Bob and Dorly Ellefson have made quite a commitment to light aviation. So badly did they want to stay in this business, they helped make it work for them in a unique way.
The Ellefsons bought a desirable patch of land right by the I-80 freeway outside the largish city of Des Moines, Iowa. They built on a nice piece of this for the Golden Circle factory and put in a substantial paved runway. Over the years, Bob and Dorly have largely gotten out of the real estate business to focus on aviation only. “You have to do what you know,” says Bob.
But they have directed their enterprise in two ways. One is Golden Circle Air, manufacturer of the T-Bird line of ultralight aircraft. The other is the Aircraft Supermarket. The Ellefsons made an unusual move for an ultralight manufacturer: they took on other ultralight brands, lots of them, to sell. The combination of enterprises is working. “When one is slow, the other works,” Ellefson explains.
The recent lousy economy has produced a “roller coaster action” he reports, but Bob isn’t complaining loudly. “We’re doing pretty well compared to other manufacturers,” he says. Ellefson indicates that sales have remained quite steady given a longer-term view, though it goes in fits and starts from month to month. In its slowest months, Golden Circle Air is selling 40 airplanes on an annualized basis. In better months, the company does quite well, with sales where many manufacturers hope theirs would be.
The Aircraft Supermarket sells lots of used aircraft. “We don’t earn as much per airplane sold, but when new sales are slow, used sales pick up,” Bob reports. In this way the two enterprises complement one another.
Bob enjoys his work, and the effort to preserve the location for building and flying ultralight aircraft was assured by his work to own the acreage he once bought. It was a big gamble, to support such a land acquisition on the back of an ultralight manufacturing operation.
“But some days, I can be out taking a flight before I’ve even had breakfast,” Bob says. To most of us, that access to flight sounds like a dream come true.