BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
It isn’t often that you can work somewhere that you enjoy what you do, like the people you work with, and you feel like your boss cares about you. This unique combination is displayed at Crider Aircraft at the Mena Airport. Owners Roger and Cindy Crider care about the men and women that work in their hangar, they are more than employees, but feel like family.
The Crider’s took ownership of the hangar and business in 2002 from Junior Goodner. Both Roger and Cindy bring a long history of working around planes into the business. Roger started working at the airport for Goodner right after high school as a part of a work program. He started sweeping and cleaning floors, moved to mechanic, earned his license to fly, and finally moved into ownership. Cindy is no stranger to the airplane business either, she worked on the floor at the hangar detailing planes while she went to college. It was at the hangar, in fact, that Cindy and Roger met almost 30 years ago.
The Crider’s bring decades of experience into the business and this is a great part of what has made them so successful. Cindy stated, “I never wanted to be a boss that just sat back and asked people to do something I wasn’t willing to do. There are still times that Roger and I step out of the office to help on the floor if we have a big project.” The crew at Crider Aircraft feels more like a big family, but this may be because there are several family members including Cindy’s brother, cousin, and the Crider’s son, Tyler, who serves as one of the foreman. The Crider’s other son, Alex, is living and working in Northwest Arkansas as a marketing specialist.
The work that Crider Aircraft does is detail intensive and laborious. In order to get planes in and out of their shop in a timely manner it takes each member of the crew pulling their own. “We have set things up like a factory line. Everyone knows what their role is on the project and so when one group is done the plan gets passed on to the next group, and so on, until it is completed. Since we both have worked on the floor in the hangar we know what it takes to get the planes finished in a timely manner,” says Roger.
Along with this, Cindy completed her degree in Business and Technology, which proves to be helpful. Cindy says, “Since I have a business degree and know about the planes it just made sense to come and help him with this side of things.”
On average, the crew can finish 7-25 planes a month, but this is with everybody pulling their own. The Criders stated, “We have a great crew here. They work really hard and we appreciate them for that. That is part of the reason we try to take care of them and care for them like family.”
Between a hard working crew, and owners that understand aviation and the business side, it’s clear why the Crider’s have been successful. The best leaders are those that lead by example and that is exactly what the Criders do. From time to time they still hop in the middle of things and empty trash cans or help detail the planes. “We never want to be ‘beyond’ doing something, and we have to know what is going on in the hangar so we can still have compassion on the workers and what they are going through,” says Cindy.
Crider Aircraft has the opportunity to work on a variety of different plans and recently completed a unique project. The crew just finished repainting and detailing a WWII B-25 Bomber. This is not the first military aircraft that they worked on, but it is the first bomber. This particular bomber was a part of the Commemorative Air Force and the Devil Dogs. Cindy said, “We spent time on the floor with the crew during this process as well. When we have a big project like this, we want to perform quality control. This assures that our customers get the best product we can offer.” Crider Aircraft has serviced many other military plans and always enjoy the opportunity. “We love when we can do our part to say thank you to the military community and repainting the plane is a way that we can do that,” explains Crider.
Planes such an American Airlines DC3 and C54 Berlin Airlift are just a few of the other unique planes they have the opportunity to work on. Their dedication and attention to detail is what has made their business so successful. Along with these characteristics, the Criders have tried to be personable with any customer. Cindy stated, “Any time a customer comes in, Roger and I both make sure that we are to meet them and talk with them about their plane. I take pictures throughout the process and try to go the extra mile to make their business with us pleasurable.”
Roger and Cindy have gone above and beyond to produce a good product, but haven’t sacrificed integrity and the care of their employees. Between the two of them, they strike the proper balance of work and fun. As Cindy stated, “We want our employees to know we care about them. We want people to feel like we care about them for more than their work.” It’s undeniable that this kind of environment is making a difference.