Pilots, mechanics, safety professionals … these are often the people we think about when it comes to the helicopter industry. But the truth is, most people in our industry work behind the scenes. DeWitte Binkley is one such person.
Binkley began his aviation career as an aircraft painter in 1977 at Atlantic Aviation in Wilmington, Delaware. From there, he became an independent contractor running the Agusta Westland helicopter paint facility in Philadelphia, eventually becoming a full-time employee. While at Agusta, he worked with maintenance manager Mario Ceriani to design and mock-up the first Agusta A109 wide-body test aircraft. Binkley actually hand-carved the first A109 mock-up.
Binkley then moved on to Keystone Helicopter, where for 23 years he managed the paint shop. When Keystone was acquired by Sikorsky Global, he continued in that role, building relationships with aviation customers worldwide.
In 2008, Binkley was approached by Robert Watkins, founder of Rampmaster, to consult on opening a new aviation paint shop called SureFlight. In 2009, the new venture opened, with just 3,600 square feet of hangar space and Binkley as the general manager and first employee. Under his leadership, SureFlight has expanded to more than 34,000 square feet. It now handles avionics and interiors as well as painting, and is a certified FAA repair station.
Part of the reason for SureFlight’s success is the team that Binkley has assembled. His goal is that customers will be delighted with the investment they are making in their aircraft, and he knows that can’t be accomplished without the right people.
Although Binkley has high expectations for quality and detail, he never asks more of the employees he works with than he asks of himself. He treats everyone with respect, as valuable members of the team. That respect comes back to him in the form of some of the most talented, dedicated, and hardest-working people in aviation.
Despite often working 60 or more hours a week, Binkley always seems to find time for charitable work. He has donated time and materials for painting and restoration of equipment for the Chester County Sheriff’s Department, including squad cars, a SWAT Hummer, and an emergency response trailer. Binkley also assisted Peter Wright, Sr., in developing the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania, donating time and materials to renovate aircraft for displays.