Montgomery Business Journal

Slideshow image


Hartzell Engine Technologies Builds Precision Airplane Components

April 2014

By Jennifer Kornegay   

Photography by Robert Fouts

The Capital City has a rich aviation history, as home to the Wright Brothers’ flying school a century ago and home to Maxwell Air Force Base today.Sitting just a stone’s throw from the Montgomery Regional Airport, Hartzell Engine Technologies is adding another chapter to this story as one of the leading manufacturers of precision airplane components used by aviation companies all over the world.

“We service all the major players in general aviation, companies that build airplanes like Piper, Cessna, Robison, CubCrafters and more,” President Mike Disbrow said over the steady hum and whir of welders, assemblers and multi-million dollar inspection machines busy making and checking Hartzell’s products.

The company’s core product lines include turbocharger systems, alternators, starters, cabin-heating systems and fuel pumps. For each, the company makes and sells new products as well as rebuilding and overhauling existing components, with the breakdown hitting about a 50-50 split between the two each year. Hartzell Engine products mostly serve the general aviation market, with two notable exceptions. One of the company’s larger cabin-heating systems goes on Boeing’s Chinook helicopters used by the military. Hartzell Engine also sells alternators for UAVs (drones).

Hartzell Engine, according to Disbrow, can provide the right alternator to meet almost any aviation application need, and that’s made alternators the company’s highest-volume product line. “We sell about 15,000 units a year, both new and overhauled, and that’s high for the aviation market,” he said.

Disbrow came to Montgomery in 2010 when Tailwind Technologies Inc., the holding company he worked for, bought an existing business in Montgomery called Kelly Aerospace to complement its other aviation companies. The name was changed to Hartzell Engine Technologies, and since then, Hartzell Engine has bought several other companies, including one that put the company in the environmental systems business, manufacturing cabin heaters for twin-engine general aviation aircraft as well as Chinook helicopters.

Hartzell Engine’s alternator product line got a big boost when the company bought the Jasco Alternator line in January. “The Jasco Alternator line enables us to begin offering high-quality products to new segments of the general aviation markets, including classic and agricultural aircraft and piston helicopters,” Disbrow said.

In contrast, Hartzell Engine’s fuel pump line was developed in-house, and the company does other design and engineering work for customers when needed and has an onsite test lab. The company also offers aftermarket support and has a help desk to answer customer questions and address technical issues.

The company has spent $4 million for machining, inspection and test equipment in its 80,000-square-foot facility, a major investment in the current market environment, but a necessary one, as Disbrow explained. “The piston engine market in general aviation is our main market and that got beat down over 50 percent in the economic downturn in 2008,” he said.

“It has barely budged since then so it has been a challenge for us, but Hartzell Engine has product lines that are vital to this market. We’ve worked hard to develop a good reputation and our investments are more about quality improvement than volume improvement as part of our commitment to our customers.”

 

41 Commerce Street, P.O. Box 79, Montgomery, Alabama 36101   Tel: 334.834.5200   Fax: 334.265.4745   Sitemap