features Precision Aviation Group: helping them fly

Precision Aviation Group is supercharging its expansion through strategic acquisition and organic growth. It’s all part of the company’s steadfast mission to get aircraft back in the air.
Avatar for Lisa Gordon By Lisa Gordon | September 20, 2021

Estimated reading time 15 minutes, 8 seconds.

When you call Precision Aviation Group (PAG) in Atlanta, the phone is answered by a real person who specializes in getting aircraft back in the air — every time. Never mind the frustrating automated attendants or selection of confusing options.

For a company that has been helping aircraft fly for nearly three decades, it’s part of how PAG stays committed to meeting the customer’s every need. 

In the last seven years, PAG has acquired six companies. In June, it finalized the acquisition of Trace Aviation of Jackson, Mississippi, which specializes in the overhaul, sale, and exchange of Beechcraft King Air landing gear. PAG Photo

Founded as Precision Heliparts (PHP) in 1993, the company has seen tremendous growth over the years, rocketing from US$250,000 in annual sales in 1996 to an astounding US$260 million today. Along the way, PAG has grown its footprint, both geographically and in terms of capabilities. It now includes 17 distinct business units in five countries, along with 13 FAA and/or EASA-approved repair stations. It has completed 10 acquisitions since 2004 and “greenfielded” six locations.

Two functions underpin PAG’s business model: maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services, and an aviation supply chain supporting both fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

“When we combined MRO and supply chain services, we trademarked the term ‘ISMRO,’ which stands for Inventory Supported MRO,” explained David Mast, PAG’s president and CEO since 1996. “We invest heavily in capabilities expansion, both organically and through acquisition, and we support those capabilities with parallel investments in inventory so operators don’t have to stock as much.”

The trademarked ISMRO concept simply means that PAG stocks what it services. Its long list of MRO capabilities includes engines, avionics, hydraulics, accessories, instruments, landing gear, LCD panel repair, armature and stator rewinds, wheels and brakes, and starter generators. And, since PAG keeps the related parts in inventory, it can minimize turnaround time, which is key to mission-critical operators who need to get back into the air.

Ketan Desai, PAG’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, added that ISMRO is a disruptive concept because “when our industry thinks of a traditional repair station, most don’t typically stock inventory.”

With 402 employees across the organization and operations in the U.S., Canada, Australia, Singapore, and Brazil, PAG’s expansion over the years has been driven by its desire to be close to its customers.

One of PAG’s key capabilities is the support and repair of gas-producing turbines. PAG Photo

“Initially, the strategy wasn’t acquisitions,” Mast told Skies. “It was based on putting facilities first and foremost where our customers are. Atlanta was first and the first greenfield was Precision Heliparts – Canada in Vancouver in 2002. We knew we had customers in Canada; by putting another facility where our customers were located, it allowed us to grow the business exponentially.”

From there, PAG expanded through targeted acquisitions and by establishing new operations in strategic locations.

“By default, we wanted to grow our internal MRO capacity and capability,” continued Mast. “The broader the spectrum of capabilities, the better we can support our customers. Every time we do an acquisition it gets us a specific location, but it also broadens the depth and breadth of our portfolio of customer services.”

In the last seven years alone, PAG has acquired six companies. In 2021, the company finalized the acquisition of Keystone Turbine Services (KTS) of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, in May, and Trace Aviation of Jackson, Mississippi, in June.

“KTS is a fantastic business,” said Mast. “When we do an acquisition, we focus on financials but also the importance of the personality fit. We have a customer-first focus and we make sure the businesses we acquire match the PAG ‘customer first’ mentality. We want them to keep doing what they are doing, and support their continued growth with investments in efficiencies, inventory, capabilities expansion, and sales/marketing enhancements.”

Precision Aircraft Services (PAS) in Peachtree City, Georgia, offers fixed- and rotary-wing services. The company operates a 40,000-square-foot facility at Falcon Field (KFFC). PAG Photo

KTS brings additional engine capabilities to the PAG family, with an emphasis on aftermarket OEM-approved MRO services for the Rolls-Royce M250 series of gas turbine engines, along with related Honeywell and Triumph accessories.

“PAG is a 50/50 fixed-wing to rotary-wing business,” said Mast. “We liked that there are 18,000 of those Rolls-Royce engines in service. Given what we do as a business, through our subsidiaries, we’d use third-party overhaul services for this engine because we didn’t have our own engine shop. So, this was a logical progression.”

Over the last three years, PAG has been Trace Aviation’s biggest customer. The Mississippi company specializes in Beechcraft King Air landing gear overhaul, sale, and exchange.

“We have an incredible relationship; we really got to know the Trace team over the years,” said Desai. “It’s a complementary business which fits really well into PAG’s portfolio. That allows our sales team to capture more market share and drive efficiencies into our customer supply chain. We’re not looking to change the business [at Trace], but simply pour kerosene on the fire that’s already been lit.”

Relationships are key, and PAG is not interested in acquiring businesses where owners and managers are looking to leave. In fact, all PAG locations are operated at the local level.

As Mast explained, “Our structure is fairly straightforward. All the transactions we’ve done have been internally sourced by me or our team. We look at good businesses that currently support PAG, or could, and we find people who are a good fit.”

Selling Support

In today’s world, consumers shop on Amazon and with just a few clicks, virtually any product is delivered right to their door.

When it comes to aircraft parts and service, PAG prides itself on being that one-stop solution.

A freshly overhauled landing gear assembly. PAG Photo

“We are a customer-focused business; it’s in our DNA,” said Desai. “A lot of growth has come from the ability to consistently deliver industry-leading customer service. No matter what you’re buying, our service is what drives our growth.”

He added that the more PAG diversifies its portfolio, the more market share it will earn.

“We have a very diverse customer base. We know the aircraft they are operating — so if they are sending one product to us, why not make PAG their total service provider?”

With an emphasis on performance metrics — including profitability, new business lines, and growth by capability — PAG is keeping its eye on the future. There is an awareness that today’s business lines won’t necessarily be there tomorrow. For example, while the company currently repairs a lot of legacy aviation cockpit panels, it’s also moving to develop capabilities in military and commercial LCD display repair. In 2019, it acquired Momentum Services Corporation in Camarillo, California, soon to be rebranded as Precision Display Repairs (PDR). It specializes in repairing civilian and military aviation LCD displays, representing a unique capability in PAG’s business arsenal. Mast said this type of diversification helps the company navigate the cyclical nature of the aviation market.

“We always think of what can we do now to create opportunities for the future,” he commented. “During the pandemic, we expanded the facilities in Camarillo and Lafayette, and moved to a new purpose-built facility for our Brisbane location. I wouldn’t say that 2020 and Covid-19 were great for our company, but we stepped back and thought about the future and made some very good decisions – including four acquisitions – during a very difficult time.”

In fact, those good decisions resulted in not a single day of pandemic-induced business interruptions. When the virus broke out in March 2020, company leaders realized they couldn’t stop shipping or producing.

“We support mission critical operators, people who are delivering equipment or transporting first responders to save lives,” said Desai. “We had the infrastructure in place prior to the pandemic to service our customers remotely without interruptions. I knew we did it right when, 45 days into the pandemic, I was speaking with customers and told them we’d been working remotely for 45 days. They’d never even realized our sales team was working from home because they never skipped a beat.”

A Team of Companies

When it comes to PAG’s structure, the Atlanta headquarters functions like the hub of a network that includes 17 distinct business units.

“In Atlanta, we get 250-plus shipments delivered every day; the vast majority are for repair,” said Desai. “If we service the product in Atlanta it goes straight into the shop; if we don’t service it there, it is shipped to one of our 13 other global repair stations.”

AOG (aircraft on ground) support is offered around the clock, thanks to the recent addition of a second shift to accommodate PAG’s global customer base and international locations. Inventory is strategically positioned at PAG locations around the world so the company is ready to respond quickly.

PAG does a lot of aircraft wheel and brake work. Here, a brake undergoes final assembly. PAG Photo

That, combined with PAG’s close proximity to international airports, allows the company to “ship product(s) to our customers usually within an hour from receiving a purchase order, even after hours,” said Desai.

He added that in the trailing 12 months, PAG has increased its inventory by $3.2 million to meet growing customer demand.

Explained Mast: “We make investments in inventory to directly support our investments in MRO. Since the KTS acquisition, PAG has acquired engines to have them available for exchange. We’ll always make investments in specific inventories.”

In 2015, the PAG leadership team began meeting annually to project the company’s direction over the subsequent 12- and 24-month periods. Mast said the target has been 10 to 12 percent growth per year, excluding acquisitions.

“We like component maintenance; we like the engine business. We don’t really have a location in Europe, so we are excited about that. We’re also looking at Latin American expansion.”

He said PAG’s growth strategy has always adhered to the simple philosophy of “we know what we know, and we don’t know what we don’t know.”

Regardless, he’s grateful for the supportive financial backing provided by private equity firm GenX360. “It’s been critical, because they were with us in the darkest days [of the pandemic].”

A Parker integrated instrument display system (IIDS) is bench checked. PAG Photo

Equally as crucial as financial stability is building the right team. Lately, though, that’s been a challenge because talented workers are scarce.

“We could grow a lot faster if we could fill our open positions,” Mast admitted. “In the MRO industry, we have to be there in the office. While we try to be a bit more flexible, in this business you can’t overhaul an engine or gearbox at home.”

Meanwhile, PAG is developing some unique capabilities at World Aviation in Toronto, soon to be rebranded as Precision Rewind Services (PRS), as well as Momentum/Precision Display Repairs in California, with a focus on AC generators as well as Thales flat panel displays, respectively. Business aviation is also a sector for potential expansion with an emphasis on landing gear, propellers, starter generators, wheel and brake overhauls, and exchanges.

Both Mast and Desai alluded to additional acquisitions in the pipeline; however, they said customers will remain the primary focus even as PAG strives to capture more market share.

“Despite our growth, it’s a highly customer-first organization,” said Desai. “We’ve always operated the business by doing the right thing for our customers – despite the challenges we faced. It shows our resilience.”

That commitment to going over and above is evident in PAG’s everyday operations, where the team helps get mission critical aircraft back into the air. The company was instrumental in supporting the U.S. Army National Guard when it was flying the UH-72A Lakota around the clock, following the political unrest in multiple states during 2020. It also supports the largest medevac operators in the U.S. on a daily basis as they perform life-saving missions.

“When we talk about our sales and logistics teams, we can do all the marketing, secure the purchase order, process the order – but if we don’t get the right part to the right location when it’s needed, nothing else matters,” said Desai. “So many things can happen with the mission-critical aircraft we serve, and some of them make the difference between life and death.”

Mast reflected on his 25 years at the helm of PAG: “We are at a quarter billion in sales today. It would be very special to get to a half billion, then to a billion, as we continue to do the things we have done for the last 25 years, just on a larger scale. The way I look at this business won’t change. There are competitors bigger than us in specific categories, but I don’t worry about that. Our model is to continue making strategic investments in capabilities, locations, and our people, so we can be a better company every day.”

The PAG Group of Companies:

  • Precision Accessories & Instruments
  • Precision Accessories & Instruments Canada
  • Precision Accessories & Instruments Australia
  • Precision Aircraft Services
  • Precision Aero Technology
  • Precision Heliparts
  • Precision Heliparts Australia
  • Precision Heliparts Latin America
  • Precision Heliparts Canada
  • Precision Heliparts Louisiana
  • Precision Heliparts Singapore
  • Precision Aviation Controls
  • Momentum Services Corporation
  • World Aviation Corp
  • EFIX Aviation Support
  • Keystone Turbine Services
  • Trace Aviation

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