Manitoba has a large aviation industry and Portage la Prairie has a unique piece of that pie.  From their unassuming north end facility within the shadow of the Skyline(Tupper) Bridge and just a rumble-shot from the CP and CN mainline, GJ Aircraft Belts has quietly become a dominant player in their industry.  Four employees use everything from hi-tech sewing machines to manual models to repair aircraft seat belts and restraints for private and commercial aeroplanes and helicopters.

Glen Jones GJ Aircraft Belts

Glen Jones GJ Aircraft Belts

We caught up with owner, Glen Jones, to chat with him about his business.

 

HnH:  What sparked you to come up with this business idea?

Glen Jones:  Myself and another gentleman were working out at Field Aviation, and prior to 1999 CARS didn’t cover the repair of aircraft restraints.  In 1998 they rewrote CARS – Canadian Air Regulations.  They made it mandatory to have an Aircraft Maintenance Organization approval to do the repairs of restraints.  Prior to that you could have taken them anywhere.  There was no control, no safety aspect to it.

 

HnH:  How did the airbase at Southport play a role?

Glen Jones:  In ’99 we realized a need out at Southport.  Southport was a unique situation at the time.  It was civilians and military combined providing training for military pilots.  Field Aviation was looking after the maintenance side of it.  We were all ex-military working there so we had the training and background to repair seat belts, because we used to do it in the military.  When they introduced CARS we couldn’t do it anymore so we had to send them to the original equipment manufacturers.  We realized it was costing a lot of money.  So myself and another gentleman approached Transport Canada, obtained a AMO(Aircraft Maintenance Organization) and what they refer to as a repair design certificate and in December ’99 we were approved.

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HnH:  What can you tell us about your customers?

Glen Jones:  We have a repeat customer list of over 450 customers and we are growing all the time.  We just picked up a new customer from India.  We’ve done work from Peru, Panama, the United States including Alaska and Hawaii.

 

HnH:  How many seat belts would you fix?

Glen Jones:  We work on thousands of belts  and restraints a year.

 

HnH:  How do you market yourself to such a big industry?

Glen Jones:  The aviation industry, as big as people think it is, is actually quite small.  A lot of it’s word of mouth.  With businesses like ours it doesn’t matter where the customer is so it doesn’t matter where you are.  They only restriction is you have to have access to all the major couriers.

 

HnH:  What is the future of the business?

Glen Jones:  Well, it’s just going forward all the time.

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