While Bully Aeroplane Works and Airshows is relatively new in Alamance County, the aviation restoration, modification and maintenance shop is making a global impact, drawing international customers to the area.
Owned by Eric Minnis, Bully Aero is located at the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport and offers tailwheel and basic aerobatic instruction, maintenance and annual inspections, show-quality restoration, construction of replicas or plan built, and aircraft sales, brokerage and locating.
The company is named after Minnis’ grandfather, Robert “Bully” Minnis Jr.
“He was a boxer in the Navy and known as a straight shooter,” Minnis said.
Bully used to take Minnis to airshows when he was a child, and it solidified his interest in aviation.
When Minnis was 12 years old, he built “something that resembled a little airplane.” He got his pilot’s license when he as 23. Minnis has spent more than 2,000 hours in flight. He began his aviation career in the corporate field as an engineer for GE Aviation and then was an accident investigator for the Federal Aviation Administration.
“I had three kids to raise, and I had to put food on the table,” he said.
Minnis held onto his letter of resignation for a year before finally turning it in. He began his own company in January 2012.
Since then, the company has tripled its hangar space and works on half a dozen planes a month, ranging from canvas repairs to full restorations reaching six digits in price.
“We hope to grow as much with as few resources as we can,” he said. “We have grown very deliberately.”
Paul Rovegno, 20, one of Bully Aero’s employees, was recently promoted from “greenhorn” mechanic to project manager and also has held a life-long passion for aviation.
“It’s awesome” to work with Minnis, Rovegno said. “We work well together, and he’s like a father figure.”
Rovengo was recently selected as crew chief for Gene Soucy, a legendary aerobatic pilot, and will join him at aerobatic performances across the United States.
During the recent Winston-Salem Air Show, Soucy had a damaged tailwheel — a piece of landing gear — and Rovengo was able to repair it, saving the second part of Soucy’s performance.
Bill Webber is one of Bully Aero’s customers and one of the many flight fanatics who congregates around the hangar in the afternoons to talk shop.
“They are good,” he said. “That is why I am here. I compete in aerobatic shows, and my life depends on the maintenance of my aircraft.”
Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport Executive Director Dan Danieley commended Bully Aero for its impact in the community.
“They are a small yet fast-growing company having built a successful international business on honest values and a great work ethic,” he said.
“With this, they are introducing pilots and aviation sponsors from around the globe to the Burlington-Alamance Regional Airport.”