Interview with Wolfgang Dillbaum-Alexius about the future of general aviation

Q |   As the General Manager of a company dealing with airplane parts, where is your passion for aviation coming from? How did you “land” on this field?

WD |   Back then to the Rhineland Air Service (RAS), which was a relatively small company at the time, has become a position in sales vacant. The company already planed to sale spare parts in the future. And that was it: a life changing moment. I’ve been in aviation business ever since. Now we are 34 years ahead,  It wasn’t there from the start: as time and my knowledge of the field grew, so did my affection for the industry.

Q |   Was always your intention to start a company like aps and be your own boss?

WD |  That was actually also accidental. I left the RAS after 17 years to start at Jet Aviation. Many of my customers expressed their hope that I still remain active in smaller general aviation. I eventually did what they asked for and founded aps. At the beginning it was meant to be a side project but – as I found out relatively quickly – such a dynamic has been developed that I knew I need to discover the further potentials of aps. I hired the first employees and in 2009 then I decided to concentrate only on aps.

Q |   How was the beginning, the “spring of aps” and what is the core philosophy of the brand you have established ever since?

WD |  In 2009 we already had a solid customer base. An absolute decisive factor was that a fair number of my customers have basically sworn loyalty to me. I remember some of them saying: “if you start your business now, we won’t leave you out in the rain, we will support you”. And that was of course what ultimately made the success of aps. And still does today. We have an outstanding clientele who has been faithful to us throughout the years, has grown with us and accompanied the success of aps. That’s very unique and shows that we have done well by them. Mrs Lomanns, Mrs Seidel and myself have been there from the beginning and have built truly friendly relationships to our customers over the years. It goes without saying that we also went to great length to meet their needs. We do not have a supplier-customer interaction rather a very close relationship with our customers. This is the most important value for me. The core of aps.

Q |   Your Team consists some long-time employees but some new faces also meet the eyes. Does this mix have a special advantage for aps and for your costumer?

WD |  It is a definite advantage that we have some senior employees with a great deal of experience who can… must… and should pass on the knowledge. Naturally so. Of course, I’m also glad to have many young employees who have a different perspective, who bring fresh blood, fresh ideas and fresh wind into our company. This is particularly true in the wake of digitalization. It’s vital that the newer generation tests the limits and breaks through, pushes the boundaries and improves our brand.

Q |   The difficult situation of commercial airlines is all over the news but there are also numerous smaller companies struggling in aviation business. You have a direct line to many of them. How are they coping with the corona crisis?

WD |   You see, maintenance companies haven’t really been able to work through all that was put in the hangar. For the first time, all that kind of franticness settled in this crisis. On the positive side of less daily business you can dedicate yourself to long-term projects which have been pushed aside in the past. This still enables a reasonable amount of work. If the crisis should continue for a longer period, if flight restrictions continue to apply, especially for flight schools and clubs, that’s another story. That will have a clear impact on the industry in a month or two.

Q |   The APOA Germany (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) advocated in a report the continuity of highest possible normality in general aviation. In your opinion, is the easing of measures in general aviation the right path?

WD |   I’m a bit divided on this matter.  There is a big difference whether you fly a small aircraft like Cessna 172 with 1-2 passengers or sitting in a tight airbus with 350 passengers. Of course, the protection of people has to be considered first and foremost. Even so, one has to consider what the huge economic impact of “stranded aircrafts”, especially in commercial aviation. I personally favour the obligation to wear masks because it already guarantees sensible protection.

Q |   Many speculate on the drastic decline in scheduled flights, especially a decrease in passenger transport in the next few months, possibly years. How would you assess the near future of general aviation?

WD |   That’s all a question of money. I strongly believe that the group of people who are active in general aviation will not stop flying, because it is a passion for most of them. There can be a decline if flying is no longer affordable. Of course aps is also working on making flying affordable *laughs.

Q |  aps delivers across borders, but it has a significant customer base in Germany too. Will regional/national contacts weigh more after the Corona-Crisis?

WD |   Yes, I think many will favor domestic wholesalers because of their storage capacities in Germany. The customers will seek that kind of flexibility and security in shipping they can provide. Even so, I still have the goal of continuing to grow abroad: we have branches in Eastern Europe and in Belgium for the French-speaking area. I’m ambitious in bringing those forward too. Thus, customers all over Europe have a “go to” aps contact in their region. Another compelling question for us: what happens to the BREXIT? While everybody focuses on COVID-19, the topic captivated us last year has become completely oblivious. In case of a hard BREXIT, we will certainly play an outstanding role on the continent. As one of the largest spare parts dealers here and that with an outstanding logistics *laughs.

Q |   Does aps take advantage of this relatively quiet period?

WD |    Yes, absolutely, we certainly make use of it. We are working on a new, high-quality IT infrastructure, in the establishment of a web shop and on digitalization of operative business in general. We have neglected these in recent years due our similarly high workload than aircraft maintenance’s. By extending our “crew” we are more flexible and have the capacity and time to address pending IT-issues. We want to be even stronger after the Corona-crisis than we were before. My team and I are convinced that in 6 months we will see a complete newly reborn aps that with its new digital tools will not only catch up but even exceed the requirements of the current digital era.

Q |   Do you have anything to add?

WD |   Just to emphasize once more how grateful we are to have exceptional, faithful customers. We help each other in difficult times. Furthermore, I have a first-class team who also has a great relationship to our customers. This assures me that we will get through the crisis together.

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