For Anu Goel, aviation is in his blood. His father was an engineer at Boeing, and Goel followed in his father’s footsteps by completing an engineering degree and then working for Boeing himself.
In 1994, he co-founded Jet Parts Engineering (JPE) in Seattle, Washington. A few years later, he bought out his colleague and concentrated on taking the company from strength to strength.
As CEO, Goel has many memorable moments to look back on, but he says the ones that stand out have also been the biggest challenges, including signing up customers when JPE was new to the sector.
“I spent a lot of time pursuing the airlines. And that was a challenge for sure, being a small guy with a limited catalogue of parts, pitching the idea that I can help them to save money by buying one or two parts. At the time, the airlines didn’t have a conceptual understanding of what we were doing and what Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) was about. So, we had to work hard to not only educate some of the folks on the airline side, but also to allow them to give us a chance to prove what we could do.”
Goel’s hard work and persistence paid off, and today JPE is a recognized leader in the development of FAA-approved PMA parts and engineered repairs. It provides spare parts solutions to a global network of airline and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) partners. Its goal is to make aircraft maintenance more affordable.
Like the rest of the aviation industry, JPE had to navigate its way through the pandemic. Goel says that the past couple of years have been difficult.
“We got through it by making decisions quickly,” he explains. “I’ve got a great management team. We sat down and made some hard decisions early on…But one thing we didn’t do, and this was guidance from our private equity partners [Vance Street Capital] who you would expect to be super aggressive and cut across the board. They told us to cut where you can but don’t cut your R&D, keep that R&D machine running, keep the engineers employed, and when we get out to the other end of this thing, you guys are going to have a bigger basket of parts. And so that was one of the things we did. And when we did get to the other side, we had a lot of opportunities, especially given that the airlines were coming out of COVID and were looking for ways to save money.”
Just before the global pandemic took hold, JPE acquired two businesses, Aero Parts Mart and AeroSpares, in 2020. While this could have proved to be bad timing, Goel says that the process went smoothly.
“Both of the business were easy bolt-ons for us because they were businesses that are similar in nature to what we do. And so we were able to integrate those businesses pretty easily. Right off the bat, we were able to integrate the sales teams. Each of the companies had a development pipeline so we left those alone and they continued to do their own thing in that regard.”
He adds: “Both of the companies work really well for us. They’ve grown tremendously since we got them despite the pandemic.”
Goel is proud of his management team. But how does his company attract, and retain, top talent in the current fiercely competitive environment?
“It is a challenging time in that regard. We’re hiring and we’ve got quite a few job postings out there. And there’s a recruitment process for those openings. At the same time, given the market, it feels like we’re having to recruit our own guys every day. We have the mindset that, look, we’ve got this great group, let’s keep them. So, we’re trying to really listen to what they want coming out of the pandemic. The needs and expectations of employees have changed, and we’re trying to understand that and make sure that we’re meeting those expectations.”
Meanwhile, the global shortage of aviation professionals is an issue that Goel, like many others, has given some thought.
“It’s definitely a conundrum that we all have to be attentive to. I think it starts with education. Primarily, the shortages are coming in two different areas. One is mechanics, and the second is pilots…I guess you have to either pay people more money or you have to find a way to get people into the classroom to learn their trade and somehow sell them on the idea of being an aviation mechanic. I mean, there’s enough people out there who have the skills potentially to be able to do that. I think the aviation industry as a whole needs to go out and market itself.”
Goel also believes that it’s important for people to attend key events and conferences in the aviation industry, including his own staff getting out around the world.
He says: “I think these events are great, really I do. It’s a chance for folks to get together and try to solve problems. At the end of the day, it’s the people who are going to solve the problems. As a supplier base, we have to understand what the problems are. This is a chance for the airlines to be able to talk to various folks and suggest what solutions they need or what problems they have.”
With a global customer base, JPE sells its products around the world. But Goel says that, looking ahead, China has the biggest growth potential.
“I’ve been saying this for the last five or 10 years, maybe even longer. China has a lot of airplanes, they have robust aftermarket services and they’ve spent a lot of time and effort developing their aftermarket businesses. They’ve got all the maintenance facilities to be able to maintain their aircraft. Whereas if you go to India, it doesn’t have a lot of maintenance facilities. And so a lot of that work gets sent elsewhere. But China has the ability to maintain older aircraft and therefore that’s an opportunity for us to sell.”
Whether it is China, North America, or anywhere else around the globe, Anu Goel’s confidence about the future shines through and it will be interesting to see where he, and his management team, take Jet Parts Engineering in the coming years.