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Then, in 2005, all of that changed when two things happened. First, Snodgrass became utterly convinced there was a strong and largely unmet demand for the kind of specialty aviation repair services in which he was an expert. Second, he reconnected with long-time industry acquaintance Mike Manning. “I knew the technical and business side, but in 2005 I

didn’t really know the marketing side of the business that well,” says Snodgrass. “Mike had been in sales and planning in the industry for years. I’d worked with Mike, and even worked against Mike at various companies, and I knew how good he was. So when we reconnected, we knew we could build this together. He became my full partner right away.” Together they converted DAS from a one-man consulting

firm into a fully-certified Part 145 repair station and began taking in repair business in late 2005. In mid-December 2009 the company got a call from

the U.S. Air Force. They needed a quick turnaround by Christmas on the repair of a composite flight control component on a very special airplane — VC25. It is one of two heavily-modified Boeing 747-400s that when a certain regular passenger is onboard becomes the ultimate VIP aircraft. “It was a very short turnaround, but we pulled it off,” says

Snodgrass. “That’s the reason they called on us. We have a reputation for knowing what we’re doing and being able to respond quickly because we don’t have a big corporate bureaucracy.”

THE EARLY YEARS Snodgrass’ aviation career began at an unusually early age, and his career as a mechanic began even earlier. Growing up on a small farm outside the small town of Palmer, TX, (“Population 1,234 when I was a kid,” he likes to say), he learned to fix tractors and weld by age 10. By age 11, he was driving a stick-shift pickup truck with a cattle trailer on the back as he helped with farm chores. “I worked on a cattle ranch growing up as a teenager.

That’s hard work,” he says. It was hard enough that he determined quickly that he did not want to spend his life there. By his senior year in high school, since he only needed one more class to graduate, he started working almost full time as a mechanic at a Ryder Trucks’ support facility in south Dallas. He used his connections at Ryder (five of his uncles worked there at the time) to get a job rebuilding trailers in the body shop. “My dad was also in the trucking business,” he explains. “He helped build Roadway in the seventies and eighties. My dream was to open a shop when I got out of high school to repair my dad’s trucks. But just about the time I was getting out of school, he sold his portion of the company to FedEx and retired. So much for that dream.” Immediately upon graduating as one of only 27 members of the Palmer High Class of 1988, the in-a-hurry-to-grow-

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up Snodgrass and his high school sweetheart married. Her brother just happened to be an A&P mechanic in the Dallas area.

“I hated coming home smelling like diesel,” says

Snodgrass. “I wanted something more.” With his brother- in-law’s encouragement and connections, he landed a job at Diab Barracuda Technologies as an aviation sheet metal mechanic.

“Since I had trailer experience from Ryder, I already

knew how to shoot rivets, so they took me on.” he says. Snodgrass spent a year there, mostly working on the old DC-8s and 727s, before moving to HAC Corporation, an aircraft composites repair shop in Grand Prairie, where he spent the next two years. While there, he learned enough about working with composite materials that a headhunter sought him out for a position in Wichita to work for a small company that made composite parts for Learjet and Bombardier aircraft. “They were desperately trying to expand and get into the

repair business,” says Snodgrass. “I was 20 at the time, and the composites thing just always seemed to click with me. I got it and I understood it so I took the job. The company was sold in less than a year, just for its tooling.” He returned to Texas and got his old job back at HAC

where he ran the company’s composites and bond shop for seven years. In only his second year there, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines called for help. Southwest, like most airlines in those days, only did limited maintenance and repairs to composites — most composite flight controls were just removed and replaced. But in the endless quest to lower costs, the airline wanted to learn how to do its own composite repair work. For the next four months, Snodgrass and other HAC composites experts worked with Southwest’s top two composites mechanics, tutoring them not only on the ins and outs of working with composite materials, but also how to pass that knowledge to other mechanics at Southwest. While at HAC, Snodgrass took advanced composite

repair and engineering classes taught at Boeing in Seattle — and, he’s quick to add, recorded perfect scores on both programs’ concluding tests. His experience and certifications led to offers from Chevrolet, Dodge and a number of other companies interested in expanding their use of weight- saving composites. He turned them all down, until 1998. “There was a new company here in Dallas: Aero

Fabricators,” he says. “They were connected to the international corporate jet makers. They asked me to set up the (composites) shop and run it, and possibly run the company in a few years.” By 2002 he was named chief operating officer, overseeing a 200,000-square-foot, 260-employee operation in Dallas. “We did complete restoration of composite structures for the entire Douglas, Boeing, Airbus and corporate line of aircraft. From the commercial fleet to the military, we did it.”


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