cool but military projects are the fun part, it’s the icing on the cake.
Where do you see the future of the aerospace industry over the next decade? Can you speak to the future of the O/R industry?
I only see it growing because air travel is becoming very popular in other countries around the world. Other countries are developing their own airlines (in China and in Europe for example) and these airlines need immediate maintenance at times. An airplane is not like a car, it can’t sit around waiting to be fixed, there are airplane parts that need to be fixed the right way and fixed immediately.
Are there any special projects you’d like to tackle? Any aircraft you dream of working on?
I actually like working on older aircraft. But the Corsair is my dream, nobody is brave enough to let me work on that yet. I’ve probably made over 20 Corsair models in my lifetime, I think I have two at home right now actually.
For any potential customers why should they look to Nelson Engineering for their overhaul/repair work?
Because at Nelson Engineering we’re good at what we do, we’re competitive and we’re specialized. We specialize in welding, spot welding, and machining and not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re good.