Flying might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Prineville. But with the arrival of a new company, that might just change.
LASAR rolled into a couple of free hangars at the Prineville Airport in May. It’s a second location after making headlines in the small aircraft world for the past 45 years.
“We are a certified repair station, which allows us both from maintenance and avionics perspectives to perform service on aircraft,” said Brett Stokes, the CEO and partial owner. “We are the world’s largest distribution for Mooney parts. In a given year, somewhere around 70% to 80% of Mooney’s volume of parts go through us throughout the world.”
There are only around 8,000 Mooney planes flying in the world currently, with 7,000 of those in the United States.
“We’ve had people fly in from Minnesota, Canada, Virginia religiously for years and years,” Stokes added.
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The company also boasts a Parts Manufacturer Approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which allows them to manufacture aircraft parts.
“Those things can be anything from fiberglass parts that go on wing tips, and smooth bellies, and wing roots and tail fairings, etcetera to hard parts like a bushing or a piece of a nose gear and things along those lines that we also have manufactured,” Stokes said.
Their original location is in Lakeport, California, but Stokes has looked at expanding closer to his Central Oregon home for awhile.
“I’m from Oregon originally, I grew up over on the west side near Corvallis in a little town called Philomath,” he said. “The last 10 years I’ve lived in Central Oregon, and have a Mooney that I was flying to Northern California for the last five years to check on this company and be involved, sometimes very frequently.”
Being closer to home made sense to him from a travel standpoint, but also from an economic standpoint.
“I see a lot of potential here in Prineville with growth and what’s happening in Central Oregon on the whole. For me it was a no-brainer,” Stokes said.
He looked at the Bend and Redmond airports as potential expansion locations as well, but Prineville made the most sense in terms of what they could do competitively.
“I had actually talked to the airport manager a few years back, there wasn’t availability here,” Stokes said. “When I talked to the airport manager again six months ago, he said there are actually hangars coming available, they’re the old Les Schwab hangars. I told him the funniest story was that when we first bought the company, our goal was to be the Les Schwab of the industry, being a great place to work, with competitive wages, and career growth. And full circle, totally randomly, we’re in the Les Schwab hangar.”
Right now, they’re working on duplicating the certifications they have at the California location to allow them to perform their full range of operations.
They’re also in talks with local vendors who could potentially help with parts manufacturing in the future.
For now, 10 mostly-local staff members service planes across the three hangars.
“We did a lot of research and thought there could actually be a really great formula here for labor opportunities and talent here,” Stokes said. “That has, by tenfold, proven itself to be accurate. We’ve gotten some of the best team we’ve ever worked with here already and it’s only growing…we have a plan by the beginning of next year to be at 25 here alone, so that’s adding another 15 here.”
They have also been working on a partnership with the local school district to create an internship program.
Kelly Coffelt, the Director of the Prineville Airport, said on Wednesday that the city and airport are in full support of LASAR’s progress in the community.
LASAR will have a booth at the Cascades Air Show in Madras on August 26 and 27 for a chance to meet with their new audience and neighbors face-to-face.