Back in 1956, anyone who had plans to build an experimental aircraft that called for premium-grade spruce wood knew that Bob and Flo Irwin had built a solid reputation as the best source for that specific type of wood for aircraft applications. Over the next nine years, the Irwins grew the company to include the pilot gear and parts the aviation community was asking for.
As the company grew and the couple’s oldest son, Jim Irwin, advanced from sweeping the floors to managing their ever-expanding parts catalog, the company’s name was changed to Aircraft Spruce & Specialty Co. By 1980, Jim and wife Nanci had acquired the company and have since developed Aircraft Spruce into one of aviation’s top sources for everything a pilot or experimental builder could possibly want to order. Today, their sons, Mike, Jeff and Rob, all serve in management positions with the company.
Under the Irwin’s family management, Aircraft Spruce has become a vast network of eight distribution centers to provide fast and efficient shipments, with their main 62,000-square-foot distribution facility in Corona, California. To better serve its customers with the kind of personalized service for which the company is known, parts are now distributed from centers in Chandler, Arizona; Fort Worth, Texas; West Chicago; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Peachtree City, Georgia; Wasilla, Alaska; and Brantford, Ontario.
The one attribute that the Irwins have built Aircraft Spruce around is the idea that it is critically important to listen to their customers, find out exactly what they need, carefully vet those products, and then keep approximately 10 million separate items in stock. Because of this, anyone who has ever built a plans-built or kit-built experimental airplane surely has a large stack of Aircraft Spruce invoices in their shop—because they know it is the one source they can trust to have the parts they need in stock in order to keep their build moving forward.
With a full selection of pilot gear—including headsets and flight bags, avionics from all the top manufacturers, training materials and books, a full array of common and specialty tools, and even full airplane kits and plans—a lot of effort has gone into keeping Aircraft Spruce’s distribution system growing as their catalog exploded in size over the years. “With hundreds of thousands of [stock-keeping units] and millions of individual items,” the company says, “the complexity of our inventory system has increased in recent years as we have expanded from two distribution facilities in the USA to seven, plus Canada. The goal is to have the entire product mix a customer would order in the warehouse that is nearest them, and our inventory system takes constant management. We have a very experienced and skillful team in our purchasing department, and their expertise is critical to properly maintaining our inventory levels to meet our customers’ needs.”
Aircraft Spruce understands aviation because the company’s owners have always been pilots. The company’s aircraft, such as their current Cessna 425 Conquest (for business) and Vultee BT-13B Valiant (for fun), have given the Irwins the advantage they needed to take important face-to-face meetings with vendors and customers.
To learn more about Aircraft Spruce or purchase pilot and aircraft supplies, visit aircraftspruce.com.