If a plane crashes in Kansas or gets hit by a hurricane in Louisiana, there is a good chance it will make a stop in Clinton, Ark.
Dawson Aircraft Inc., with its office, workshop and warehouse near the Clinton Municipal Airport, is known worldwide. With the click of a mouse, aviators anywhere can purchase a run-of-the-mill or hard-to-find part.
Owner Will Dawson says his primary business is aircraft salvage. He also offers an aircraft wrecker service. When a call comes in from an insurance company, Dawson’s crew goes and picks up the plane. Most of his retrieval business is within a 300-400 mile radius. Dawson Aircraft works with five major insurance companies, Dawson said.
Once the plane arrives, the crew goes to work. The plane parts are sometimes laid out in piles for the National Transportation Safety Board or other experts to examine as they determine the reason for a crash.
After the investigation is over, the planes generally go out for bid.
Dawson has a warehouse packed with parts for planes. He also has a row of planes in a field across the road from his business.
It’s all about supply and demand, he notes, adding that many of the planes will be more valuable in years to come as their parts become harder to find.
"It’s great to have your own parts supermarket in town," says airport Commissioner Royce Johnson, an avid aviation fan who owns a few planes himself.
Dawson’s crew catalogs the parts, describing them and their condition on the business’s website dawsonaircraft.com. The website is viewed the world over and parts are shipped to places such as New Zealand, South America and South Africa.
Dawson Aircraft also performs annual inspections. The company employs 10 people.
Dawson has been airport manager since 1990, the same year he and his wife, Anita, opened the business. The couple have four children. The oldest, 16-year-old Trevor, is already working on his pilot’s license. Read more about Trevor in an upcoming edition of the Democrat.