Waco-based Blackhawk Modifications continues to spread its wings in the world of aviation.
The company struck a deal to sell a Cessna Caravan turboprop to a group in Luanda, Angola, on the western coast of Africa. The group will use it to make humanitarian trips in parts of that contentent so rugged that flying is a necessity, not a luxury.
President and CEO Jim Allmon said his business partner met potential buyers at a trade show in Johannesburg, South Africa, two years ago and negotiations were ongoing.
With a deal finally secured and a down payment in place, the group sent an inspector to Waco last week to review the progress.
“When we receive the final payment, the plane will be out of here and that probably will take place next week,” Allmon said.
Modifications were necessary for the $1.8 million Cessna Caravan 208-b, which is designed to carry nine passengers in the United States.
“They will modify it to accommodate 12 people because they don’t have the same restrictions we follow,” said Allmon of the firm that bought the turboprop, SJL Comercio e Industria, which translates to “SJL Commercial and Industrial.”
Allmon said he understands that SJL will use the plane to provide charter service that may include oil field support and humanitarian missions.
He said Blackhawk Modifications acquired the turboprop in August and installed in it a Pratt & Whitney engine that will give it more horsepower to perform in extreme heat.
“It is our contention that we are the largest seller of P&W engines in the world, outside of those who have contracts to place them directly into new planes,” Allmon said.
He said he processes up to 110 engines annually, all of them shipped directly to Waco from the manufacturer in Canada.
Blackhawk is providing engines for two other planes owned by SJL Comerico e Industria, each priced at $680,000 to $700,000.
Blackhawk has representatives in South America, Europe, Africa and Australia. In 2006, it opened a new 13,000-square-foot hangar and headquarters at Waco Regional Airport, where most of the company’s 35 employees work.
It has had annual revenues of about $55 million.
Kris Collins, senior vice president of economic development at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, called Blackhawk “a world-class organization.” She said it is one of more than 30 local aviation-or-defense-related companies that make up the Greater Waco Aviation Alliance.
Another member is L-3 Communications, which employs nearly 2,000 people and modifies military and commercial aircraft.
Collins said aviation represents a target industry for the Waco chamber, and that chamber recruiters often collaborate with representatives of Blackhawk Modifications at trade shows.
Blackhawk in its first few years in operation was devoted almost exclusively to replacing or upgrading engines in turboprops. But it announced last year it had established a new aircraft sales department to buy, sell, trade and broker Caravan, Cheyenne, Conquest and King Air aircraft.
As a broker, Allmon said, Blackhawk qualifies prospects and evaluates and presents offers to customers for consideration. Among the biggest challenges the company faces is money transfers to complete transactions internationally.
“For example, the deal with SJL involves banks in Angola, South Africa and Chicago before payments come to us,” Allmon said.
North America is the most fertile trade area for Blackhawk, but African buyers of both aircraft and engines are becoming more plentiful.
“They like the utility of the planes, which can go in and out of bush strips, dirt roads, fields and pastures. They are hearty planes that can take the abuse of the bush,” Allmon said.