Alfred Scott is the first one to tell you his 4,500-square-foot office/warehouse in a one-story industrial strip on Tomylnn Street is not luxury.
But that serves two purposes: It keeps overhead for the Sequoia Aircraft Corporation low, and it keeps away pesky flying enthusiasts.
“If we were at the airport, people would want to come in all the time and talk about airplanes,” Scott said. That would slow Scott and his assistant from filling orders for the Falco kits, which the company sells like grown-up versions of model airplanes.
Only these ones are fast.
The Falco, which was first designed in Italy in the 1950s, is one of the fastest single-engine planes that hobbyists can assemble themselves. Sequoia has the parts manufactured all over the country and stores them at the Tomylnn facility.
The company has two full-time employees and third warehouse helper.
The overall aircraft industry has pulled back at whiplash-inducing speed. Plane makers including Cessna and Beechcraft have cut thousands of manufacturing jobs as orders dry up. Some jet customers are sacrificing deposits to avoid buying new planes. (You can read more about that in a WSJ story here. )
But orders are starting to lift off again, although they are down from where they were before the recession. Scott would not share sales or revenue figures.
“When times are tough, people continue to work on your do-it-yourself projects,” he said.
“This is also not something people are going to go out and buy on a whim.”
Finished Falcos sell for around $100,000, Scott said, adding that since starting the company in the early 1970s, he’s probably sold around 80.
It takes the average Falco owner five or six years to build a plane, Scott said.
Scott enjoys telling a story, and he doesn’t mind the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. He said he also writes software and owns property on the river.
“People think entrepreneurs sit around and write a business plan. That’s bullsh*t. They don’t do that. They wake up with a passion and spend the rest of their life trying to do it.”
“I’m more afraid of retiring than of dying.”
Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to Editor@richmondbizsense.com.