How McFarlane Aviation Keeps ’Em Flying | Aviation

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When David McFarlane bought a country airport in middle America for his agricultural application and aircraft repair business back in 1979, he didn’t realize what the surrounding fields would hold 44 years later. Today, McFarlane Aviation Products is a powerhouse supplier of aftermarket and OEM aircraft parts that fill a 35,000-item catalog. Without its support, keeping legacy general aviation airplanes in the air, as well as building many of the new ones, would be much more difficult.

We recently dropped in at the McFarlane Aviation complex near Baldwin City, Kansas, to see what goes on there, expecting little more than a ramshackle set of old buildings beside Vinland Valley Aerodrome (K64), located out in the country 4 miles north of the town of about 5,000 residents. Our first surprise was the sheer beauty of the place. As the name implies, the tree-shrouded valley is a far cry from flat, arid Kansas wheat country. This is the eastern part of the state, with rolling hills where well-watered streams and oil-field pumps are found all over the farmland.

A public-use, privately owned facility, Vinland Valley offers 3,000 feet of manicured grass, with the usual assortment of hangars alongside. But the adjacent industrial buildings of McFarlane Aviation are as modern as you’ll find anywhere, with 150 employees working in more than 100,000 square feet of space, busily cranking out the replacement widgets airplanes need to maintain airworthiness.

Taking the Tour

We were shown around the sprawling set of interconnected buildings by business development manager John Cowan, who gave us a progressive tour outlining the firm’s growth over the years. Founder Dave McFarlane and his partner, Fred McClenahan, planned well, just like their approach to making aftermarket parts: Do it better; don’t just duplicate.

Buildings A and B have now been linked to Buildings C, D, and E, and the company has plenty of space and vision for more to follow. Although now…

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