B&G Industries - Greybull Operations
B&G Industries - Aircraft Operations Division
I traveled to South Big Horn County Airport in Greybull, Wyoming in December 2021 with a team from the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation (BAHF). The purpose of the trip was to meet with B&G Industries president Karl Bertognole and hopefully close a deal for the purchase three KC-97's. By the end of the visit, BAHF had purchased three KC-97s, which will hopefully provide spare parts for the group's C-97G "Angel of Deliverance" for years to come. For more information about the purchase, check out this January 17, 2022 news item.
Bertagnole is a seasoned businessman and initially had serious reservations about starting an aircraft MRO services business. Putting aside his doubts, he did his due diligence and met with both the employees and management team at Hawkins & Powers and was very impressed with what he saw. Discussions with local FAA officials were also very positive.
B&G Industries - Aircraft Operations Division is a Greybull, Wyoming based company providing aircraft modification, repair and overhaul (MRO) services to both military and commercial customers. With the demise of Hawkins & Powers Aviation in February 2006, company President Karl Bertagnole and his partner Paul Galovich saw an opportunity to enter the aircraft MRO business and the company was founded in January 2006.
While B&G Industries didn’t buy the company outright, it acquired Hawkins & Powers facilities, equipment, tooling and other assets that were being liquidated as the result of the company’s bankruptcy. Included was the hangar originally used by Avery Aviation. Despite B&G having no contracts in house, 24 Hawkins & Powers employees were hired on March 1, 2006, the day after the company completed work on its final contract.
The contract involved the decontamination of five North Carolina C-130 Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System (MAFFS) aircraft that had been used for fighting wildfires the previous fire season. The work was performed under a subcontract issued by Lear Siegler Inc. (LSI). This work had helped keep the Hawkins & Powers staff gainfully employed since the loss of the company’s U.S. Forest Service firefighting contracts in 2002.
Bertagnole approached LSI management and asked if B&G could continue the work that Hawkins & Powers had been performing and was told in no uncertain terms that this was not going to happen. While LSI had been very satisfied with the work that Hawkins & Powers had performed, they based the decision on the fact that B&G had no track record as an aircraft MRO; the management team was totally unknown; and at that point B&G didn’t have an FAA repair station license.
As luck would have it, the final North Carolina ANG C-130 had two out-of-balance elevators and couldn’t depart Greybull. The military sent a repair team with replacement elevators to Greybull but they were in worse condition than the originals. The elevators were de-skinned and 64 ribs were found to be corroded beyond repair. Lockheed quoted a 36 week lead time with a half-million dollar price tag and LSI awarded B&G its first contract to repair the elevators. The task was complicated by the fact that no two ribs were alike and each rib had to be hand formed. B&G completed the work in 90 days for $250,000, which resulted in a long-term working relationship between B&G and LSI. B&G not only performed work for LSI at its Greybull hangar, it also dispatched field teams throughout the United States to work on C-130s, C-130 gunships, helicopters and various other military equipment. The military was so impressed with the work that B&G was doing for LSI that they hired LSI to mentor B&G into the defense contractor program. Subsequently, B&G has successfully completed many military projects, as both a prime and subcontractor.
Early on it became obvious to Bertagnole that a new hangar and office space would be needed. While Hawkins & Powers had operated out of the original “Avery Hangar” for many years, it was too small and in the early 2000’s the company had begun the process of having a new one built. A total of $3M Federal and state funding had been secured but Hawkins & Powers would have to contribute part of the cost and this just wasn’t going to happen due to the company’s financial situation.
Bertagnole was approached by the county in 2006 about building a hangar. After a number of false starts, a design-build contract was awarded to Tru-Tech Products of Wright, Wyoming on September 5, 2007 to build a 37,000 square foot facility. Building a hangar in the winter months in Greybull is not for the faint of heart and the winter of 2007/2008 was the worst in recent memory with temperatures often reaching minus 35 degrees. With the concrete work completed on November 22, 2007, work proceeded on assembling the hangar, which was completed on April 24, 2008. It was a tribute to all involved that the facility was completed under such challenging conditions.
In subsequent years, B&G has performed work for a long list of military and civilian customers and established a reputation for quality work. The company has extensive experience with C-130 and CASA 212 aircraft and its most recent contract involves the conversion of former Great Lakes Be1900D passenger aircraft into freighters for Alpine Air Express. The modification is extensive and will result in zero-time major airframe components. During my December 2021 visit there were four aircraft in the hangar undergoing conversion with another three parked outside in the conversion queue.
In addition to the Greybull operation, Bertagnole has an ownership interest in B&G Industries - Manufacturing Division in Thermopolis, Wyoming and Tru-Tech Products LLC in Wright, Wyoming. The Manufacturing Division operates a state-of-the-art CNC Center while Tru-Tech provides management services and supplies pumps and other equipment to oil and mining companies.
Ralph M. Pettersen
Photo Credits: Ralph M. Pettersen
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