Euroair Aviation’s Stefanek Family Demonstrates Commitments
To Both While Pursuing Their American Dream
by Ed Leineweber
We all lament the high cost of aviation, but nobody does anything about it. Right? From a gallon of avgas to a new S-LSA, there is nothing cheap about flying. Worse yet, even when we fork out the big bucks, quality is often lacking.
This reality has many of us limited to flying tired-looking, two- and four-place aircraft that aren’t much younger than we are, and don’t look much better either. Wouldn’t it be nice to get that old bird painted at an affordable price? Yeah, right!
Lay that skepticism born of experience aside, and call Denis Stefanek at Euroair Aviation, located on the Reedsburg, Wisconsin, municipal airport (C35). You might be flying a beautifully renewed aviation gem before you know it, and at a price you did not think possible. With my Bowers Fly Baby going through his shop right now, and my Globe Swift scheduled for the near future, Denis has made a believer out of me.
Of course the very attractive pricing and high-quality work are what closed the sales for me, but the old world charm and small- shop friendliness are the characteristics of Euroair Aviation that make this family-run business an appropriate topic for this article.
I enjoy celebrating the mom-and-pop nature of general aviation, which still predominates in the industry today, and remains on display at small GA airports all across the country. With that in mind, let me introduce you to Denis; his wife, Vaida; his father, Miroslav; his brother, Mirko; and his sole employee, Olin Kudelkau. Together, they are Euroair Aviation, and we are all better off for their aviation passion, hard work and dedication to finding their way in a new country.
Originally from Namest Nad Oslavou, a town in the Vysocina region of what is now the Czech Republic, Denis and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1997 and settled in the Reedsburg, Wisconsin area. After earning a degree in mechanical engineering, Denis was certified as an aircraft mechanic in the Czech Air Force and worked on the Sukhoi SU-22-M4, a Russian-made fighter/bomber. Miroslav was also a Czech Air Force aircraft mechanic, certified to work on a wide range of East Bloc military aircraft. He also ran a paint shop, where Denis learned the fine art of spray painting as a child.
Once settled in the U.S., Denis obtained his pilot’s certificate and eventually bought a Cherokee 140. Denis first worked in a couple of different jobs, but came to realize that aviation was his real passion, and where he wanted to focus his career. After a little more thought and discussion among the family, the decision was made. An aircraft paint shop named Euroair Aviation was on its way to becoming a reality!
Most of us dreaming of making our living in aviation would not start with building a new paint shop, with all the environmental and mechanical systems necessary to comply with the often conflicting and overlapping levels of governmental regulation. Wanting it to be an environmentally-friendly facility, the Stefaneks decided to put up a brand new building on Reedsburg Municipal Airport and do the job right from the get-go.
Started in November, 2005, and finally ready to open for business about a year later, the paint shop is 3,750 square feet, and can accommodate small aircraft with a wing span of up to 40 feet, and a tail height up to 11 feet. It’s a small shop for small airplanes, but a perfect place for the Stefaneks to pursue their dreams.
Since opening late in 2006, Euroair Aviation has painted 129 airplanes. (My Fly Baby will be number 130.) That’s about two dozen aircraft a year, or two or three a month. That strikes me as a pretty good sales volume for a small start-up paint shop, but not so high that Denis and his crew cannot give detailed, craftsman-like attention to each individual aircraft.
And this they do. I’ve been a frequent visitor to the Reedsburg shop over the past several months, and seen their work in the various stages of progress toward a finished product. As you probably already know, in aircraft painting, preparation is everything, and takes all but a small fraction of the time consumed for the overall job. Color coats at the end are merely frosting on the cake that was a long time in the oven. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all of the steps Denis goes through from the first discussion of the job with a prospective customer, until the finished aircraft rolls out of the shop, but readers are encouraged to give him a call at 608-448-9022, or examine the Euroair Aviation website for more details: www.euroairaviation.com.
The business plan that Denis conceived, now almost seven years ago, and still pursues today, is this: offer a high-quality, low-cost option for the aircraft owner who struggles to afford his or her Cherokee (or whatever), and to keep it well maintained and looking nice, while hoping to fly it 25 or 50 or 100 hours a year, all while keeping up with all the family bills and expenses that can easily put aircraft ownership out of reach. (That’s not to say that Denis will turn down all of you “one-per-centers” out there who are looking for a great job at a great price!) Judging from the market response, Denis is on to something. I know I would not be his customer at this time if it were not for this low-cost approach.
Denis is able to offer great prices without cutting corners in the quality and completeness of the job. For instance, he includes the aircraft paint design in his price without extra charge, and runs his shop in an environmentally responsible way. (As an avid hunter and fisherman, it is very important to Denis that he be a good steward of our natural resources.)
Like most entrepreneurs, Denis is trying to grow his business. He would like someday to have a bigger shop and be able to handle larger aircraft. He is currently taking steps to sell the current building and dreaming up the plans for the new one. While he would then be in a position to take on bigger jobs, our little airplanes will still fit in the new shop just fine.
So, let’s celebrate that the U.S. is still a place where folks come seeking a better life and a place to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. And let’s also feel fortunate that the Stefanek family is pursuing theirs in a small aircraft paint shop on the little Reedsburg Municipal Airport in rural southwest Wisconsin. We are all better off for it.