Who could have imagined that a 1970s hippie kid who liked canvas and whose mother was a pilot in a time when very few women flew would now be a wildly successful manufacturer of a product no one would have even seen the need for? But Bruce Perch took to the idea and, along with his then-girlfriend, now wife Heather, created a niche market that defies most business models. Bruce’s Custom Covers makes one-of-a-kind custom covers for the canopies of nearly every aircraft known to man. Today, the company has 16,000 products—canopy covers, cowl plugs, heat shields—and employs 70 skilled workers in a 20,000-square-foot facility in Perch’s hometown of Morgan Hill, California.
From that first design for his mother’s Cessna 182 (see “Grandma’s 182,” p. 50) Perch has created and designed—and maintained—patterns for nearly 1,200 different aircraft models. And he makes them custom, designing covers for each individual aircraft, mapping out where antennas or pitot tubes or any other appendage might interrupt the material. “That’s where we really shine,” he says. “We make covers specifically designed for a particular aircraft—yours. For example, a Cessna 172 is one model for which we offer about 100 products. For Cessna alone, we offer products for 56 distinct models.
“The earliest aircraft for which we make covers would be the 1930s-era types such as Waco, Travel Air, and Fleet. We also have products for aircraft so new, they aren’t yet known to the public. This includes robotic aircraft and spacecraft.”
Perch oversees the manufacturing of the specially designed materials and pattern creation, involving five cutting tables and 77 sewing machines. Heather is the liaison with the employees, all of whom are “like family” and many are long-term. “I view leadership as service,” she says.
Heather remembers that on one of her first dates with Perch, he took her flying. “That was pretty impressive,” she says. “I’d never been in a small aircraft.” A member of a family of pilots, Bruce has always been proud of his company because not only are his products filling a genuine need, but he gets to work for and around pilots.
“It all begins with a good pattern. I listen to our customers, and I am always thinking about what that aircraft is doing and what it needs for its protection.”
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