Jason Hurd is the son of an Idaho backcountry bush pilot, stands about 6' 5" tall and runs an aircraft maintenance shop at the Erie Municipal Airport in Colorado - about a mile as the crow flies from my office. Airplanes are in his blood, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more interesting character or competent mechanic anywhere. His shop is not the cheapest around, but pilots who value their lives know that Jason's is the place to go if they want a thorough inspection and the work done right the first time. When an aircraft breaks down, the pilot can't just pull over to the side of the road, hop out and fix it. In fact, aircraft maintenance is about as mission-critical as it gets. Oh, and it's heavily regulated and operates on razor-thin margins, too.
His mechanics are all first-rate - Jason sees to that with high standards and expectations for both hiring and conduct. The shop is spotless and his employees are both competent and courteous. He runs a tight ship. What I find most fascinating when I visit his shop though is the incredible amount of money that his employees have spent on their tools. The rolling tool boxes ($8,500 each…without the tools) are painted with blazing yellow paint, and festooned with chrome Snap-On logos. But the real money is inside; the value of the tools can easily reach $50,000 or more - all paid for by the mechanics themselves, and each mechanic earns maybe $45,000 per year in salary - much less when they're fresh out of aviation school. And…when they're new to the job and making the least money is when they have to start building their tool inventories.