A partnership between two local companies has wings…literally.
“There’s very few people in the country that can put a plane on a stick,” said Mike Thomason, Manufacturing President of 425 Manufacturing.
Although it sounds simple, their latest project is anything but simple.
Thompson is a pilot, and 425 Manufacturing, at 5004 27th Ave, has turned out a lot of aviation work in its 3 year history.
“We’ve done engine lifts. We’ve done cranes, engine slings, wash carts, a whole bunch of different types of aviation-type stuff,” Thomason said.
Much of that work has been for SC Aviation at the Rock County Airport in Janesville.
“425 is a great partner for us,” said SC Aviation’s Director of Maintenance, Jim Dillavou. “They’ve built us a lot of tooling, a lot of things that I need that I can’t find on the open market. And, they were a perfect fit for doing this project of making 26 Sugar Charlie into a monument.”
26 Sugar Charlie is a Hawker business jet that was part of SC Aviation’s fleet for 25 years. SC operates charters, manages aircraft, and does maintenance on planes.
“Swiss Colony, or Colony Brands, as they’re called today, was started in 1926. We got our first aircraft in 1946. So, it’s a long history of aviation with this company,” Dillavou explained.
26 Sugar Charlie is about to become a very visible symbol of that history, as it will go on display outside SC Aviation’s hangar.
“This particular airplane is what made SC Aviation what it is today,” Dillavou said. “It’s been the backbone of our fleet for a long time.”
425 has the job of making the mounts and attaching the retired jet to the poles. Tolerances are tight, about a 16th of an inch.
The team at 425 has a similar Hawker aircraft at the company’s shop to practice on and make sure everything fits.
“A lot of people [are putting] little fighter jets on a pole, or little small airplanes on a pole,” Thomason said. “This literally sits on the runway as a 17,000 lbs. plane that they’ll have stripped down quite a bit. But still, you have a very large plane going on a pole. So, there’s a lot of weight and engineering involved with it.”
The billboard with wings will serve several purposes: besides a history lesson about SC Aviation, Dillavou, a graduate of Rock Valley College’s Aviation Maintenance Program says he hopes it inspires young adults to follow a similar career path to his.
“Unfortunately, not very many people know there’s even an airport in Janesville,” Dillavou said. “And, recruiting young people to get into the aviation career is one of the reasons that we’re doing it. We need to get more people into aviation. There’s lots of great jobs about it. A lot of people don’t even know that there’s aviation as big as we are in Janesville, Wisconsin.”
If everything goes as scheduled, 26 Sugar Charlie should be on display by the end of Summer.