Duncan’s guys in Europe


Tim Barber

Duncan Aviation has grown its European team by 100%

Almost everyone involved in operating or selling business aircraft in the US will have touched upon Duncan Aviation. For Americans Duncan is not just a family owned company. It is an institution. Founded in 1956 the company now has 2000 employees with full service facilities in: Battle Creek, Michigan; Lincoln, Nebraska; and Providence, Utah. It also has more than 20 avionic facilities and 10 centres specialising in engine rapid response.

Outside the US Duncan is not as well known. Although this is changing, it is not a surprise. Duncan only has facilities in the US and just 0.25% of its staff are based outside America. Or, more simply, five people.

Arjen Groenveld, based in Amsterdam, was the company’s first international hire when he joined in 2005. Before that he was one of the company’s first international customers. On one of his visits to Duncan’s facilities he told the company that they were missing out on international sales. They listened. Then hired him.

Convincing Europeans to fly their aircraft to a US maintenance facility for heavy checks was not easy to start with. But Groenveld had a strong ally: the $/Eu exchange rate.

“The Euro/Dollar exchange rate was a huge help when I started,” says Groenveld. “Owners – many of whom were new buyers – would suddenly find that they had Eu1.2 million checks so it was easy to say we can save you Eu300,000 by flying to the US – even with ferry flights. That was easy, but once they had experienced how Duncan is different, many of them have stayed with us.”

Despite having 2000 employees, Todd Duncan the firm’s chairman, still refers to it it as a small company. But, it is a small company that has invested in technology. The company’s MyDuncan system gives owners or managers an easy way to track and approve costs.

“When I was an aircraft manager, I hated the fact that you would take an aircraft for maintenance and then have to wait weeks for the final bill. There is nothing worse than having to go to an owner and say: ‘I am afraid that check we did three months ago cost $200,000 more than we thought.’ At Duncan nothing happens without the owner signing it off.”

The company typically deals with more than 2000 aircraft each year. Some 46 of these are heavy maintenance checks – often including repainting and new interiors. A significant number of these are now flying in from Europe.

After experimenting with Groenveld, the company has also placed maintenance specialists in Mexico, Brazil and Auckland. It has also just hired its first salesperson outside the US: Tim Barber (pictured).

Barber joins in Europe

Although Duncan is best known for its maintenance, the company has always been involved in pre-owned sales and advisory. It is a founder member of the National Aircraft Resale Association and has been involved in 3,500 aircraft transactions.

“Duncan Aviation clearly has a fantastic track record in selling aircraft and great customer relations – which is brilliant. But probably the most exciting thing from my perspective is that I have is access to over 2000 real business aviation experts,” says Barber. “With one call I can get through to unique technical expertise – either Arjen or, very often, someone who I have not even met.”

Barber says that Duncan’s maintenance expertise also means it can help support transactions by bundling in services. Barber only joined the company in March but has already picked up two exclusive sales mandates and one advisory for a buyer.

“It has a small business feeling but is also a serious player in the business aviation industry,” says Barber. “When I was flying back from Lincoln after my interview I looked across the runway and all I could see were buildings with the Duncan Aviation logo. As a broker it is really inspiring.