When 50 companies, one from each state, displayed their products in a Made in America Week event at the White House on July 17, a business that produces general aviation aircraft in a small town in Wyoming found itself in the impromptu role of general aviation's sole emissary to the proceedings.
Aviat Aircraft President Stuart Horn traveled from Afton, Wyoming, to Washington, D.C., for the July 17 function, not long after his company received (and called back to verify) a surprise phone call informing Aviat that it had been selected to participate in Made in America Week’s Product Showcase of goods manufactured in the United States by businesses “connected by a common thread of American excellence.”
“We were showcasing what ‘Made in America’ looks like,” he said by phone from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he was already preparing for Aviat’s next public showing at EAA AirVenture.
Horn said he had—mostly in jest—informed the White House staffer who contacted Aviat that he would have liked to bring an actual Aviat Husky to the event instead of pictures, and that the airplane could have landed on the White House lawn.
“They said, ‘We know you could, but that’s not going to happen.’”
Relying instead on his marketing material that emphasized the theme of “Performance Aircraft Handcrafted in Wyoming,” Horn made the best of the opportunity to introduce Aviat to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence when they came through to meet the entrepreneurs.
The conversation included explaining to Trump that the Husky is an off-airport specialist that could be landed on a mountaintop or other exotic location. (A photo of the aircraft on floats in the Aviat presentation proclaimed “No runway, no problem.”)
The aerobatic Pitts’ biplane design, he said in response to a question, increases its maneuverability. Throughout the conversation, Horn said, Trump “looked me square in the eye” and seemed to be making a sincere effort to understand the niche Aviat’s products occupy in the aviation spectrum.
Pence chatted with Horn, noting that his wife, Karen Pence, who has aviation in her family background, has piloted aircraft. Pence’s son, Michael Pence Jr., also took up aviation in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Horn said that his biggest thrill was realizing that “Aviat was the only company represented in terms of GA. We were picked and distinguished out of the whole pack to represent, in effect, all of GA, and the state of Wyoming. That was very exciting.”
Horn relished the opportunity to talk about his products and the 46-employee company that makes it all happen. “What we do is very special. Our workers have pride in their work. They have joy in their work, and it is manifested in this product.”
In addition to the Husky and the Pitts, Aviat’s lineup of aircraft includes the two-place aerobatic Eagle kitplane, and the 152 Reimagined, on which the company collaborated with AOPA to produce an economical aircraft that, when placed with a flying club, flight school, or partnership, can be flown for approximately $81 per hour, including fuel.
In 2012, AOPA selected as its sweepstakes airplane the Tougher Than a Tornado Husky, which earned its name after surviving a close call with a twister at Sun 'n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, the previous year.
Horn conceded that one aspect he will always remember about his “once-in-a-lifetime experience” hawking Huskies at the White House was that being president—of Aviat—had its privileges once the news spread through the factory about the White House’s invitation.
"Everybody was so excited, and jealous, because they wanted to go too,” he said.