A pilot who is preparing for a bear hunt, fishing expedition, or camping in the Alaskan wilderness can get bush tires, fabricated parts, oil, and more for the airplane, along with tents, stoves, compressed wood blocks, sleds that will fit in belly pods, aviation-engineered dip nets, and apparel from the company.
“We’re a one-stop shop for pilots,” said Ryan Kedzie, marketing director for Airframes Alaska. “We understand that we make a bunch of really great backcountry aviation products, from lightweight struts to fuselages to Alaskan Bushwheels, but we also want to serve the customer” with additional aircraft parts and backcountry products.
To become a prominent backcountry supplier, the company started expanding in 2014 with the acquisition of Alaskan Bushwheels, then Alaska Tent and Tarp in the fall of 2018, and Northern Sled Works in the fall of 2020. Now, Airframes Alaska offers an improved aviation fabric product line as well as supplies for backcountry pilots, guides, and adventurers.
Airframes Alaska has about 80 employees among its locations in Anchorage, Palmer, and Fairbanks. The company had previously been based at the Birchwood Airport, manufacturing parts in hangars until it outgrew the space. The company opened its main campus on a 12-acre parcel with a more than 50,000-square-foot facility about one mile from the Palmer airport in late 2019/early 2020 to better serve the Matanuska Valley and Anchorage areas. It also has started selling McFarlane parts to service more Cessnas.
More than half of its employees—including welders, tire builders, sewers, sled fabricators, machinists, and sheet metal fabricators—work on aviation products at any given time. Employees making Arctic Oven tents might also be stitching wing covers, for example. The company was testing lightweight nylon wing tents for Super Cubs this summer with plans to bring the product to market in the fall. The wing tent is compact, easy to pack, and connects quickly to the wing to allow pilots to set up a basecamp right from the airplane, Kedzie said.
Airframes Alaska’s most popular aviation products are the 31-inch and 35-inch Alaskan Bushwheel tires, Performance STOL flaps, and four-place Super Cub fuselage. About 12 man-hours go into producing each of the popular bush tires. The Performance STOL flaps, which allow pilots to “fly at a flatter deck angle without increasing their airspeed,” have become so popular that the company added to the production team because of a large backlog. The three- and four-place fuselages are produced in-house at the Palmer campus by a team of fabricators and welders.
The company’s aluminum lift struts are gaining in popularity. Airframes Alaska brought the struts to market for Super Cubs in the spring of 2020 and recently received supplemental type certificate approval for Maules. They are targeted to be available for Maule customers in late summer or early fall, Kedzie said. Beyond Super Cubs, Maules, and certain Cessnas, the company also offers parts such as landing gear for Citabrias, and tailsprings for Husky and Scout taildraggers.
For a company that specializes in low and slow, Kedzie said, “We have no plans of slowing down. We are getting more and more popular” and want to expand by serving not only the Alaskan backcountry community but the aviation community overall.