Little did Jeff Boshart know that his offer to help “keep the doors open” at the Genesee County Airport in 1982 would turn into a successful career in avionics as owner of Boshart Enterprises & Aircraft Services at the East Saile Drive facility.
Boshart, a Corfu resident who was living in Lancaster at the time, said he began employment at the airport under the supervision of Andy Cordes.
“About six months after I got here, he (Cordes) went out of business,” said Boshart, who, with his wife, Carol, operates the airplane repair/enhancement venture out of the main terminal and hangar. “If you remember in 1982 there weren’t many jobs and interest rates were like crazy.”
He said he approached Joseph Amedick, the Genesee County highway superintendent who was in charge of overseeing airport operations, thinking that “I can keep the doors open and help these guys out down here.”
“At the time, we had International Chimney, Graham (Manufacturing) and Genesee Le Roy Stone (planes) still in the hangar after Andy cleared out,” he recalled. “And I don’t have a place to go, either.”
Boshart said that Amedick spoke with then County Manager Charles Meyer, and came back with a proposal: “He says, ‘Give me an insurance policy for $25,000 and don’t worry about the rent; just keep the doors open.'"
So, that’s what he did.
“I would come in here like late at night, when International Chimney got done with whatever they were doing, and I’d clean the airplanes, drop the oil or whatever, and I would go back home,” Boshart said. “That was how we started. I had no intention of ever being a businessman.”
Nearly 40 years later, the company continues to thrive, said Tim Hens, Genesee County’s current highway superintendent who also is in charge of the airport.
“We host Jeff and Carol here at the airport as what is known in the aviation world as a limited fixed base operator,” Hens said. “They rent space from the county – and what they do, they do very well.
“They repair planes, they put avionics packages in the plane, do maintenance and stuff and they draw people in from all over the Northeast. They do a heck of a business and are really our key tenant out here.”
Boshart said the avionics industry – which includes all components of the aircraft’s communication system -- is changing at a rapid pace.
“We do a lot of the radio upgrades,” he said. “Right now, in the aviation career, that part of it is moving so fast. It’s like the year 2000 when you were trying to buy a computer. You didn't know whether to buy one on that day or wait three days because there was going to be a better computer out. That's where we are with avionics.”
He went on to say that many of the smaller planes and jets that use the Genesee County Airport have more equipment than commercial airliners.
“It's phenomenal. You almost don't need a pilot. As a matter of fact, we have what they call Autoland. Everything goes to heck, you push a button up top – a big red button -- and the airplane takes you to the airport and it lands.”
The county airport has made giant strides since the early days when it was founded by Gil Chapell in the early 1940’s. The Chapell family lived in a house on the grounds.
Boshart said he met Chapell in the mid-1960s when his family moved into the area from Ohio.
“My dad started, with a number of other people, the Akron airport,” he said. “And they had they had a little tailwheel aircraft that dad used to fly around. And so back in 1965, when we moved up here, we used to fly over here because my aunt lived just over the hill on State Street. And I got to meet Gil and his wife when I was a little kid -- they had the house down here.”
He remembers the Chapell’s farmhouse and a couple of hangars and a gas pump, and a small restaurant.
“That’s my first recollection of the place; it was it was a grass strip. Then, Gilbert built the old hangar that they tore down five or six years ago.”
The facility was known as Batavia Airport at that time until the county assumed ownership in 1964.
Over the years, it has been expanded from 200 to 264 acres. In 2005, the runway was extended from 4,400 feet to 5,500 feet to accommodate business jets.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates there are 115,000 takeoffs and landings annually.
A pilot himself, Boshart said he used to have his own plane, but not anymore.
“I’m like Tim. I have a fishing boat,” he said.
Photo at top: Carol and Jeff Boshart with Tim Hens, right, at the Genesee County Airport's main hangar.
Some of the aircraft being worked on by Boshart Enterprises' technicians.
Submitted photo: A scene from days gone by of the old terminal and hangar at the airport.
Submitted photo: This photo from the 1950s hangs on the wall in the office of the main terminal. From left, woman not identified,Tim Willard, Harold Hale, Gil and Gloria Chapell.