Maine Instrument Flight in Augusta sold to Idaho-based company

Owner Bill Perry led a tour last week of Maine Instrument Flight at Augusta State Airport. The company is sold to Idaho-based SprintBach Aviation. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

AUGUSTA – Maine Instrument Flight, a company with more than seven decades of history at Augusta State Airport, has been sold to an Idaho company that is committed to what is already in place .

SprintBach Aviation plans to invest in both the flight school and the charter business as it expands its reach from its base in southwest Idaho.

“We are serial entrepreneurs and we love this aspect of business management,” said Zach Erlebach, director of SprintBach Aviation. “We have fallen in love with the legacy of this business and we will figure out how to make the business work. But we’re going to do it with the help of the community, and we’re going to invest heavily in people and keep going. “

The deal, a share transfer, was closed on December 8. The value of the transaction was not disclosed.

Maine Instrument Flight consists of a charter company, maintenance shop, flight school and a fixed base operator that provide general aviation support services.

Zach Erlebach, director of SprintBach Aviation, speaks last week at Maine Instrument Flight at Augusta State Airport. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

The company, founded by William L. Perry in 1946, was jointly owned by his children William H. Perry and Shirley Perry Whitney until the sale earlier this month.

“We were looking for history, not a business to buy,” said Erlebach, 31.

SprintBach Aviation worked with business brokers to find leads, initially with little luck. What they found did not pique their interest, so they kept looking.

“We found Bill (Perry) and we flew here without too much expectation,” Erlebach said. “Then we sat down with Bill and Shirley and exchanged more stories that we talked about business. We just fell in love with it.”

Perry, 81, said he and his sister considered selling over a decade ago, but the interest in acquiring the business was not there. There were tire shooters and people who wanted to see what an airplane looked like, but no legitimate offers.

About a year ago, Perry said, they decided to try again with The Inbar Group, a trading brokerage firm that focuses on the Northeast, when he opened an office in Augusta.

Perry, who will remain president of Maine Beechcraft, a stand-alone company, said there is potential for expansion for the organization, including flight training.

Brenda McAleer, vice president and dean of the College of Professional Studies at the University of Maine at Augusta, said she knew Perry and Whitney were considering leaving the company.

McAleer said she met Erlebach and Morris a month ago and their first question was whether she wanted the WBU pilot training program to grow.

“I said, ‘Absolutely,’ McAleer said.

While all details have yet to be worked out, the Maine Instrument Flight and UMA memorandum of understanding, signed eight years ago, remains in effect.

“The contract doesn’t change, because when Bill and Shirley sold, Maine Instrument Flight was sold as a unit, and our contract is with Maine Instrument Flight,” McAleer said. “We look forward to working with the new owners. I think they will come up with different ideas. It’s just a new chapter in our relationship.

McAleer said she knew about a year ago that Perry and Whitney were interested in selling the business and that she was concerned about who might buy it.

“It’s a very small state, and people are working on relationships and trust,” McAleer said. “After meeting Zach and Chad (Morris), I am so relieved and can’t wait to move forward with them.”

Morris, 34, is president of Sprintbach Aviation and a veteran of the United States Navy.

Ashley Werner, left, operations manager at SprintBach Aviation, and Chad Morris, president of SprintBach Aviation, last week listened to Bill Perry, co-owner of Maine Instrument Flight, speak at Augusta State Airport. Maine Instrument Flight is sold to SprintBach Aviation, based in Idaho. Joe Phelan / Journal Kennebec

The company’s first focus, he said, will be the UMA program.

“What they didn’t have before was someone who took a veterans program and a college program,” Morris said. “I already know a lot about the ins and outs of how it works, how it’s supposed to work and how to attract veterans to the program. The main goal of the school is how to get more veterans. “

Morris said he had been a flight instructor at a large flight school in Idaho, where Erlebach got his pilot’s license, and they started talking about finding a way to do business together.

Erlebach said the flight school and charter business, which will augment the company’s existing charter business in Idaho, is where the company will invest heavily. The flight school presents a unique opportunity due to the demand for pilots, which is expected to expand over the next five to ten years.

“You can get your pilot’s license and not have the education to go with it,” Erlebach said. “But airlines are much more comfortable if you can have both. And you earn a lot more money. Young pilots can come out of the college program with the skills they need and they can make a lot more money in the market.

Morris said the new owners plan to be a part of the community and expand on what already exists, including the relationships Perry has developed.

Members of the Erlebach family own and operate several businesses in the Treasure Valley of southwestern Idaho, west of Boise. Among them, SprintBach Aviation.

“We’re really diverse and we’re really successful in building businesses,” Erlebach said. “We have taken companies that are really nothing and turned them into something. We really like it.

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