Avionics News March 2018 - 61

was a good way to learn more about the workings of the company.
Then Bemidji bought the FBO in Hibbing, Minnesota, and he was
sent there as manager. He remembers, "I was probably in over my
head, but I learn a lot from failure, and I did get the opportunity to
be involved in the startup of a repair station and avionics shop."
He returned to Bemidji in 1988 where the maintenance records
position opened with the company's airline, which had Essential
Air Service contracts with five different towns. At the time, the
maintenance records were all being done on paper, so he worked
again at computerizing those systems.
In 1991, Paul said he got the itch to do something on his own,
so he and a friend started a fiberglass manufacturing business. The
company built airplane parts and aquaculture equipment. It lasted
five years and then, according to Paul, "One thing led to another;
we had a big government contract that fell apart, and we shut it
down. You learn a lot from failure."
He returned to Bemidji Aviation in 1996 as a mechanic trainee
and received his A&P.
"I was good at wiring, and they kept giving me more and more
projects," Paul said. "Then I became head of avionics. One of the
things I always tell mechanics is to get good with airframe wiring
and then move to avionics."
He believes that is the point, in early 2000, when his career truly
began. In addition to the avionics work, Paul said, "I tried to keep
my fingers on the business side, but it was difficult as my head
was always under a panel doing installations and line maintenance.
Most of what I learned was on-the-job training."
As Paul's father and Diffley were ready for retirement, their
succession plan included selling the company as an employee

stock ownership plan, or a retirement plan designed to provide
employees with an ownership interest in the company. That was in
2006, and the plan was to turn the company over to new management. "I was the likely candidate to run things as I'd been around a
long time and knew a great deal about the company," he said. "Of
course, I didn't know as much as I know now."
Diffley was killed in an accident in 2012, and Paul was made
vice president and his father president. Since then, his father has
retired and Paul has served as president.
Today, Bemidji Aviation Services is involved in many aspects
of aviation: passenger charter, cargo charter, aircraft management,
flight training, maintenance and a full-service FBO. "People seem to
follow my leadership," Paul said. "My job is to provide a vision for
the company that people can latch on to. I enable people to do their
jobs and try to focus on that vision so that it's one they can live out."
When asked if he misses the hands-on work he used to do, Paul
said he gets enough of it at home as he works on his long-term
project of finishing an unfinished basement. He also still enjoys
building computers. Along with his wife, Cheryl, of 31 years, Paul
is the father of three grown children and the grandfather of four.
Paul gives all credit to his father and Diffley. "They built this
company, not us. A lot of blood, sweat and tears were given by
them." To be fair to himself, though, he adds, "We've built on that.
In 2016, we started a base in Denver with six aircraft. We bought
Encore Air Cargo out of Sioux Falls. This isn't a rags-to-riches
story, but we have done this on our own." q
To learn more about Bemidji Aviation Services, visit
BemidjiAviation.com.
avionics news

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http://BemidjiAviation.com

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