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«Fall 2008

A Reputation Earned

Having a good reputation is important to most people; it is something that permeates one’s life and becomes the cornerstone in day-to-day interactions with others. An individual only has themselves to praise or blame for their reputation, but companies are comprised of many people and thousands of day-to-day interactions. The people of a company make up the reality of how the company operates, how it serves its customers and how it is perceived in the world.

As a customer, one should always consider the caliber of employees who create the reality of the reputation a company earns. It often becomes the determining factor as to whether a great or a poor experience will occur. “Individual, team and company reputation is important to each employee,” says Aaron Hilkemann, President of Duncan Aviation. “Our employees develop personal relationships with customers and earn their respect through their experience, efforts and by having great attitudes.” One thing people miss about Duncan Aviation is that employee longevity isn’t the only thing that translates into experience. Person for person, Duncan Aviation has as much if not more experience than any other aviation company, but is that our only tool for keeping operators and customers in the air? What other attributes do customers and potential customers look for when ascertaining who is going to service their aircraft?


Integrity is a good place to start. Being obedient to the unenforceable was a term the great mythology scholar Joseph Campbell coined about ethics and the ways ancient cultures dealt with “rights of passage.” It is a good way to describe human ethics, but ethics cannot account for the fact that human beings are certainly fallible.

According to Doug Alleman, Service Sales Manager in Lincoln, Nebraska, “Integrity [itself] is doing the right thing when no one is watching.” He relates some stories of mistakes that Duncan Aviation technicians have made from time to time. The important part of these incidents to Doug is that they were all admitted to and expressed to customers up front once they were discovered. Some customers get upset and Doug lets them vent before reminding them that “human beings are certainly fallible.” Being fallible is a human trait; being sneaky and secretive is a human choice. A great reputation requires great integrity or “being obedient to the unenforceable.” The culture of Duncan Aviation requires both, honesty and integrity. Honesty and integrity have been recurring themes at Duncan Aviation for more than 52 years. Managers like Doug Alleman are proud that employees step up to do “the right thing,” just as they have throughout the history of the company.

Part of the integrity so inherent at Duncan Aviation comes from old-time hiring practices. People are objectively looked at and scrutinized. Few who apply at Duncan Aviation are hired.

According to Melanie Ways, Human Resource Manager, Duncan Aviation only hires about 5% of those who apply. It’s not easy to get into this elite aviation brotherhood. This type of selectivity results in team players and people who are motivated by individual excellence as well as a high degree of team and company loyalty. One look at Duncan Aviation’s trade show booth at the NBAA convention demonstrates the importance the company places on its employees; there is a picture of every employee! “We hire not only for specific skills, but we also look at each person. You can’t train work ethic into someone, nor drive and determination,” said Jared Stauffer, Interior Completions Manager in Battle Creek, Michigan.


– Mark Stevenson
Chief Pilot, Goodfriend Investments

Human beings require more than a “work environment.” They require a challenge. Duncan Aviation provides the challenges that are required to grow in one’s chosen career. Employees are asked to strive for excellence in their individual work, teamwork and perhaps, most importantly, in their ethical conduct. “Our team culture motivates employees and automatically raises the level of accountability for everyone,” Dan Arrick, Engine Manager in Battle Creek explains. Duncan Aviation customers notice this sense of accountability, both at a facility and after delivery, because the commitment doesn’t disappear after the customer leaves.

“Love of industry and of challenges are typical amongst Duncan Aviation employees,” adds Kris Patrick, FBO services Manager in Lincoln, Nebraska. There are a multitude of different industries in the world. Duncan Aviation wants people who have a genuine aviation enthusiasm, people motivated by aviation and who have a love for airplanes and the thrill of flight.

What’s the best indication of the caliber of employees at Duncan Aviation? Duncan Aviation customers and our peers in the industry provide that answer. Mark Stevenson, Chief Pilot for Goodfriend Investments, LLC, knows what great assets Duncan Aviation employees are to their company and the industry they serve. He explains in a letter: “…the passion for excellence that Duncan Aviation employees have for their work is above and beyond anything I have ever experienced in the industry.” Integrity, honesty and values are traits that can’t be bought and paid for. They are human choices; they become the difference between a normal and a great maintenance event.

In a world of shrinking and changing values, Duncan Aviation has maintained its 52 year history of “doing the right thing.” And in the end, that may be the most important value-added item to your aircraft service. What becomes the determining factor for each customer as to where they will have their aircraft services performed is an individual choice. But the choice as to the ethics of each facility rests with the thousands of individual and team efforts and actions of those who build the reputations of each service provider. Choose carefully!