Moving a highly specialized business from one end of the state to the other is no easy venture.
Just ask the management and staff at the newly opened Hershey Flying Service in David City.
“It has been a very difficult process to get Hershey Flying Service to where we are at now,” said Jared Storm, owner of the $1.2 million aircraft repair station.
Storm, who has an aerial spraying service in Wahoo, purchased the Hershey-based company in 2011 with plans to move it to eastern Nebraska. He considered Wahoo and other cities came calling, including Columbus.
David City landed the company by providing a long-term lease and new water main to the site at David City Municipal Airport.
“Hershey Flying Service coming to David City is an exciting development. Mr. Storm is an entrepreneur and has a passion for airplanes and flying,” said David City Mayor Alan Zavodny.
Storm said he moved the company east to access a broader base of workers who specialize in welding and metal fabrication.
“We have had a complete turnover in personnel from the day I bought the company in 2011 to now,” Storm said. “That in itself has been challenging, but I feel we have a very good core group of people working for the company now.”
General manager Kevin Woockman, a native of the Stanton area, joined the company in 2013. Seven other employees also work there.
“The bulk of our work is building and repairing parts and components, mainly for Ag Cats. We also build some parts for Piper Braves, Weatherly and Air Tractors,” said Storm.
The company’s specialty is building components for and repairing the Grumman Ag Cat, a plane designed in the late 1950s and built through the 1970s.
The city added a grass taxiway from the new 22,000-square-foot facility to the airport runway.
“I am very grateful for the support we received from David City and the city council members,” Storm said. “I would like to see the city continue to support infrastructure projects on the airport that will be needed for future growth. The seed has been planted and as this seed grows it will continue to bear fruit for the city in the form of jobs and tax revenue.”
The facility is well-prepared for the future, equipped with an efficient subfloor heating system, state-of-the-art paint booth and advanced computer numeric control equipment.
The company is also developing new components to make flying safer for pilots. Two of the company’s innovations, the Storm Cutters and Storm Shield, are intended to decrease hazards associated with crop dusting, which requires low-level flights and sharp turns around power lines and poles, birds and, increasingly, drone aircraft. Line strikes are one of the leading causes of crop duster pilot deaths.
Already on the market, Storm Cutters are thin bars attached to the front of a plane’s landing gear, one bar on each side. The bars’ edge, similar in hardness to a chisel, is designed to cut through a power line a plane might encounter in a crop dusting flight.
“(It works) just by getting rid of the power line quicker and faster. If you didn’t have them (the plane) stretches the power line like a rubber band. It comes back and lashes the wing. It can tear chunks out of the wing,” Woockman said, adding that in the worst cases the lines will bring a plane to the ground.
A replacement windshield, the Storm Shield is awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval so it can be installed in Air Tractor and Thrush models, Storm said. The Storm Shield’s material has tested to be eight times stronger than the factory-installed glass, according to the National Institute for Aviation Research at Wichita State University.
Hershey Flying Service was established in 1949 by crop dusters Pete and Floyd Rouche, two brothers who got their start working in World War II aircraft bomber plants.