BY JACLYN ROSE –
On July 2, 1964, the late Jack Rose and his wife Norma, both natives of Polk County, moved their family of three small children: Brenda, Keith and Kent, from the big city of Dallas, Texas back to Hatfield, Arkansas. Knowing they wanted to raise their children in the same small town environment they were raised in, they moved home and began what is now Rose Aircraft Services-an aircraft refurbishment business that fifty years later, spans four generations.
“While in Dallas, Jack started working for Branniff Airways and became interested in aircraft. On the side he worked at White Rock Airport and was given flying lessons in exchange for pay. We came home for a visit in May of 1964 and Jack went to the airport and visited Hamp Edwards. He came back to the house so pumped up and excited, we sold the house and moved home within a month. Somehow he got the word out and started building engines as Jack Rose Aircraft. Through the years the name of our business has changed as it has evolved into what it is now, but the people have stayed the same,” explained Norma.
Jack, who was a licensed airplane mechanic, worked on engines until he sold the shop in 1970, at that time he was in aircraft sales and really enjoyed his work. He bought the AAA Café building and moved it next door to his old hangar on Mena Airport. As he began selling these aircraft he realized that sprucing the interior and exterior of them up would help so he enlisted the help of Norma and his mother, Lillie Rose, a seamstress who learned to sew interiors by completing a mail order correspondence course on furniture upholstery. Together, these ladies began cleaning and making minor improvements to the interior of airplanes which later evolved into overhauling complete interiors. “The first job of any significance we did was a Cessna 310 and we sewed the interior in Lillie’s tiny kitchen, at the time there were no regulations, it was a mess but the airplane turned out beautifully,” said Norma.
Today, Rose Aircraft Services is run by Keith Rose, Jack and Norma’s oldest son, and Brenda Sloan, their daughter. With many members of the family also employed, the business has grown from a small hangar on the Mena Airport to a business with 80 employees, some who have worked with the Roses for almost thirty years, and over 130,000 square foot of hangar space. At least 20,000 aircraft have been worked on from every state in The United States and many foreign countries. “We have seen many recessions come and go and weathered many situations but by God’s grace, He has kept us going,” said Keith. “With four generations involved in the business and one more generation being raised up, we are looking forward to the next 50 years.”
“There have been many changes in the types of aircraft we service and the way we design the interiors but we have kept the same integrity and quality of service. We follow every regulation and code and we always do our best to give our customers the best job at the best price with the least amount of downtime,” said Brenda.
“I never dreamed fifty years ago, Jack Rose Aircraft would turn into what it has become today. From standing on the runway at night with my father in law, Fred Rose, holding lights to guide Jack in for landing, and Jack and Junior Goodner painting their first airplane on a dirt floor hangar to a business that services a complete aircraft: interior, exterior, maintenance, avionics and an FBO that we added in 2009 with the purchase of Mena Air Center, we have to give all the credit to God,” said Norma. “We learned that word of mouth is the best advertisement and thankfully have never had a loss fatality,” added Keith. “We pray for every customer as they take off, and our employees, whom we love. They are the finest people around. We are so thankful for these last 50 years” said Brenda.