Air Transport World

Aviation-services supermarket. (AAR Corp.)

Aviation-services supermarket Elk Grove Village, Ill.--From practically a mom-and-pop operation to a multinational aviation-services supermarket with 2,500 employees and almost $450 million in revenues--that's a capsule summary of AAR Corp.'s 35-year evolution under Chairman and CEO Ira A. Eichner. Although this story has nothing to do with the U.S.S.R. or the nations of Eastern Europe and their tentative experiments with free enterprise, they could well learn from AAR's experience the important role played by entrepreneurs in creating jobs and profits.

To begin at the beginning, Eichner was a 21-year-old undergraduate at Roosevelt University in Chicago, with no money in the bank and no tempting job offers but contemplating marriage. Yet, there was a business, he realized, where hustle could make up for a lack of capital--the purchase and resale of surplus World War II and Korean War material. Borrowing a few hundred dollars from his fiance and targeting the airlines as his major prospects, Eichner was off and running.

Recognizing at the start that quality and reliability were even more important than price in this market, he set up a quality-control and refurbishing operation to assure that the items he sold, when not new, were at least as good as new. As the company's reputation and sales grew, he added additional capabilities through both internal expansion and acquisitions.

Today, AAR Corp. comprises an international network of aviation companies, with 25 facilities plus 10 additional sales offices in the U. …

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