Components of a rewarding career
Published: 18 May 2015
Chris Williams is general manager of UK-based Helispares. Starting in the warehouse at 19 and progressing into sales, he has spent his working life helping to source replacement parts for a wide range of helicopters.
Have you always been interested in aviation?
I have always had an interest in aviation and engineering but didn’t have any plans to work in the field as I was more interested in computer programming during my education. I am very glad that my path diverged into aviation and specifically into supporting helicopters.
Tell us about your career to date
I started at Lindair (Europe) when I was 19. I worked as a stores assistant and was lucky to be surrounded by licensed engineers who were happy to pass on information about the parts I was handling.
Mentored by my then boss Steve Lindley, over the years I progressed through the logistic department onto the sales department selling Bristow Helicopters surplus spares into the open market.
I moved with the company to Redhill in 2000 after it was purchased by Bristow Helicopters and was there for three years before moving to Helispares as sales executive and subsequently general manager for the past five years.
What does your working week look like?
I work mainly from our office and stores in Andover, Hampshire, but am on the road at least once a week visiting customers and suppliers. We trade parts worldwide so I often have to travel to interesting places at short notice, hopping on a plane to view an inventory or helicopter we wish to purchase.
What are the biggest challenges for European operators?
Through the lens of a parts and services supplier, I think one of the biggest challenges for operators is reducing the direct operating cost of the aircraft while ensuring safety. The other is keeping aircraft flying in the face of longer component overhaul turn times.
Components can take months to turn at the overhaul facility which is no good if the aircraft needs to get back in the air following a two week check. This is where companies like Helispares can step in to provide certified components for sale at lower costs outright or exchange from stock.
What aspects of your job do you find most challenging?
We often are asked to source components. Satisfying a customer request can involve a lot of research into the component manuals, looking for possible alternates or higher assemblies which could do the job or knowing of a source that can provide a good part which is not listed anywhere. Finding a rare part for a customer who needs it yesterday always makes me happy, especially when you hear that sigh of relief from the buyer on the end of the phone.
What do you enjoy most?
The relationships with customers and suppliers alike are the best part of the job and the friendships that come out of working in such a close-knit community as we “rotorheads” enjoy. I am also blessed to work with such great colleagues who get my sense of humour!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
My mission at Helispares is to grow the business and all going well, in five years’ time we will have established ourselves as a leading supplier of helicopter component exchange services in Europe. We already enjoy a large and growing customer base and offer unique services which demonstrably save our customers money, so I think we are doing the right things to get there.