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Act II: Switching Careers after 50

And realizing a life long dream. . .
a career in aviation.

Sadly, the down economy has put a lot of workers over age 50 in the unenviable position of needing to find a new profession. Don’t believe that old cliché about middle-aged dogs and new tricks, though; lots of wildly successful people found big success in careers they began after their fiftieth birthdays. And Rick Hayes is a great example.

“In March 2009, I left DePont, the automobile company I had been working with for 30 years. With the hard times in Michigan and the troubles in the automobile industry, the future of my job was in doubt. The company was eliminating people and I had a chance to leave with a pension, so I took it. I immediately signed up for the 120 hour Light Sport Repairman Maintenance (LSRM) course put on by Rainbow Aviation.” Thus Rick’s shift in careers began.

Rick has been interested in aviation for as long as he can remember. “As a boy, I spent all of my free time building radio controlled airplanes with my dad and reading Popular Mechanics. I was always daydreaming about building my own airplane.”

“When I signed up for the LSRM course, my plan was to start my own aviation company and build experimental light sport aircraft (ELSA) to resell,” Rick explains. “During my years at DuPont, I had continued to pursue my interest in aviation. I had built ultralights and a few kit aircraft throughout the years. I would buy ultralight kits and unfinished projects and complete them: Kolbs, Fishers, Quicksilvers, Rans, Protech PT-2, Junior Ace, and a Curtiss Jenny replica. So I knew I enjoyed building.”

With the new Light Sport Rule, Rick realized that he could turn his hobby into a business building aircraft in the ELSA category for customers. (Unlike the amateur built category, ELSA may be built by hired professionals. Another hidden opportunity created by the 2004 Light Sport Rule.) With the LSRM certificate, Rick would be able to offer maintenance, repairs, and inspections on light sport aircraft, build ELSA kits for resell and, as an added component; Rick decided he would like to be an LSA Dealer.

Rick had built a few Rans Aircraft in the past and he liked the company and the quality of their products. So next he took a trip to Hays, Kansas. After an impressive flight in a Rans S-19 with the Rans Aircraft Company’s CEO Randy Schlitter, Rick applied to become a Rans dealer. “It was a process,” Rick explains. “But, in the end I was accepted as a dealer. I took all of the Rotax specialty training and I set up Hayes Aero, LLC in Ortonville, MI. ( I know I would not be a Ran’s Dealer without the LSRM certificate or be able to build and sell aircraft professionally.

My entire business concept was not possible before the light sport rule,” Rick explains. The first aircraft Rick built after earning his LSRM was an ELSA Rans S-19. It took Rick around 1500 hours to complete. After delivering the aircraft to Kansas, Rick began work on his next kit, a Rans S-6S. “I work on these projects intermittently, performing maintenance and inspection for customers. I really specialize in Rans Aircraft, but I help out folks with maintenance issues. I provide Rotax services, repairs, and rebuilding as well. It all keeps me very busy.”

In February of 2011, Rick became a Light Sport CFI. Today, he also provides flight training and Rans Aircraft transition training. “I love what I’m doing now. My hobby has become my second career. I love talking to the customers and helping them out with problems they may run into. I never get tired of talking airplanes and I make a lot of friends doing it.” Rick comments. “I feel very lucky. It’s tough times, you know?”

Rick’s successful attempt at a second career in aviation maintenance is not uncommon. The average attendee in the Rainbow Aviation LSRM course is over 50, most starting a second career. Some, like Rick focusing on building kits, specializing in a particular make of LSA. Others, specializing in Rotax engines. Some set up mobile services while others set up businesses at their local airports serving all Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) and ELSA makes and models. The options are endless.

“The free online LSRM support site that Rainbow offers to their graduates is invaluable.” Rick adds. “That site keeps me up to date on everything from Rotax bulletins, to new light sport regulations, and provides a platform for me to ask questions related to troubleshooting, business set up, or any aspect of my business. I really appreciate the access to the great pool of knowledge.”

Light Sport is the fastest growing segment in aviation today and the opportunities are abundant. From owner operators performing their own inspections to new business owner hanging a shingle . . . the LSRM training provides a huge opportunity.

Each journey starts with a step.

For more information on the Light Sport
Repairman courses contact
Rainbow Aviation Services: 530-567-5141


January 2012 Light Aviation Edition

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