Each year during the annual AEA International Convention & Trade Show, two prestigious awards are presented.
AEA Annual Awards
Each year during the annual AEA International Convention & Trade Show, two prestigious awards are presented: the AEA Member of the Year, which honors an individual from an AEA member repair station; and the AEA Associate Member of the Year, which honors a manufacturer, distributor or service provider.
The winners of each award are recognized by their peers for their service and participation in the general aviation industry and in the association. AEA members are encouraged to honor fellow AEA members by taking a few moments to vote.
To vote, cast your ballot between Nov. 12 and Dec. 7.
Drabpol Sp. Jawna P. Drabczynski i Wspolnik – Mykanow, Poland
For more than 35 years, Paweł Drabczyński has been involved in electronics for vehicles and aircraft. In 1993, he first offered his services to the avionics industry in the Eastern bloc countries. It wasn’t until 2006 when he managed to approach the U.S. manufacturers, the first being BendixKing.
The relationship he made at that time with AEA member Al Ingle allowed Drabczyński to get acquainted with the AEA. After joining the AEA in 2008, the first member from Poland, he attended his first AEA Convention in Dallas in 2009.
According to Drabczyński, it is the AEA that connected his business with numerous avionics manufacturers around the world and made it possible for Drabpol Avionics to reach a high level of success outside the Polish market. Drabpol is a Part 145 and Part 21 certified organization. The company employs a total of 85 people, including avionics engineers and graphic designers.
Paweł Drabczyński has been engaged in social initiatives for many years. For example, he publishes Drabpol News magazine that promotes both the AEA and U.S. manufactured products to thousands. He also distributes brochures promoting safety in flight by advising and teaching pilots how important it is to have proper information and fully-operational avionics equipment.
As the first one in Poland to establish a Part 145 organization focused on avionics services, he also was the first in Poland to create a Part 21 organization. Drabczyński credits the support of the AEA’s Paula Derks and Ric Peri for making it all possible. Drabczyński was a pathfinder for other Polish organizations, both in the Polish Civil Aviation Office and the European Aviation Safety Agency. Due to his innovative leadership, he was awarded the emblem of “Teraz Polska” (now Poland) the former president of Poland, Lech Wałęsa.
In addition, Drabczyński was awarded with the Silver Cross of Merit for his activity in favor of safety in transport by President Aleksander Kwaśniewski. He also was awarded with a Golden Cross of Merit (the only and highest award granted to businessmen for their efforts and achievements in industry) for his activity in favor of defense related to military aviation by President Bronisław Komorowski.
Throughout the years, Drabpol has been a dealer for BendixKing, Rockwell Collins, Universal Avionics, Honeywell D&S, L3 Avionics Systems, L3 Wescam, Garmin, Aspen Avionics, Sandel, Avidyne, Mid Continent Instruments and Avionics, Becker, Flight Display Systems, Cobham, S-Tec, Genesys Aerosystems, FreeFlight Systems, Thommen and others.
In 2001, the company was awarded the title of “Elite Dealer” by Avidyne, and in 2017, it was one of the five best dealers of BendixKing in the world and the best BendixKing dealer in the region of Central-Eastern Europe, Russia and Turkey.
Drabczyński regularly attends the annual AEA International Convention & Trade Show and the AEA Europe Connect Conference. He also is a helicopter pilot and enjoys golf, music and travel in his spare time.
Duncan Aviation – Lincoln, Nebraska
Kevin Miesbach, a 37-year employee of Duncan Aviation, is currently the components/OEM new business development manager. In this position, he drives Duncan Aviation’s components repair services toward new business opportunities with OEMs, government entities and new product capabilities.
Miesbach always had an interest in aviation and attended Southeast Community College in Lincoln, Nebraska, to obtain an associate degree in electronic engineering technology. Upon graduation in 1982, Miesbach began his career as an avionics technician with Lincoln Avionics. At the time, Lincoln Avionics was partly owned by Duncan Aviation and provided avionics support to general aviation aircraft like Cessna 182s and Piper Cherokees. Jumping into avionics during that era presented Miesbach with many experiences and allowed him to do everything from avionics system installations to bench repairs and equipment sales to test flights. Familiarity with equipment from the big avionics names of the day, including King, Narco, ARC, Genave, and Collins, came fast.
In 1985, when Lincoln Avionics was liquidated, the corporation was transitioned into Duncan Aviation. Miesbach transferred to the avionics installation department within Duncan Aviation and began working on business aircraft such as Citations and Learjets.
Miesbach later joined the Components Repair team working avionics line and bench maintenance on corporate jets and turbo props repairing HF and FMS systems, VHF navigation and communication equipment of all makes and models. In 1993, he was promoted to nav/comm team leader, and after seven years, took over as avionics shop supervisor. He spent 15 years moving from the supervisor role to avionics component repair manager. During this time, Duncan Aviation’s avionics and instrument shop developed and gained a long list of new capabilities that includes FMS, TAWS, digital CVRs, NAT communications and audio equipment, newer weather radars, and gyros. Miesbach also spent time recruiting qualified technicians to the Duncan Aviation team.
“I have long been interested in education and developing avionics technicians,” Miesbach said. “I have seen the demand for avionics technicians grow over the years, and for more than two decades, I have worked with several avionics and technical schools in the Midwest as an advisor, helping to ensure educational programs are preparing future technicians for the industry. I have also enjoyed promoting business aviation to high school students through classroom presentations and career fairs.”
With strong leadership skills, a wealth of aviation knowledge, and strategic industry relationships, Miesbach has been able to fill Duncan Aviation’s avionics repair shops with the right kinds of business while helping the company move forward to the next generation of equipment and technology.
In the early 1980s, Lincoln was the chosen location for an AEA regional meeting. Miesbach recalls that event as his first introduction to the AEA as a young technician and has enjoyed every opportunity to attend the conventions and meetings since.
Miesbach met Mary, his wife of 28 years, while she was working at the front desk at Duncan Aviation. Kevin, Mary and their three grown children, Nick, Mallory and Andy, enjoy the outdoors – boating, waterskiing and wakeboarding in the summer. Kevin and his boys spend time hunting in the winter.
Avionics Installations Inc.
Avionics Installations – Port Orange, Florida
Pahan Ranasingha is the owner of Avionics Installations Inc., an AEA member repair station located at Spruce Creek Airport in Florida. He started flying at the age of 14 in New York and continues to fly on a regular basis for business and pleasure.
He is an Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University alumnus with a background in professional aeronautics, aviation/aerospace safety and airport management. Ranasingha also uses many newer technologies in his day-to-day operations at Avionics Installations, including 2D and 3D CAD, laser cutting, 2D and 3D machining, and 3D printing to name a few.
He also passes on some of this knowledge and experience at the AEA, where he teaches the Avionics Installation for Experimental Aircraft training course.
Ranasingha’s wife, Janelle, teaches the course with him. Janelle is a chiropractor and is a licensed repairman at Avionics Installations. Ranasingha and his wife also built a Lancair IV-P airplane.
Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics
Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics – Wichta, Kansas
Todd Winter is the president and CEO of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics. He also is CEO of True Blue Power, the first company in the world to develop and TSO a safe, lithium-ion main-ship battery.
Winter’s passion for aviation began at a young age, spending many hours watching airplanes and taking rides with his father at the airport. This fostered a keen interest in aircraft and instrumentation. Many visits to the famous Redding Air Show and the annual highlight performance of Bob Hoover in his famous P51 Mustang spurred an early desire to become a pilot.
“I literally was born into aviation,” he said. “My father, John, worked at Aircraft Radio Corp. in Boonton, New Jersey. He was involved in developing and refining some of the first general aviation autopilot systems. Several years after our family moved to Texas, I attended my first AEA meeting in San Antonio in 1968. The rest is history, and I’ve been attending AEA meetings throughout the world ever since. AEA members truly are part of my family. I strive to support my friends and help serve their customers well.”
Winter’s commitment to the association is reflected in Mid-Continent’s twice receiving the prestigious AEA Associate Member of the Year award.
Winter is an FAA-certified private pilot, a past board member and current member of the Aircraft Electronics Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Business Aviation Association, Helicopter Association International, Wichita Aero Club, the Experimental Aircraft Association, World Presidents' Organization, and the Condor Squadron. He also is a semiprofessional drummer.
Founded in 1964, Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics is an FAA/EASA authorized repair station and AS9100D-certified manufacturing facility. The company specializes in the manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft instruments and avionics. True Blue Power specializes in the design and manufacturing of advanced power solutions, including USB charging ports, inverters, voltage converters and lithium-ion aircraft batteries.
Associate Member of the Year Nominees
Applied Avionics Inc., originally named Aerospace Optics, was incorporated in June 1968 and got its start in avionics manufacturing by producing custom edge-lighted panels, knobs and annunciators for use in aircraft cockpits. In 2018, the company celebrated its 50-year anniversary.
In the mid-to-late 1970s, the company shifted its focus to the production of rugged, high-quality, illuminated pushbutton switches. The company’s VIVISUN 99 incandescent illuminated pushbutton switch revolutionized aircraft crew station lighting with sunlight readability and MIL-PRF-22885 qualification for switches. It gained immediate acceptance as the standard in aircraft crew station lighting in both the military and commercial aircraft markets. The company was among the first to offer Night Vision Goggle compatibility in its switches during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1983, Aerospace Optics had moved to a new 32,000-square-foot facility situated on a 15-acre campus in east Fort Worth, Texas.
In 1996, the company introduced its first LED illuminated pushbutton switch. The VIVISUN LED switch integrated its signature sunlight readability with the reliability of the LEDs to provide customers with the best crew station illumination on all platforms and the highest reliability available in the industry today.
NEXSYS Component Technology was introduced in 2010, allowing a variety of independent mix-and-match electronic components to be incorporated in a switch body or in a dedicated behind-the-panel NEXSYS Module. These components allow electrical system designers to maximize functionality while minimizing cockpit real estate, reducing installation labor, and simplifying the bill of material required. NEXSYS Component Technology allows virtually unlimited custom configurations that uniquely address the designer’s specific functional requirements.
Based on the success of NEXSYS Component Technology, the company changed its name in November 2015 from Aerospace Optics to Applied Avionics. This change was made to support the company’s growth and the introduction of its new line of avionics system integration products under the NEXSYS brand, which debuted at the 2015 AEA International Convention & Trade Show in Dallas, Texas.
“The products in our NEXSYS line are uniquely qualified to expand our expertise inside the cockpit,” said Loren Jensen, president and chairman. “Our NEXSYS products offer machine-machine interface capabilities inside as well as outside of our VIVISUN lighted pushbutton switches. Our company name change and our new NEXSYS brand is a signal to our customers and the industry that we are continuing our long history of product innovation.”
Although the company name has changed, its leadership and its core values are the same. Applied Avionics’ manufacturing plant in Fort Worth, Texas, employs more than 80 skilled professionals, and the company has affiliate representation in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil and Australia. A strong culture of employee loyalty and low turnover has allowed it to achieve the manufacturing excellence that the company is known for.
“We have a standing commitment to be a best-in-class manufacturer and supplier,” said Craig Morgan, senior vice president of sales. “We apply this commitment at every level of our company, from product quality and customer support to short lead times and dependable on-time delivery. Our longtime affiliation with the AEA has been a key element in our company’s success, and it continues to provide excellent opportunities to connect with our customers and assure we are up-to-date on industry trends and the latest regulatory requirements.”
Applied Avionics has been an active member of the AEA since 2001.
Astronics Corp. acquired Max-Viz in 2012. Max-Viz was founded in 2001 to develop small, lightweight, and affordable enhanced vision systems for commercial and general aviation aircraft.
Astronics Max-Viz products came about as a result of two inventions that allowed creation of a small, lightweight design for EVS that was more advanced than other designs of the day:
The first invention was an uncooled focal plane array (microbolometer) that could detect thermal infrared radiation and did not require a cryogenic cooling system (as conventional systems required in the 1990s) and could convert the electromagnetic thermal impulses into signals for display on a monitor.
The second invention was a patented system to fuse video images from multiple sources. This invention enabled signals from a visible light source to be combined with the signals from an infrared source and present a picture effectively “turning night into day.”
Enhanced vision systems from Astronics Max-Viz are designed for turbine and piston, fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft. The system uses infrared sensors, signal processing, and advanced cockpit displays to show, in real time, terrain, runways, taxiways, aircraft and obstacles during poor visibility conditions, including light fog, haze, smoke, smog, light precipitation and darkness all within a package that is compact, lightweight, reliable and affordable.
Today, with more than 3,000 systems delivered, Astronics Max-Viz is a leader in supplying enhanced vision systems to its markets. For example, the FAA is using Astronics Max-Viz equipment to study how enhanced vision systems can make helicopter landings safer at onshore or offshore helipads and heliports. Astronics continues to build on knowledge of customer missions and EVS technology. EVS works for any mission: from homebuilt aircraft to commercial air transport, from landing on North Sea oil platforms at night to assisting aerial firefighters in low-visibility conditions. Astronics Max-Viz is committed to increasing aviation safety by continually improving its products and keeping this safety tool affordable for all aircraft operators.
Astronics Max-Viz has been an active member of the AEA since 2008, supporting the AEA’s mission and exhibit annually at the AEA International Convention & Trade Show and the AEA Connect Conferences worldwide.
Guardian Avionics started out like many others in aviation: a dream fueled by a dedication for making general aviation better. In 1999, Ash Vij, owner of Premier Aviation based at Tucson International Airport in Tucson, Arizona, saw a need as he worked with the aircraft that came in and out of his repair station. He personally saw the aging aircraft starting to show problems resulting in the introduction of carbon monoxide into the cabin. Though there had been aviation accidents attributed to pilot incapacitation due to carbon monoxide, there were no aviation-specific CO detectors on the market. Small GA aircraft cabins needed a detector that could detect levels as low as 50 parts per million in a rapid manner, but none existed. Equipped with an entrepreneurial mind and experience in aeronautical engineering from his previous experience at Lockheed Martin, Vij developed the original CO Guardian – a portable CO detector that could be mounted in the cockpit of any aircraft with a 12v lighter socket – and the company CO Guardian LLC was formed.
The original Aero 152 detector was immediately popular, and soon he started work on developing installed TSO certified units to permanently add a critical safety item into the cockpit of Part 23 aircraft. The Aero 452 series arrived to market in 2003, and soon the units became popular add-ons for aircraft owners. In 2006, CO Guardian integrated its CO detectors with several popular new-generation PFD displays and engine monitor systems, which allowed it to start providing aircraft manufacturers CO Guardian 452 units as standard installed safety equipment. Today, all new aircraft from Cessna, Cirrus and Diamond have CO detection from Guardian Avionics installed as standard equipment.
In 2010, CO Guardian moved beyond just providing CO detection equipment and integrated features, such as pulse oximeters, multifunction displays, and Bluetooth connectivity, to its CO detection units. As a result, the company became Guardian Avionics as new products were developed. In 2014, Guardian Avionics saw the trend of Apple iPad and iPhone displays being used more in the cockpit, and as a result, designed a new line of panel-mounted iPad and iPhone docks to transform an iPad into a low-cost MFD for GA aircraft. In 2016, Guardian Avionics developed a line of installed USB power supplies to meet the growing demand for portable power solutions in the cockpit at a budget-friendly cost. Today, Guardian Avionics continues to develop hardware and software to bring the reality of making a consumer-level iPad into more of a fully featured MFD and even a PFD for the next generation of certified and experimental general aviation aircraft.
Guardian Avionics has been an active member of the AEA since 2016.
WBParts Express is on a mission to help avionics shops be more productive and profitable.
WBParts Inc. was founded in 2006, and since then, has grown to become an aviation industry innovator and leader. Headquartered in a 13,000-square-foot-facility located in Palm Bay, Florida, with 35 employees, WBParts Inc. serves as a parts distributor for major aerospace and defense contractors such as Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and General Dynamics as well as supplying directly to the U.S. government. WBParts Inc. specialties include military aircraft structural components, mil-standard hardware and fasteners, test stands, test equipment, and aircraft line replacement units and subassemblies.
After exhibiting at EAA AirVenture in 2015, WBParts saw an opportunity to bring lean manufacturing principles to the general aviation community. WBParts Express was created in 2016 to do just that. Focusing on kitting, WBParts Express started working the light-sport aircraft community and is now the exclusive hardware system provider for CubCrafters, RANS Design, Sonex Aircraft, and Velocity Aircraft. In 2018, WBParts Express introduced the Avionics Express Hardware System and the free Aircraft Maintenance & Inventory system, combining lean manufacturing principles and Six Sigma practices, as well as innovative, easy-to-use software. These systems focus on improving processes and eliminating waste for avionics and maintenance shops – resulting in an increase in shop capacity and delivering increased profits.
WBParts has been an active member of the AEA since 2017. It participates in training and exhibits at the AEA International Convention & Trade Show and the AEA Connect Conferences.