Bel Aire company checks off successful products for pilots

When a pilot of a Boeing, Beechcraft, Cessna or Gulfstream airplane runs down a pilot checklist before a flight, he or she is likely holding a product designed by a small Wichita company, Aerobind.

The company, owned by Aaron and Hannah Beach, has developed a line of specialty ring binders, sheet protector pockets, divider tabs, covers and other items designed to hold important flight information and quick reference handbooks used by pilots in the cockpit.

Many people may not think about it, but a properly working binder in the cockpit is important, Aaron Beach said.

A pilot shouldn’t have to struggle with a checklist, especially in case of an aircraft emergency, he said.

Last month, Beach displayed his products for the first time at the Paris Air Show, where he was one of several Wichita companies sharing a Kansas booth sponsored by the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition and the Kansas Department of Commerce.

The show was a natural fit because Aerobind already has a large international presence, Aaron Beach said.

In Paris, Beach met with department of commerce representatives from a variety of countries. He said the GWEDC helped set up the meetings, and he was pleased with the support from the state and local economic development officials.

Aerobind ships to commercial airlines, pilot training departments, corporate flight departments, aircraft manufacturers and pilots from around the globe, including Russia, Croatia, Korea and elsewhere, Beach said.

Except for Airbus and Dassault, which make their own binders, “We’re the only company in the world that makes this product,” Beach said.

Its largest customers are Boeing, Cessna Aircraft, Gulfstream, FlightSafety, Embraer, American Airlines and printing companies that buy Aerobind products and sell to aviation companies.

Beach formed the company in 2009 after working for 13 years in his family’s Wichita printing company, ADR, which specializes in printing for the aviation industry.

At the time, only one other company offered similar products. In 2011, Aerobind bought out that Wisconsin-based company.

Located at 3979 N. Woodlawn in Bel Aire, the company now employs four full-time and two part-time workers.

The company has had to adapt as pilots bring iPads into the cockpit to replace paper checklists.

“That’s been on our minds for a year and a half or two years,” Beach said.

It’s adapting in two ways.

One, the company now offers customized USB flash drives with uploaded checklists and operator manual information for use by customers, such as FlightSafety and American Airlines.

The quality of the flash drives is important.

“These are going into a critical environment,” Beach said. “We test each drive to make sure there are no dead spaces on them.”

Rather than buying the flash drives in mass, Aerobind buys each part individually and assembles them in-house for quality control.

In addition, Aerobind also is customizing iPad covers for use in training and in the cockpit.

It’s also designing a cover that straps to a pilot’s knee, similar to aluminum kneeboards pilots often use to hold paper information in place close at hand.

And it designed a custom iPad cover for FlightSafety for use in training. The cover is made from no-slip material so when the pilot touches the screen, the iPad doesn’t slide across the desk, “which is a real problem,” Beach said. “We were amazed at that.”

Aaron Beach and his wife also operate a companion company, called Prodisc.

The company replicates CD, DVD, USB flash drives and SD cards for customers, such as Cessna, Agco, American Airlines and FlightSafety.

One of Aerobind’s biggest advantages is its ability to offer customized products, the Beaches said. For example, Aerobind customized binders for use by Marine helicopter pilots in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The military wanted the rings of the binders to be black, instead of white or beige, which are commonly used.

That way the pilots can sit the binders up near the windshield without detection, Beach said, explaining that white binders would be more visible and put the pilots in danger of being a target.

Going forward, Aerobind wants to further diversify and add military customers.

Another advantage of Aerobind is its ability to buy “quality products that are custom made,” said Ben Heller, Aerobind director of operations.

“That’s where our sourcing comes in handy,” Heller said.

It will look at a customer’s needs, custom design a product, determine which factory should make it and put the quality systems in place here and abroad, Beach said.

“It’s not easy,” Beach said.

“That’s really our core competency,” he said. “We take new products or requests from customers and bring them all the way through the system, from design and development abroad and then to final delivery to our customers.”