Every year Peachtree City-based Aventure Aviation Inc. awards scholarships to three aircraft maintenance technicians enrolled in an accredited aviation educational institution. The scholarships are administered through the Northrop Rice Foundation in Houston with one stipulation — that at least one of the recipients be an international student studying in the United States on a student visa.
Aventure’s president Zaheer Faruqi, a native of Pakistan, insists on the stipulation due to the global success of his business and his awareness of the trials foreign students can experience here, which even he experienced when he started his company shortly before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Mr. Faruqi can identify with the foreign students seeking careers in aviation because he was one of them. Even as a boy growing up in Karachi, Pakistan, he wanted to have a career in the airline industry.
Under the influence of his educator mother who started a Montessori school in Pakistan and had traveled in the U.S., he applied and was accepted at Northrop University in Southern California where he received a bachelor of science in aircraft maintenance engineering technology. In addition, he earned a master’s degree in administrative management, and an FAA license in airframe and maintenance and various training certifications from Airbus and Boeing.
Even though he was armed with these U.S. academic credentials, his professional career took him to the Mideast — first in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, then Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. He eventually arrived in Georgia after having worked for a U.S. parts supplier with facilities in Connecticut and Georgia.
Once in Georgia, he saw the opportunity to supply a market niche on his own by providing commercial and military aviation parts to airlines and maintenance facilities throughout the world. “I thought that this would be a better deal for me,” he told Global Atlanta. “I had the experience and the knowledge. It was going to be risky but I felt I could do it.”
He launched the company on Sept. 1 with the name Axis, an unfortunate choice he admitted especially in view that the Sept. 11 attacks took place 10 days later and that then President George W. Bush shortly afterwards delivered his speech where he identified Iraq, Iran and North Korea as “the axis of evil.”
“It was a very difficult time,” he said. U.S. government agents knew he was from Pakistan and had lived in Saudi Arabia, the country from which many of the terrorists came. “My passport had all the stamps,” he added. “They thought I was one of the bad guys.”
He underwent a lot of questioning, especially about his involvement in the airline business and if he had any connections with Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization. “Where are the Al Qaedas,” he was asked repeatedly, unable to answer because he didn’t even know what they were referring to.
In the immediate aftermath, he recalled thinking, “This is not the place for us.”
But then he reconsidered, psychologically adopting a new perspective, one of educating those around him as to what his Muslim faith is composed and becoming more of an ambassador for his country.
It’s not surprising that he cites the many accolades the company has earned since that low point in 2001 including the Aircraft Technology Engineering & Maintenance’s (ATE&M) “Best Spare Parts Provider 2011” survey by a U.K. publication and its rankings as one of America’s fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.
Closer to home it has won the SBA’s Exporter of the Year for Georgia as well as for the Southeast Region and the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s 2016 Global Impact Award.
Mr. Faruqi also has played an active role as a public citizen by serving on the boards of the Atlanta Airport Authority, the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, the Islamic Speakers Bureau and the Northrup Rice Foundation.
He credits his business success as an after-market aviation parts supplier to his company’s “exceptional service” and the barriers to entry to the business which provides parts and components repair management for commercial airlines, regional operators, military air forces and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities worldwide.
From its first full year of operation with revenues of $259,000, that figure has been multiplied at least eight times since then, and to service its customers it has opened offices in Canada, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and Latvia.
His confidence in the future of his company is based on the prospects for the future of its business. “We sell airplane parts, and we buy stock from airlines with excess inventory at the right price,” he said.
“The best way to do it,” he added, “is to buy a complete aircraft. There was a time when they were retired in 30 years now they are retired in about 15 years.” The company did just that recently when it acquired a Boeing 757-200, MSN 25073 for teardown.
The plane was selected after a close examination of its technical records and determined that the parts had the quality after-market parts, with complete trace records and useful remaining life, that would be in demand by Boeing’s 757s and 767s fleets in the future. It was especially appropriate because many of the 757 parts also are appropriate for 767s.
The plane was dismantled in Tucson, Ariz., and the parts then shipped to Aventure’s headquarters in Peachtree City where they are being carefully catalogued and packaged.
Who owns these planes and why would they want to sell them?
Mr. Faruqi cited leasing companies with fund managers who have clients such as teachers pension funds who lease their aircraft to airlines. To explain the scope of the market, he said that there are some 20,000 commercial aircraft in the world and that some 8,000 belong to the leasing companies.
Aventure’s profitability is derived by its negotiating capabilities where it underscores to a potential seller the advantage of getting rid of a plane as opposed to having to refurbish it for resale.
It also benefits from the demand for new planes. Over the next decade, he said, Boeing and Airbus anticipate needing at least 20,000 new aircraft. Meanwhile, thousands of planes will have to be retired and yet there is an eight year lag in the production of new planes.
Since 5,000 of the 8,000 aircraft that belong to leasing companies are in Ireland, Mr. Faruqi was delighted to accompany Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, and Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed, to Dublin on a trade mission.
A Georgia delegation accompanied the officials, with many perhaps most, interested in a football game to be held between Georgia Tech and Boston College teams to open their 2016 season in the Aer Lingus College Football Classic held at Aviva Stadium. While football may have been on the minds of many of the delegates, there was no questioning Mr Faruqi’s objective.
“There’s always going to be a need to break the aircraft down and make parts available,” he told the Irish. “They were fascinated when I talked to them.” “You will have to start in the next few years to accomplish what you will have to do,” he counseled.
Upon entering Aventure’s headquarters in Peachtree City, immediately to the right are airplane seats, one fully extended. Although these may not be appropriate for today’s commercial planes, they may find their future in a private aircraft in a new configuration, Mr. Faruqi said, perhaps for a basketball team with players who will need more space when they travel.
As the seats demonstrate, the need for new airline parts extends beyond the major airlines to private planes and other aircraft including military aircraft, prompting Aventure to open a new division catering from the C-130 cargo transports to the F-16 multirole jet fighter.
While the market expands in terms of aircraft, it also has expanded for the firm geographically. Mr. Faruqi travels extensively to attend airshows around the world. He was thrilled to win a first prize of $20,000 from JP Morgan Chase and the Metro Atlanta Chamber in its export challenge enabling him to join an aeronautics mission to Morocco.
“We used the $20,000 to go to Morocco on an aeronautical trade mission,” he said enabling him to come back with a $1.8 million contract from Morocco’s Air Force.
He also brought back business from China after having been encouraged by Kathe Falls, the former director of international trade at the Georgia Department of Economic Development, to explore opportunities there.
With advice from Paul Swenson, managing director of Georgia’s China Trade Office in Shanghai, Mr. Faruqi learned the protocols he would need while introducing himself to Chinese airline companies.
Initially hesitant to enter the Chinese market because of a lack of qualified staff, he eventually hired two Mandarin speakers and returned for repeat appearances. Today, he can point to 54 customers there and at the time of the interview with Global Atlanta was preparing to travel to China once again to attend a trade show.
With 80 percent of its sales abroad, Mr. Faruqi has had to expand his staff dramatically. In Atlanta alone. he has 30 employees. Although he is confident that he could retire leaving the company in good hands, he seems especially pleased that his three sons are willing to stay on and help grow the company.
Peachtree City provides an ideal location for him to plan future growth. The company can ship packages through Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport up to 10 p.m. everyday. He also has the space to expand his operations, no longer satisfied as a site for merely storing and shipping parts.
Mr. Faruqi said that he’d like the company to have its own repair shops on the property and he already has worked with an architect to design new facilities to accommodate these ambitions.
He’s also looking for financing to acquire more planes that he can dismantle and resell the parts.
His son Talha mirrored his father’s ambitions when he joined the interview. “Our dinner conversations were always a little different,” he added. “We consider the company our guiding star.”