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Bob Irwin, Aircraft Spruce Co-Founder Flies West
Bob Irwin, co-founder of Aircraft Spruce, passed away on June 26, 2015 in Lake Havasu City, AZ at the age of 95. Along with his wife Flo, he started Fullerton Air Parts in 1955, Aircraft Spruce in 1965, and ACS Products Co. in 1983. Bob held a doctorate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Missouri and worked for Aerojet General in propulsion testing during the 1960's. He was a Link trainer instructor during World War II and became a pilot in 1948. Over the next 50 years Bob logged over 2200 hours in his Vultee BT-13, Navion A model, and Navion Rangemaster. He is survived by his sons Jim (Nanci) and John (Frances), eight grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.
Aircraft Spruce Celebrates 50 Years of Service to Aviation 1965-2015
1965 Flo Irwin starts new business in the basement of family home in Fullerton, CA selling one product....aircraft spruce lumber for aircraft builders. She takes the orders by mail and phone and hires one man to cut the spruce. A one page flyer is the first Aircraft Spruce "catalog".
1967-1969 Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co.occupies a small building on Amerige St. in downtown Fullerton. Flo begins to carry other products and expands the catalog by a few pages each year.
1970-73 Aircraft Spruce moves to larger building at 128 W. Wilshire Ave. in Fullerton and now carries, steel and aluminum tubing and sheet, hardware, and an expanding range of products for homebuilders. Bob Irwin leaves the aerospace industry to join Aircraft Spruce and Jim Irwin starts as a parts packer and wood cutter during high school.
1973 Aircraft Spruce moves to a 1924 citrus packing warehouse at 201 W. Truslow Ave. in Fullerton. At 27,000 sq. ft, the much larger building will provide space for a much larger product line and will be the company's home for the next 24 years.
1975 Burt Rutan meets with Flo and Bob Irwin at the Fullerton offices and asks them to buy large quantities of new materials such as epoxies, fiberglass, and foams and be a distributor for his new Vari-Eze design. They agreed, and the experimental aircraft market took a big leap forward.
1975-1983 Aircraft Spruce ships hundreds of Vari-Eze, Long-EZ, and Quickie/Q2 kits to customers worldwide as the composite aircraft movement explodes. In 1982 Aircraft Spruce becomes a major sponsor of Burt Rutan's Voyager, culminating in the flight around the world in December 1986.
1980 Jim and Nanci Irwin assume leadership of Aircraft Spruce.
1983 Flo and Bob Irwin, along with John Irwin move to Lake Havasu City, AZ and start a new manufacturing company, ACS Products Co, which remains a key supplier to Aircraft Spruce today.
1993 Aircraft Spruce Avionics opens at the Fullerton airport. It will move to the Chino Airport in 1995 and allow Aircraft Spruce to become a leading distributor for general aviation avionics equipment.
1996 Aircraft Spruce acquires Alexander Aeroplane in Griffin, GA and changes it to Aircraft Spruce East. The 25,000 sq. ft. facility allows for faster, more economical shipment of orders to Aircraft Spruce customers in the eastern U.S.
1997 Aircraft Spruce West moves from the packing house in Fullerton to a new 60,000 sq. ft. facility in Corona, CA. providing ample warehouse space for the company's ongoing product line expansion, state of the art office space, and a much larger retail store.
2004 Aircraft Spruce East moves from the Griffin building to a new 60,000 sq. ft. facility in Peachtree City, GA which can handle the tremendous growth the company is experiencing. Thousands of orders are now shipping from the CA and GA facilities each week.
2004-2009 Jim and Nanci Irwin's sons, Mike Jeff, and Rob join Aircraft Spruce following college and quickly become key members of the management team.
2006 Aircraft Spruce Canada opens in Mississauga, Ontario becoming the first international warehouse for Aircraft Spruce. This division moves to Brantford Airport in 2008 allowing the company to become one of the leading aircraft parts suppliers in Canada.
2006-2014 Aircraft Spruce continues to grow its product lines in the retail and wholesale markets and acquires several companies that help the company cover all areas of the general aviation industry. The company website is upgraded several times to provide customers with an efficient online ordering experience. Aircraft Spruce becomes a major sponsor for EAA and AOPA.
2015 Aircraft Spruce celebrates 50 years as a leading supplier to the sport aviation and general aviation communities. The one page flyer on spruce created by Flo Irwin in 1965 has now become a 1000 page catalog, and office in the basement of the family home has been replaced by three regional warehouses shipping thousands of orders each week to customers in every corner of the world.
This Navion was owned and flown by Bob Irwin throughout his life. The airplane was passed down to his son Jim, and Jim's friend Mike performed a fly-by in the Navion honoring Mr Irwin at the graveside service in Lake Havasu City, AZ on July 11, 2015. A video of the fly-by is posted below.