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Rudy Welch

Walking into American Aviation at Meadowlake Airport, one immediately feels at ease. Two small dogs act as greeters, or as their owner calls them – “doorbells,” barking a noisy welcome. There is a faint smell of pipe smoke and motor oil. It becomes apparent while listening to the employees’ banter that American Aviation is a pleasant place to work.A large part of the reason American Aviation is a pleasant place is Rudy Welch. Welch has a business-like demeanor, but a smile lurks at the corners of his mouth, just waiting to break out in full. His six employees obviously like him a lot. They look out for one another, almost like family.For 34 years, Welch has owned and operated American Aviation, which is the oldest continuously operating airplane maintenance shop and flight school in the Pikes Peak Region. Welch lives in Cimarron Hills and has been in the Colorado Springs area for 45 years. He said most people think he lives at Meadowlake, since he’s there seven days a week.Welch was born in a small town in Wallans Creek, Ky., and grew up in Tennessee and Texas. After high school, he attended North Texas Agricultural College studying insects and insecticides. Welch received a diploma and became a crop duster.Welch had started taking classes at Amarillo Mechanics School about the time World War II started. He joined the Navy in 1944 and stayed until 1946, when he went to work in the private sector in Fort Worth, Texas, flying “dusters” as he referred to them. In 1950, he joined the Air Force and did maintenance with them and the Air Force reserves for 20 years. He retired from the service in 1963 and moved to California.Later, Welch worked for Continental Air Service, a branch of Continental Airlines, as the chief of quality control. During that time, he lived in Saigon, Vietnam when the war was in progress. He came home to the United States for a vacation and never returned.In 1965, Welch began working for Beeline Aviation at the Colorado Springs Airport, where he was chief pilot, flew charter flights and was a flight instructor. He left Beeline and worked for Aircraft Mechanics, and returned to Beeline from 1970 to 1972.In 1972, Welch bought American Aviation and has been there ever since. He is the president, boss and main instructor.MORE ON RUDY WELCHAny plans to retire? No, not really. Recently Kathy Tevis has become part owner and she’s taking on more and more.Do you have family? My wife passed away 12 years ago. I have two daughters. Peggy Barrett lives in Clarksville, Tenn., and Debbie Himmel lives in Long Island, N.Y. I have two grandchildren also.What do you do in your spare time? Spare time? Don’t have much. I’m here seven days a week.Do you like to read? Oh, yeah. Mostly trade magazines. I read a lot to keep up with the technology (of aviation).What do you think about Falcon? It’s growing like mad. I think the growth is great for the area.What is your idea of success? When you know what you like to do and you’re making it work. And when you’re working with people who want to make it work. My real idea of success, though I shouldn’t say it, is when you can go somewhere and you don’t like it and you can say, “How much do you want for it?” Then you buy it and make it into something you like.What does it take to be a good leader? Being a good leader means getting people to work with you instead of for you.What does it mean to be a good boss? It means making sure your employees have what they need.Do you have any heroes? Moshe Dayan, the Israeli general. After he started the eight-day war in 1968, someone asked him why he didn’t talk to the Americans and get their support before he went to war. He said he didn’t have time to talk; he had to get the job done. And Curtis LeMay. I knew him personally; he was a great guy. He always did what he said he was going to do.Your favorite president? Truman. And I’m not a Democrat.Your favorite vacation spot? A resort near the Lake of the Ozarks.

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