Trendsetters: Trade & Transportation
Sky's the Limit
[Photo: Daniel Portnoy]
Aircraft Transparencies Repair
Father/son: A Cuba native, Fernandez came here by boat in 1980 with his father, Ivan, an engineer. He remembers going with his father to the flea market to sell shoes. He became his dad’s partner in the furnishings business in the 1980s, and they are partners in the windshield repair business. “I’ve been working with my dad since I was 9.”
A decade ago, a change in consumer tastes put Rangel Fernandez and his Hialeah acrylic home furnishings factory in a difficult situation. “It was rough and tough. I had to lay off a lot of people,” he says.
Fernandez looked for a related field and drew on aviation repair, a field he had studied in technical college and worked in briefly before joining his father at the furnishings factory. Following his research, Fernandez converted the factory from furnishings to restoring aircraft windshields for air carriers. Windshields are laminates of bonded layers of glass and polyvinyl butyral. As they wear due to exposure to routine but extreme temperature shifts when aircraft climb and descend, the layers separate.
Fernandez’s company has an FAA-certified, patented process to make the window solid again, saving aircraft owners typically 40% over a new windshield. Sometimes the savings are more. He says a 737 main windshield costs $7,000 new but can be restored by his 12-employee company for $1,900.
Fernandez says sales this year will reach $4 million, and he hopes to grow to $6 million to $9 million in sales in two to three years.
Through the assistance of Enterprise Florida, he has been able to travel to shows in Europe, Australia and Dubai to expand his business. “That’s a huge help that Florida’s given me,” Fernandez, 37, says. He wants to open franchised locations abroad to lower shipping costs.