By Eric Peterson | Sep 12, 2016
Custom Aircraft Fabrication
Employees: about 30
Launched as Genesis 3 Engineering in Los Angeles, Trine Aerospace & Defence drew Ham joined the FAA-approved company's Colorado office in Woodland Park in 2005.
With a background flying business jets, Ham was often Roy Clennan's co-pilot, and he told the local mortgage executive about the company's potential. Now Trine's chairman, Clennan bought the company in 2012 and consolidated operations at Colorado Springs Airport the following year.
"I made my money in the mortgage industry, but my passion is aviation," says Clennan, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force and a pilot since the 1970s.
But he didn't buy Trine for a hobby. Clennan says he saw potential for dynamic growth: "They were happy being size X and I wanted to be 3X." He's hitting his targets: Trine has since grown from 12 employees to about 30 in four years.
Clennan says the catalyst was increasing the scope of operations and bringing formerly outsourced manufacturing processes in-house.
Ham describes Trine as "a one-stop shop" for custom aircraft. "We build it from scratch, we test it, and we certify it," he says. The company also has a product division that manufactures retractable arms for cameras and sensors on ISR (information, surveillance, reconnaissance) aircraft and a maintenance division that services planes at Colorado Springs Airport.
"Now our main hangar is 30,000 square feet and we have several smaller hangars where we have fabrication, assembly, and storage," says Ham. "We have a little campus if you will."
To date, Trine's modification operation has worked on a dozen different airframes. "We use our engineering to design first-of-kind solutions for aircraft," says Ham. "Our manufacturing backs that up."
It's also about coming up with a solutions for customers. Manufacturing Manager Mike "Lefty" McGuckian had decades of experience restoring World War II-era planes before joining Trine. "He's used to making something where something doesn't exist," says Ham. "There were no parts, so you had to design it from scratch, build it, certify it, and install it."
About 70 percent of the business is with government and military clients, and 30 percent is commercial. "It's everybody from the airlines and manufacturers to the operators," says Ham. Customers include Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation, Southwest Airlines, and the Australian Federal Police.
Clennan projects big growth in the near term. "I think we'll probably double in the next three years," he says. He estimated Trine will surpass 50 employees by 2018.
Challenges: "Our challenge is always schedule," says Ham. "We bill ourselves and worked ourselves into this community as a rapid-response provider. We love it, it's a neat niche, but it keeps you hopping. We could be asked to do a complete mod to an aircraft . . . in as little as three months."
Regulations are another hurdle. "The world we live in requires so much certification from the FAA and EASA [European Aviation Safety Agency]," says Ham. "If it's a composite, they want the recipe. If it's a metal fabrication, they want to know exactly how that metal was put together.
Opportunities: Supporting all airlines at Colorado Springs Airport, Trine's maintenance division is growing and currently hiring.The company is also looking at expanding its modification operation. "We're being challenged to move into some bigger airframes," says Ham.
Needs: With larger aircraft on the horizon, "We're finding we need more space," adds Ham. Trine crews recently had to work on a Boeing 737 outside because it was too tall for its hangars.
Another need is "the specific labor [Trine] requires," Ham adds. "The expectations are pretty high so we go after some pretty senior people." He says Colorado Springs labor pool is deep due to its notable U.S. Air Force presence.