Everett business has jet parts to spare

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

One aircraft company’s trash can be another’s treasure.

Just ask Mike Brown.

Sorting through scrapped airplane parts, Brown spotted a cart loaded with long, narrow pieces.

“What are you going to do with those?” said Brown, president of Everett’s Soundair After Market Group.

Brown’s customer, a major leasing firm, planned to throw the pieces in the garbage. The lessor had no idea that the narrow parts were aircraft lighting ballasts that sell for $700 to $900 each in the spare parts industry.

But that’s what Brown’s business does. It knows aircraft components — what’s valuable and how to find those hard-to-locate parts.

Brown’s brother, Bill, helped start Soundair 25 years ago. Bill Brown died several years ago, and his partner decided to sell off one of three Soundair divisions to Chicago’s Jetpower Inc. in February. Jetpower asked Mike Brown to lead the After Market Group here in Everett.

“It has been an easy transitional period,” Brown said.

When a commercial airplane goes in for its regularly scheduled maintenance checks, it often needs new parts to replace those that are beginning to wear out. Although the company or airline repairing the plane may have thousands of parts on hand, it likely won’t have every single piece needed. That would require holding millions of spare parts in inventory. For example, a Boeing 767 consists of 3.1 million parts.

When Brown goes to look for parts, there are several avenues he can take to find what he needs. One source: Inventories become available when an airline or a repair shop goes defunct. Airline leasing companies also put parts on consignment.

Authorized parts manufacturers are another option. For instance, Boeing authorizes certain companies to build spare parts, especially those that Boeing no longer wants to make itself.

Finally, airplanes that are being dismantled serve as a source for parts. Previously, Soundair AMG has bought aircraft, 26 total, to take apart and use for parts. Each piece has to be repaired and approved by the FAA.

Soundair AMG is best known for its work with aircraft leasing companies when the lessor is taking an airplane back from one carrier and getting it ready to deliver to the next. Although Soundair AMG does provide some parts for Airbus jets, Brown estimates that about 75 percent of the company’s work is for Boeing jets.

“When times are bad, we do really good because there are a lot of transitions going on,” Brown said.

With Jetpower’s backing, Brown sees blue skies ahead for Soundair AMG. Over the next six months, Brown hopes to add a few more leasing companies as customers. The company aims to buy either a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320 to dismantle for parts.

A $4 million company today, Soundair AMG plans to grow into a $15 million company over the next five years, Brown said.

“We’re definitely on a growth spurt,” he said.

That growth won’t propel Soundair AMG out of the Puget Sound region. Although the company does little direct business with Boeing, its clients like Soundair AMG’s proximity to the jetmaker.

No matter how big Soundair AMG gets, Brown hopes to retain what he believes is Soundair AMG’s competitive advantage: being a small company.

“We’re quick and nimble,” he said. “We know a lot of little crevices out there where inventories are.”