by Dave Weiman
PARK RAPIDS, MINNESOTA – The first thing that impressed me when I flew into Park Rapids Municipal Airport/ Konshok Field (PKD) recently to tour the facilities at Park Rapids Avionics, was the scenery of the lake country. Internationally known as the gateway to the Mississippi River headwaters at nearby Itasca State Park, the Park Rapids lakes area is a vacation destination, and a great place to work and live. Hundreds of crystal clear lakes, and millions of acres of state and national forest, create an outdoor paradise (www.parkrapids.com).
The winds were strong out of the south. It made my flight from Madison, Wisconsin fast, but the ride rough. VFR all the way, but it started to rain on my approach to Runway 17/35 (140 X 3244 ft turf). Runway 13/31 is paved (100 X 5498 ft).
The buildings at the airport are modern and well maintained, and the ramp, spacious. As I taxied to the ramp, I was welcomed by Tom Hass, President of Park Rapids Avionics. Hass founded the business in 2001, after years of training and work experience elsewhere.
Growing up on a farm in Audubon, Minnesota, Hass moved to Fairbanks, Alaska, when he graduated from high school in 1983 to farm and work in the construction industry. He moved to Alexandria, Minnesota to attend vocational school from 1990-93, where he received his education in avionics technology. Upon graduation, Hass moved to Sioux City, Iowa and worked for Jetsun Aviation from 1993-99, and Silverhawk Aviation in Lincoln, Nebraska from 1999-2001. He moved back to Minnesota to start his business in Park Rapids in 2001. In 2006, Hass welcomed his brother, Tim, as a partner in the business and together they purchased “Approach Systems” and renamed it “Approach Fast Stack” to complement their avionics business.
Approach Fast Stack is a retrofit modular wiring system that interconnects avionics components with a central hub and ready-build cables for avionics installations. The system is intended to increase the quality and efficiency of avionics installations, worldwide, by providing shops with a simplified way to pre-wire avionics installations.
Approach Fast Stack saves avionics shops time because they don’t have to stop what they are doing to pre-wire an installation. A shop can order a wiring system in advance or during the installation, and Approach Fast Stack can manufacture and ship them a system within days, reducing downtime, while ensuring the quality of the wiring system for the customer.
Tim Hass, general manager of Approach Fast Stack, showed me a world map marking the location of each of their clients, which are located as far away as the Maldivian Islands.
Tim Hass is in one building on the outer fringes of the airport with a staff of technicians making “Approach Fast Stacks,” and Tom Hass is in a hangar right on the airport doing avionics repairs and installations. This might be why the two brothers get along so well, but neither is complaining about the other.
Park Rapids Avionics, Inc. is an FAA certified repair station with 1, 2 and 3 radio class ratings, and limited instrument and accessories ratings. The company is a member of the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), and as members, their technicians are continuously enhancing their skills by participating in manufacturer training to ensure that their services are up to date.
Park Rapids Avionics technicians can perform system trouble-shooting, repairs, overhauls, and installations and equipment interfacing on communication systems, navigation systems, instrumentation, and flight control systems. The company is an authorized sales and service center for all of the major manufacturers.
Tom Hass encouraged me to walk around and meet some of their technicians, while he took a few calls. Everyone I met seemed to enjoy their work and they love living “up north.” Most of the employees are from the Park Rapids area, so having a job they like outside the Twin Cities metro, close to family and friends, means a lot. Speaking of the Twin Cities metro, Park Rapids is located just 144 nm northwest of Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP), so about a 1-hour flight in most GA aircraft. Much of their business comes from the Twin Cities, surrounding states and Canada.
The flying bug hit Tom Hass when he was a kid living on a farm, but it wasn’t until he moved to Sioux City, Iowa that he learned to fly. Hass says that his most memorable aviation experience was soloing for the first time, so he is looking forward to helping his son have that same experience, since he has shown an interest in flying. Hass and his wife, Marie, who also works in the business, have two daughters: Berivon, 26, and Amanda, 16; a son, Josh, 17; and one granddaughter, Amarie, 3.
Tom holds a Private Pilot Single-Engine Land & Sea Certificate, a Multi-Engine Rating, and is looking forward to getting his tail-dragger endorsement. He currently owns a Beechcraft Baron and a Cessna 172, but is looking to sell both aircraft and buying a Cessna 182, so if you know where he can find a good airplane, give him a call.
The furthest Hass has flown is Greenville, Maine to a seaplane show, and to Provo, Utah. In addition to his membership in the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA), Hass holds membership in the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA), and exhibits each year at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Florida.
Hass considers himself very in tune with the issues confronting general aviation, and sees the “cost” of recreational flying as a major concern. Hass is also wondering how the industry will be able to modernize the air traffic control system and meet the ADS-B out requirement by 2020, when there is no working ADS-B component at this time.
Hass feels that the Aircraft Electronics Association is doing a great job in “helping to translate the legalese of the Federal Aviation Regulations into layman’s language,” but that more work is needed to get FAA officials to rule the same in all areas of the country so all aviation businesses have a level playing field. He would also like to see the FAA become more “business friendly!”
Hass recognizes and appreciates the work AOPA is doing with the GA Congressional Caucus in Washington. “I am all for less government,” he says. Hass also likes AOPA’s Legal Advisory Council. “I know of several people who have benefited from AOPA-designated attorneys, and it is well worth the cost of this additional membership service just to know you can call AOPA whenever you need expert advice.”
Park Rapids Aviation, Northwoods Aircraft Painting (division of Park Rapids Aviation), and Riveland Aircraft Interiors, complete the picture at Park Rapids Municipal Airport. Jeff Voigt owns Park Rapids Aviation, and Lynn Riveland owns Riveland Interiors. In addition to providing full-service aircraft maintenance, Park Rapids Aviation is the largest Aerocet float sales and installation center in the world.
Both companies complement Park Rapids Avionics. “We work well together, and together we provide the aircraft owner with a one-stop service center,” says Hass.
100LL self-service fuel is available 24/7. Jet A is available during normal business hours or by calling Park Rapids Aviation after hours. AWOS/ASOS is available over the VOR or by calling 218-237-8528.
For additional information on Park Rapids Avionics, or to schedule an appointment, contact Tom Hass at 218-237-1525 (www.parkrapidsavionics.com).
For additional information on Approach Fast Stack, contact Tim Hass at 218-237-7825 (www.approachfaststack.com).