Brewer Aviation builds business refurbishing planes at Charlottetown airport

A new business at the Charlottetown airport is hoping to land customers by selling and refurbishing old planes — stripping them down to their bare bones to rebuilding them from scratch.

Aviation business will sell refurbished planes at a third of the cost

John Brewer has had his commercial pilot's licence since 1967 but has spent the last 28 years in the tourism industry. (Nancy Russell/CBC)
  A new business at the Charlottetown airport is hoping to land customers by selling and refurbishing old planes — stripping them down to their bare bones to rebuilding them from scratch

  Brewer Aviation is the brainchild of John Brewer, who's operated a tourism business in Cavendish for almost 30 years. Brewer is also an aviation enthusiast who is returning to his passion for flight.

Old airplanes are really very good airplanes.— John Brewer

Brewer, who has been a licensed commercial pilot since 1967, said general aviation aircraft can be very expensive, starting at $500,000 and running up to $1 million — before the U.S. exchange rate.

"We can buy an older airplane, which is basically the same design as the newer ones, and we can refurbish them and put them on the market for roughly about a third of the cost," Brewer said.

  "You know, who's got $500,000 or $1 million to spend on something basically just for fun?

  "That way they can get into it for probably $150,000 to $200,000 — and if you get two or three guys in it, it's not that expensive."

Always on the hunt

  The company is looking for planes from the last 35 to 40 years.

  "Airplanes are different from cars ... They don't have to deal with salt and every minute has to be recorded  — and regular inspections," he said.

  "Old airplanes are really very good airplanes."

  Brewer Aviation's first project a 1946 Aeronca Chief purchased in Quebec. The plane had been vandalized – the fabric on the wings was slashed but there was no structural damage.

  Aircraft maintenance engineer Deryck Hickox, who has worked on some  high-profile restoration projects, came out of retirement to work with Brewer Aviation.
Deryck Hickox has worked on a number of plane restoration projects but is excited to be doing it full-time with Brewer Aviation. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Passing on knowledge

  ​Hickox has taken several teenagers under his wings to restore the Aeronca. They've taken it down to the frame, and will now get work sandblasting, priming and painting.
These wings from the Aeronca Chief were vandalized and will have to be re-covered during the restoration process. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

  "This one is a choice piece for a restorer to get because all of the original pieces are still with the airplane and they're all in very restorable condition. So it will look like a new 1946 Aeronca Chief when it's done."

  Hickox is also looking forward to passing along what he knows to his proteges.

  "When I started, the old fellas — and I'm now one, unfortunately — taught me how to do fabric covering because it was dying at that time, and that's 50 years ago.  It's still dying and the new people coming along don't get any contact with it," he said.

  "I'm hoping that I can get some of them interested enough so that they'll carry on and do what I'm doing now."

In flight this spring

  In addition to restoration work, Brewer Aviation will also service private aircraft and do major rebuilds. They're also the Maritime agents for a company called Just Aircraft, based in South Carolina, that sells kits to build a plane.

  The company hopes to have the Aeronca — and their first plane from a kit— ready to fly in the spring.

  "Spring time it is," said Brewer. "Everything in aviation comes alive in the spring."
This is the frame of a new plane being assembled from a kit at Brewer Aviation. (Nancy Russell/CBC)


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