VALPARAISO | Wings Aviation has taken flight since owner Brian Sheely launched the business out of the trunk of his car.
The aviation service company, based out the Porter County Regional Airport, now has room for 18 to 20 planes in the 25,000-square-foot building that encompasses two hangars and office space.
“We provide maintenance for private- and corporate-owned aircraft. We can help source pilots and put people in touch with who they need to be,” he said. “We have a small pilot shop and if someone is new to aviation, we can help them along the way. We do buy and sell aircrafts and rent space for storage.”
Sheely was exposed to the world of aviation through his parents, Jim Sheely and Ann Bogda, who are both in the industry. Jim Sheely owned Air International where Brian worked as a teen and over the years between serving in the Army.
“I worked at my dad’s aircraft charter company washing airplanes and doing line service, which is fueling the planes. (In later years) I worked in maintenance and the office so I learned both sides of the business,” Brian said.
The timing was right for his opening his own company when he returned from Iraq and his father’s company had closed.
“Customers knew me from being in aviation, and they wanted me to continue to work on their airplanes. I was working out of the trunk of my car and soon I had enough work where I started looking for a place to rent my own space,” he said.
Brian has built on his experience to open a second business. Epic Limo is also based out of the airport and now has six vehicles including a party bus, sedan and stretch limousines.
“I have always wanted to be in business for myself. When I was younger, I didn’t want to be an (airplane) mechanic, but I had the talent for it and it paid the bills and allowed me to grow. (In 2011,) we were far enough along to have the stability and I felt like I was able to do something beyond aviation, and I have the background as a luxury transportation provider,” he said.
Beyond bridal and bachelorette parties, he is able to connect with customers through his aviation business as airplane owners still use the airlines and may need rides to the larger airports. He also can provide ground transportation to those flying into the airport.
Brian hopes to expand both businesses in the future, including an artistic component.
“For Epic Limo, we are building our base as we are the new kids in town and we are looking to base vehicles in other cities,” he said. “For Wings Aviation, we are always trying to add new services for our customers, and I am working with a friend on putting together aviation art from salvaged aircraft pieces – unique stuff.”