Over the past couple of months, I had two exceptionally good experiences with aviation-related businesses, and one exceptionally bad one. As a service to my fellow owners, I’m going to name them all here.
- Cheer: Great Lakes Aero
- This company makes windows for light, unpressurized aircraft that are roughly triple the quality of the original manufacturers’ at a third the price. As if that weren’t enough, I bought a new windshield in May but didn’t get around to having it installed until December, when I found out that I’d bought the wrong thickness. No problem: Great Lakes was happy to take it back and give me a refund (minus a trivial restocking fee) and ship me a new one.
- Cheer: Sutton Aviation
- This won’t be of much interest unless you keep your plane near Ottawa, but this year Sutton Aviation at Rockcliffe Airport showed me that an annual inspection (and associated upgrades, rectifications, and repairs) can be fast, thorough, and (relatively) inexpensive. Maybe I can afford to keep this plane after all.
- Jeer: Aircraft Spruce
- I was excited when I found out that Aircraft Spruce would be opening a Canadian operation, even if it’s just a transhipment point, because I’m tired of the cross-border mail order hassles. I called Aircraft Spruce first to confirm that their deal with UPS meant no brokerage fees (“just tax”, said the man on the phone), then discovered when my package arrived that Spruce had simply collected the infamous, non-refundable $60–70 brokerage fee on UPS’s behalf before shipping you the order — how is that a benefit to Canadian customers? They refused even to apologize afterwards, much less make good on their mistake (at first, they tried to claim that the fee was sales tax, until I pointed out the sales tax on a separate line). Until we have a real Canadian source, other mail order companies like Chief Aircraft will be happy for your business, and will treat you better in the bargain.
What you need are friends on the “right” side of the border, who will happily forward your freight to you without collecting any such fees. I’m just saying….
It’s tempting to rent a mailbox at the UPS store just across the bridge in Ogdensburg NY (an hour’s drive from Ottawa). I’d have to pay some GST at the border, but I’d get parts much faster that way. I could even fly down, if the FBO has a crew car I could use (or if I felt like the walk from the airport to the store).
I second the cheers for Sutton Aviation. Some years ago, a kind AME gentleman there very quickly, and absurdly cheaply, repaired a C172 wingtip fairing. I had intimately introduced it to the museum’s hangar doors.
Every time I’ve been to CYRO since, I’ve looked for him to say thanks again, but haven’t been able to.
That’s Red Sutton in your picture — he runs the shop.
Ask if they will ship via USPS instead of UPS/FedEx, etc. Via the postal system there are no rediculous brokerage fees, and occasionally even the duties are skipped if customs doesn’t happen to open the package.
Simply pickup at the post office and pay the GST and a small processing fee.
I won’t buy from any US company that will not ship USPS – I was stung once by the UPS gouge, and never again will I fall prey to that rediculous charge.
You’re absolutely right, Mark — USPS is the only way to go across the border. In this case, I was duped by their promise that they had a special deal with UPS to consolidate orders and avoid the brokerage fee, and disgusted by their refusal to do anything about their mistake afterwards.