The Composite Approach Team
It’s not too often that you run across a work environment where you actually like everyone you work with and call many of your co-workers friends; or strong, caring friends at that… and then there’s Composite Approach–where the closest thing that comes to mind is an old TV sitcom that ran for much of the 80’s called Cheers, “Where Everybody Knows Your Name.” Except Bart has replaced Norm and Steve is the new “Coach” … well, the list goes on. Meet our team, where we’re more than co-workers, we’re family.
Owner / Technical Director
Husband, father, friend, crew chief; Brian Harris is a man of many talents and titles—mostly, he’s a man of his word. Oddly enough, titles aren’t really his thing, and that’s probably why he is as successful as he is at all that he does. Brian’s keen eye for perfection has set the bar in the composite aircraft industry. From the ground up, Brian has built his business around the basics: trust, honesty, integrity, and the good ole’ fashioned handshake. Since 1997, Brian has sculpted Composite Approach into one of the leading contract composite manufacturers in the industry; with much of our focus being in the Composite Kit Aircraft Sub-contracting business, he is continually pushing our envelope into the world of Advanced Composites as well. Born and raised in Bend, Brian has spent the majority of his life seeking every back road known to exist in Oregon. A long-time bow hunter, off-road four-wheelin’ junkie, dirt bike racer, mountain biker, pilot, and professional tinkerer, it’s a mystery how Brian finds time to sleep.
Wife, mother, friend, crew chief to the crew chief; Holly Harris is hands down one of the nicest women on God’s green earth. Her impeccable organizational skills, stunning sense of class, and orderly detail have given new life to a side of our business that we haven’t seen in our history. Having spent 12 years as our behind-the-scenes bookkeeper, it wasn’t until the fall of 2015 that Holly decided to make it public and official. With a degree in elementary education, Holly has spent several years of her life pouring into the lives and minds of our youth. We’re thankful and blessed to have Brian’s better half here at the office!
An Oregon native, Sam grew up on the wet, rainy side of the Cascade Mountain Range, in Salem. After high school he migrated south to San Diego County in Southern California, to complete a degree in Aviation Flight Technology. While in college he pursued his maintenance apprenticeship at a local aviation maintenance facility. After marrying and having his first child he realized the value of family and a different pace of life drove him back to the Northwest, this time to the drier side of the Cascades, Central Oregon. Since arriving back in Oregon, Sam has excelled in the high tech aviation industry, as a production flight test pilot and flight line lead mechanic at Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing in Bend, to more recently Operations Manager of RDD Enterprises, who specialized in custom aircraft kit manufacturing, aircraft modifications, and a full-service maintenance facility. We were pleased to welcome Sam onto the team as a General Manager in October of 2013. Sam is married to his best friend and is very involved in his three very active kids’ lives. Just like at work, he is a huge proponent of all things team-oriented—as evidenced by his experiences from coaching little league football, basketball, volleyball, and baseball for his kids, to leading mission teams to Africa through his church. He is committed to excellence and hard work in achieving the collective goals of all team members. His hobbies include hunting, hiking, backpacking, and all things outdoors that bring him closer to nature and the One who created it.
Operations Manager / Purchasing / HR
Ben has spent the majority of his career in the outdoor retail industry, most recently as a V.P. of Operations and Merchandising for a Children’s On-line Retailer. His work experience has in a sense shadowed his passion for the outdoors. Alpine and sport climbing, backpacking, trail running, fly-fishing, camping, and backcountry skiing, Ben’s family is destined to spend more nights out under the stars than under a roof. Originally hailing from Portland, Oregon, Ben moved to Central Oregon back in 2000 to get away from the wet hustle and bustle of the big city. “I couldn’t ask for a better place to raise a family,” says Ben. “This part of the state really offers a taste of what heaven will be like.” Having joined the Composite Approach team in 2011, Ben tends to focus on purchasing, business development, and operations. Keeping this place organized and the back end running smoothly and efficiently is what Ben brings to the table. When asked what he likes and appreciates, and what keeps him here at Composite Approach, he says, “Brian has created a work place that I am truly excited to be a part of. We’re a tight brotherhood here and it’s great to be a part of a team that is hardworking and passionate about what we do every day.”
Production Manager / Customer Liaison
Originally one of the Back Street Boys, Mike can move on the dance floor like none other. Or maybe the story goes something like this. After Brian spent a few years building planes by himself, he decided to hire some help. Some might call it help, some might label it as a really bad nightmare, either way, Mike McReynolds showed Brian a few magic tricks and a sleight of the hand later, became Brian’s go-to man, a “second” of what would become the “three” amigos. Mike built a few Lancair kits over the years and quickly became a lead foreman around the ever-growing shop that now was hammering out the details of the Evolution project. After a stint away from all of the carbon fiber dust and airplane goodness, Mike “re-joined” team Composite Approach, back and better than ever (much like a Back Street Boys reunion) re-establishing his shenanigans around the shop. Mike is an incredible asset to our team and a machine when it comes to building an Evolution (especially having built more than 15 of them from start to finish.) He is an “air master”—overseeing production of aircraft parts and acting as a liaison for aircraft customers. All kidding aside, he’s one of the most liked and respected guys around. We are truly blessed to have our close brother back. An awesome dad to three kids and a loving husband to his better half, Mike spends most of his spare time hanging out with his family.
Mold Shop Team Lead / EarthCruiser Liaison
Phill is our Mold Shop Team Lead—and one of the most dedicated workers we’ve seen! He has been assembling and repairing things since he was young; changing pipes, working in construction, and spending years as a diesel mechanic after receiving his degree from the Universal Technical Institute. With over six years of experience in the manufacturing industry and 21 years manufacturing aircraft specifically, as well as working on some start-ups with friends, he came to us with a great wealth of knowledge. Today, Phill does an amazing job orchestrating production of EarthCruiser parts and acting as a liaison between Composite Approach and EarthCruiser. When asked what he enjoys about Composite Approach, Phill says he likes being busy, being appreciated, working with a good group of people, and being able to exercise his ability to imagine a project and turn it into reality. In his free time Phill enjoys riding motorcycles, shooting, hunting, and taking trips to his cabin with his wife and two daughters.
A&P Mechanic / Hangar Manager
There’s no way Matt could have known that his decision to take one free flying lesson offered through his high school would turn into endless hours of cutting grass to support his newfound hobby. Growing up in Sebring, Florida with a dad who had always wanted to fly, Matt regularly attended the annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-In & Expo in Lakeland, FL and had a growing interest in aircraft. After that first flying lesson at age 14, Matt was hooked. He worked odd jobs at the Sebring Municipal Airport in exchange for time flying planes. He eventually was able to purchase his own airplane and teach his dad how to fly. After high school, Matt entered into the army and was stationed in Kansas. He later returned to Florida to study first psychology, then engineering, and finally earned his degree in Aviation Technology and Maintenance from the National Aviation Academy. He then launched into a long period of working for a variety of aeronautical organizations including: Sunshine Aviation, Paris Air, Piper, the Service Center at OKC, Vera Beach Avionics, Lancair, and Cascade Aircraft Management. At one point he returned to Kansas to tow gliders for Air Plains, in Wellington. His love for aviation also led him to another love. While at Cascade Aircraft Management, he met Kaisha, his parts person—who later became his wife. In their free time, Matt and Kaisha like to take their son, Jett, and their dog, Charlie, for outdoor adventures, hiking and backpacking. Matt also enjoys hunting, fishing, and shooting.
Engineer / CNC Programmer
As a kid, Guy had his own drawer full of disassembled appliances—he didn’t put them back together, he just wanted to see how they worked. As he grew older he got a diverse spread of experience putting things together through construction work, dabbling in web design, a database internship, a job at Stereo Planet (setting up wiring for home stereo systems) and house framing. In school he studied computer science, then engineering physics, and ended up obtaining his degree in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University. An internship at Epic Aircraft turned into a position on staff as a mechanical design engineer. Later Guy worked for Lancair as a mechanical engineer, and then at Advanced Energy as a mechanical design engineer, which became the position of engineering manager. Fun fact: Guy first met Brian, Ben, and Mike at Father’s House, where Guy later became an associate pastor for a time. These connections led to his current position as senior mechanical engineer at Composite Approach. He appreciates that Brian offers a flexible work schedule, which is helpful for him as a husband and father of two. He also values the quality of private ownership (and with it, the absence of office politics and endless meetings and emails), as well as the fact that he has the privilege of helping to develop his position; he says, “I have more control over my destiny here.”
Matt came upon his position at Composite Approach through his connections with Sam and Ben. They trained him with the skills necessary to perform lay-ups and trim and paint parts—mostly, Matt produces SV3s. “I know 50 more things than I did a month ago,” Matt says. He appreciates the laid-back environment, flexibility, and not only having his work acknowledged and appreciated, but being valued as a person. In his free time, Matt is working on finishing up his Master’s degree at Kilns College in Theology of Social Justice. He also enjoys reading, watching sports, playing Frisbee, and exploring the outdoors. One of his goals is to fix up an old kayak and take it out on the Deschutes!
Sean Bliss, born in Wasilla, Alaska, grew up taking apart everything he saw. Putting a wrecked truck back together and working at a composites shop repairing boats and doing research and development on small aircraft parts—this was just the start for this handyman. At age 18 Sean began his own business, Squeaky Clean Power Washing, pressure washing construction equipment. Sean sold his business and went on to get experience at a hazardous waste incineration plant in Utah. Later he joined the Navy as a Damage Controlman—working on and repairing firefighting equipment on the USS Momsen in Everett, Washington, where he also received his master helmsman qualification. Sean has a versatile spread of experience in both the aviation and general maintenance industries. He loaded helicopters flying out to oil rigs with Cenergy International in Barrow, Alaska; became a helicopter pilot in Bend, OR; drove fuel trucks for Inlet Petroleum in Anchorage, AK; performed basic maintenance and did customer service for the FBO at the Newport Municipal Airport in Oregon; performed repairs and sales for Stand-On Liquid in Bend; and assembled towers for solar panels in Bend. Then—he found us! Sean appreciates the laid-back atmosphere and freedom of creativity allowed here at Composite Approach, where he has a level of independence and ownership over the projects delegated to him. For fun, Sean enjoys flying, “getting out in the dirt,” and riding his motorcycle to work through the desert.
Kristian originally hails from Sacramento, California, and spent some time in Ohio and Arizona before establishing a home base in Oregon. When Kristian first hit double digits, he was recruited by a neighbor for a competitive BMX bike racing team, with Phoenix Bicycles in Portland, Oregon. Test riding and racing BMX bikes has taken Kristian all over the country, and has given him a unique background in the carbon world—he test-rode some of the very first carbon bikes in the BMX industry. This career lasted about 10 years, and to this day Kristian still enjoys riding for fun and competing independently. These days, Kristian still works professionally with carbon—but this time, he’s on the manufacturing end. Kristian is all about learning as much as he can—so he’s a perfect fit for the opportunities in research and development here at Composite Approach. He loves the fact that he can be part of “building things people have never seen.” He really appreciates the positive environment and how teammates are willing to help each other out. Kristian is known around the shop for his ever-present smile, can walk on his hands for a good two minutes, and loves a good bowl of cake in milk (minus the frosting, of course).
Janney’s long history of manufacturing experience began at a saw blade manufacturing company in Redmond, Oregon. She later worked at a mill, but after she had kids, she took a more family-friendly position at the school district. After this, Janney worked at Lancair for 13 years, working on composites, on two-week fast builds, and in the mold shop. Before she ended up at Composite Approach, Janney worked on side jobs with many individuals who are currently part of our team, including Brian and Phill. Now an important part of the team herself, Janney performs wet lay-up, manufactures molds, and does “everything that Phill tells us to do.” She truly loves the people she works with. In her free time, Janney has adventures with her 11 grandchildren, enjoys hiking and camping, and refurbishes antiques.
John has been a mechanic since the time he could walk. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but growing up in a family with a trucking company cultivated John into a natural mechanic. Later John worked as a contractor for oil refineries, then returned to his mechanic roots, entering the Navy at age 20 as an aviation structural mechanic—working on all aspects of F-18s (models A—G), including hydraulics systems, landing gear, and flight controls. He worked his way up during the next 20 years, becoming a qualified final inspector and certified aeronautical TIG welder; running the welding shop and aircraft structure shop; overseeing quality assurance, corrosion, painting, and the composites shop—finally landing in management as a first class aviation mechanic, “teaching young’uns to work on multi-million-dollar aircraft.” After nine deployments to places including Iceland and the Mediterranean; and traveling from Brunswick, Maine to Lemoore, California to Fallon, Nevada, back to Lemoore, then to China Lake, CA—John retired from the Navy. He spent the next two years at DynCorp, managing fighter weapons training at Topgun, where he managed 86 people and oversaw maintenance on 55 planes as well as 50 flights each day. In September of 2016 John moved to Central Oregon with his wife and daughter. He says, “I was hoping to get back into the aviation industry and was lucky enough to find this company.” We are thrilled to have this expert composite technician and aircraft structural mechanic here at Composite Approach! John appreciates the laid back, friendly atmosphere where you simply “know your task and get it done.” In his free time he enjoys camping and hiking with his family, archery with his daughter, 4-wheeling, fishing, and working on his jeep.
When asked what he does here at Composite Approach, Kenny says, “Everything!” With more than 11 years in the composites industry, performing such tasks as mold manufacture, part fabrication, lay-up, and detailed assembly, Kenny is a jack-of-all-trades. As repair specialist at Columbia Aircraft, Kenny worked on a plane for Erik Lindbergh, grandson of Charles Lindbergh. On the 75th anniversary of Charles’ flight across the Atlantic, Erik recreated the flight himself. In preparation for this epic commemoration, Kenny converted the wings of Erik’s plane from a 107-gallon fuel capacity to a 300-gallon capacity, and added an extra 80-gallon tank in the fuselage. Later Kenny worked in tooling and machining for Windward Performance, where he worked on the Perlan project as well as the DuckHawk racing glider. In his free time Kenny enjoys snowboarding, riding motorcycles, and spending time with his family.
A born and raised Bendite, Brittany Gilmore grew up with a fascination for aviation. Her mother worked with Virgin Galactic for 10 years, and Brittany dreamt of being a fighter jet pilot with the Air Force. Now, as an adult, Brittany says, “If you can’t fly ‘em, why not build ‘em?” So after a few retail and tech support positions, she has finally landed here at Composite Approach, where she gets paid to build aircraft parts! Brittany sees the composites industry as the lifelong locus of her career, and she appreciates Composite Approach because “everybody here is like family” and “you get to be your own person.” A couple of her hidden talents include cooking and sign language—she’s fluent! She also has a fascination with Egyptian archaeology and enjoys outdoor adventures, mountain biking, and yoga.
Matt Green is from Boring, Oregon—but he’s anything but! Matt can shoot a quarter at 73 yards from his bow while riding a wheelie on a dirt bike without a front wheel. Ok, so we’re exaggerating a bit, but the bow part was pretty historically accurate. A former competitive archer, fly-fishing guide, and house remodeler, these days Matt enjoys long-range competitive shooting, hunting, building rifles, and camping. When you can shoot a 2.5” group at 500 yards, you know you have a pretty good chance at bringing home a good-sized meal. It’s this kind of precision and accuracy that not only allows Matt to bring home his prizes of the wild, but also allows him to build beautiful aircraft. A painter by trade, along with a tidbit of general construction and outside sales experience with a local paint shop, Matt has spent years perfecting the art of making the finest carbon fiber dust possible. A true workhorse of the shop, Matt can work circles around most of us here. Matt has dabbled in every aspect of composite manufacturing, including lay-up, sanding, cutting, and aircraft maintenance, to name a few. He appreciates the variety of tasks available at Composite Approach—he could be working in the mold shop one day, then building planes the next. When asked what he likes and appreciates, and what keeps him here at Composite Approach, he says: “I like the rewarding feeling we get when the finished product flies. What keeps me here is not the ‘itch,’ but more the people I work with, the atmosphere, non-micromanagement, the lack of a time clock, and no boss-holes.”
Originally from Portland, Oregon, Dave started working in the paint department at an auto body shop at age 15. At his cousin’s shop, Dave got three years of experience priming vehicles for paint, moving them into the paint booth, masking, painting, and final clean up. Dave later moved to Central Oregon and worked at Prineville Auto Body. At one point he took a year off, learning to build a house. Finally, Dave found Composite Approach, where he appreciates the complexity of composite work, as well as the precision required to create quality products. He enjoys the challenge and mental stimulation of working on new projects. He says, “Composite Approach is one of the best places I’ve worked for as far as employee appreciation goes.” He likes that the people at Composite Approach sincerely care about each other—and that snacks are readily available! When asked what he likes to do for fun, Dave says, “My daughter is my hobby.” He could be caught playing “tea party” with her or letting her paint his toenails—but he also enjoys working on cars and trucks, as well as operating remote control cars, planes, and drones.
With a dad who owns a composites shop, it’s no question—composites run in Nate’s blood. Originally from Brunswick, Maine, Nate started working for his parents’ business, Custom Composite Technologies, at age nine. At 13 Nate began sanding, mold prep, and wet lay up at the boat shop, which later became a high-end tooling manufacturing shop. As he grew up he explored a few other career paths, including a paper route, lobstering, and house restoration. He spent two years at Montana State University, studying business, and he later returned to the composites industry. Nate moved to Central Oregon in search of a new composites adventure—and found us here at Composite Approach! He says Composite Approach is the most innovative company he has ever worked for, and he appreciates the proficiency and the community. Nate has interests in Computer-Aided Design, dirt biking, skiing, and fishing; he has been to China; and one of the weirdest things he has ever eaten was an alfredo peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Growing up in Boise, Idaho, snow sports were a big part of Josh’s family life. To this day Josh continues to enjoy outdoor adventures—snowboarding, racing dirt bikes, camping, cross-country skiing—and, of course, taking along his border collie, Sage. The attraction of the beautiful outdoors brought him to Bend; Josh wanted to escape the growing city and find a new place to explore. The thrill of a new challenge was what drew Josh to join our team here at Composite Approach—he was interested in learning more about the large-scale composites industry. His previous experience with composites included four years in the medical field, engineering and machining prosthetics. Proud alumnus of Boise State University, Josh received his Bachelor’s degree in Business and Associate’s degree in CNC Machine Tool Technology. Josh is an advanced SolidWorks user, and just what we need in our CNC department! Josh’s professional path has taken him through 17 years of manufacturing, including work for Micron Technology and Coyote Design Orthotic and Prosthetic Technologies. A designer at heart, Josh thrives off exercising his creative muscles. Fun fact: He restores vintage motorcycles in his free time! Here at Composite Approach, Josh enjoys working with the complex geometry of large-scale composites; designing and machining complex mold designs; and learning more about the composite, carbon fiber, and aviation industries.
“Work hard, play hard” is Sean’s motto—though, when you’re a professional motorcycle test-rider—working and playing may be one and the same. After five years in the Marine Corps, where he was a harrier power plants mechanic, Sean moved to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. While in Phoenix, he worked at an airport, and got a job test-riding and evaluating motorcycles for Harley-Davidson. Later Sean moved to the east bay area in California, where he worked a management position for a paint contractor, and also got married. Sean and his wife eventually moved to Redmond, Oregon—the home of both Sean’s sister-in-law and his friend, Nick. In Redmond Sean got about four years’ experience as a mechanic and technician for Lancair; certificates for welding, machining, and lean manufacturing; and a year of experience with Cascade Aircraft Management. Now, as a technician for Composite Approach, Sean works on planes, molds, and tooling—and does welding, maintenance, repairs, and lay-ups—and keeps us all laughing.
Growing up, Jack liked remote control cars—and anything else that moved. “If it makes noise, I like it,” he says. A true, native-born Bendite, he loves anything outside—including exploring the woods, riding his motorcycle, and working on his 1997 Ford F250. Jack was introduced to woodworking in high school, in a woodshop class during his freshman year. He started his own business, crafting cutting boards for two years. After high school, he earned his Associates of Arts degree at Central Oregon Community College, while working swing shifts as a composite technician at Epic Aircraft. This was his first experience in composites, and he enjoyed it so much that, after graduating from COCC, he decided to take a full-time day job in the industry—here at Composite Approach! Jack says he appreciates the care shown by the management toward employees, as well as the willingness to listen to and work with employees. He says the leadership is well-structured and he likes that the technicians have a lot of responsibility and influence in their projects. We’re happy to have Jack on board! These days, Jack still enjoys woodworking as a hobby, plays drums and bass, and really likes pot-stickers.
Composite Technician / LRI Liaison
Father of three and foremost a husband to an incredible wife, Dan is a machine when it comes to building parts. Keep him well fed and he’ll crank out more parts than an assembly line of eight. Dan spent a few years building Lancair IV landing gear, so his familiarity with the Evolution project wasn’t anything new. Today Dan spends his days building Wavegliders for our good friends down at Liquid Robotics, while also acting as a liaison between LRI and Composite Approach. A central Oregon native, the younger of the Nelson dynamic duo finds himself chasing his three kiddos on the local hiking trails on the weekends and long summer nights. Dan is an avid hiker and backpacker, and likes to think of himself as an amateur mountain climber. A while back, Dan got himself a new mountain bike (and this time it didn’t come with training wheels)—he makes sure it gets lots of use in his free time. When asked what he likes and appreciates, and what keeps him here at Composite Approach, he says: “I love working with friends, I really like the personal responsibility given to all of us, and the encouraged creativity in our work.”
It’s purely a pleasure to work with such an incredibly nice guy. Steve’s caring spirit and easygoing attitude are truly a breath of fresh air. Give him a task and he’ll not only get it done right the first time, Steve will find a way to do it faster and more efficiently than the time previous. Steve, aka “wing man” is the elder of the “dynamic duo” / N2 father-son Nelson Waveglider assembly crew. Having built over 25 sets of Lancair Evolution wings, along with a four-year stint at another local experimental aircraft builder, Steve’s knowledge of composites and work ethic make for one dynamic guy. Steve is a proud father of two grown kids (if you consider Dan a grown-up) and an even more proud grandfather of three energetic ragamuffins. When he’s not chasing them around the hiking trails of Central Oregon, you’ll probably find him catching up on our great state’s history, or traveling the back roads of Oregon. Steve also likes to get his hands dirty with old cars, 4x4s, motorcycles, and firearms. When asked what he appreciates and what keeps him here at Composite Approach, he says, “I appreciate my co-workers and their different talents. I truly enjoy being around the airplanes. I get to work with my son. Brian has simply made the shop a great place to work.”
Marsha is our very own resident artist! From creating oil paintings to manufacturing parts for unmanned marine drones and experimental aircraft, she has a wide variety of experience. At Pacific Art Manufacturers, Marsha not only produced easels and frames, but also stretched and trimmed canvas. She also owned her own business, “Sagebrush Ceramics,” where she taught customers to paint and clean ceramics, fired their ceramic pieces, and taught oil painting lessons. A mother of four kids, Marsha enjoyed working at her dairy farm as the kids grew up, because they got to spend more time together. She first entered the field of aircraft part manufacturing at Lancair International. A few years later Marsha took a position at Columbia Aircraft building parts for the 300, 350, and the 400. After that, we were blessed to have her join our team! Marsha likes working at Composite Approach because of the variety of projects that come her way and the friendly people with whom she works.
When you grow up on a farm, certain things become second nature. Devan was one of those farm kids; he learned at an early age to build fences, repair walls, and drive the family truck and trailer. Since 2001 or so, he has been restoring and building vintage motorcycles and trucks—his experience makes him the perfect fabricator and facilities foreman for our shop! Here at Composite Approach Devan performs repairs, fabricates carts and tables for projects, transports projects, assists in plane builds, and oversees the order and maintenance of shop tools and machinery. Devan appreciates the diversity of projects he gets to work on, as well as his flexible work schedule, which enables him to spend time with his wife, two daughters, and dog, Henri. Fun fact: Devan has four years’ experience working in the baking industry! In his free time, Devan enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and canoeing; landscaping; mentoring other couples with his wife; and raising cows and pigs on his dad’s farm.
There is a certain gift in life when you can hold your own in an all-male company, and Lisa has that gift—the ability to fend off the testosterone from all angles. We’re blessed to have her and the incredible talent she possesses here at the shop. Our expert pre-preg lay-up technician, Lisa brings 16 years of composite craftswomanship to our company. Whether it’s laying up Liquid Robotics Wavegliders at the speed of sound or crafting our Auxiliary Fuel Cells, Lisa’s headstrong determination baffles our weak male minds. A Redmond, Oregon native, Lisa spends her free time chasing her kiddo, riding her horse, and stalking four-legged creatures across the vast expanses of Eastern Oregon. She was able to fill her buck tag for the first time this year—congrats to Lisa! When asked what she appreciates and what keeps her here at Composite Approach, she says, “The diversity of work and all of the different disciplines and mediums we work in. I’m always working on and learning new things.”
A & P Mechanic
As a teenager entering the professional realm, Ruben always knew he wanted to do something airplane-related. Plan A was to be a fighter pilot, but he was told he was too tall. So Ruben implemented Plan B: this 6’ 4” gentleman began studying to become an A&P mechanic at his local college in Reedley, California. His first A&P job was at Hanford Flight Center in Hanford, CA. Ruben traveled through a few different cities in California—Visalia, Bakersfield, Camarillo, Oxnard—getting experience at Aircraft Maintenance Services, Hawker Beechcraft, Avex, and Aspen Helicopters. Then he began working at Lancair with Matt Brannon, where he got his first taste of airplane assembly, and experimental aircraft in general. Later Advanced Aviation introduced him to airplane builds, and then—thanks to Matt—he finally landed here with us at Composite Approach. He appreciates that the people at Composite Approach are easygoing and easy to work with. Ruben is a grill master and ATV rider; he backpacked across Europe at age 19; and he has two pet boxers and a cat—which all like each other!
Airplane Mechanic / Composite Technician
When you’re from the town that The Goonies was filmed in, you know that fame and fortune will eventually catch up with you. Wanting to leave the paparazzi behind, it’s no wonder that Nick “Yakky” Yaakola fled one of the wettest parts of the state for the middle of nowhere, and we’re happy to have him. His affinity for dry air led him to serve in the Marine Corp as an Airframe Mechanic on A1-AV8B harriers in Yuma, Arizona. Much of Nick’s post-military employment has been in aviation, and that’s a big part of why he’s such a valuable asset to our flight line team. Able to troubleshoot and innovate, along with his awesome personality, Nick is a true gift when it comes to making us a first-rate shop. When he’s not installing a Pratt & Whitney or lining up landing gear, you can expect that Nick is either riding his dirt bike, hunting, fishing, snowboarding, or camping with his wife and kids. Since 2010, we’ve been lucky to have Nick on the team as an aircraft builder, as well as a maintenance, completion, and testing mechanic. When asked what keeps him here at Composite Approach, he says: “I like everyone I work with and how we all work together in a fun and efficient manner to do top-quality work. I stay here because I truly like my job and think I am a lucky guy to have it. The main thing I like about my job, which does not happen in a lot of places, is the amount of respect that the owner, Brian, has for us and the respect all of the employees have for him and each other. That’s hard to find.”
Admin / Marketing
AP Chemistry and Advanced Art were Chelsey’s two favorite classes during her high school years in Portland, Oregon. Originally intending to study one or both of those subjects in college, she realized that she didn’t love blood or microscopes and she needed to earn more money than a “starving artist,” so she chose the most versatile major available: Communication Studies. At Westmont College, in Santa Barbara, California, she took courses in Organizational Communication, Rhetoric, Media Ethics, and Conflict and Reconciliation. During her time at Westmont she also studied for three months in East Africa, studying intercultural communication, Swahili, and East African wildlife, culture, and history. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in 2013, she returned to Oregon—but sought the sunshine of Central Oregon. She also loves the culture of Bend; the hippie in her resonates with environmental stewardship and reverence for the outdoors. She spends her free time in artistic endeavors, exploration of music and stories, and outdoor adventures with her husband. Chelsey’s experience in administrative roles at Westmont’s Donor Relations Office, a nonprofit organization involved in overseas child sponsorship, and kids’ programs at churches makes her the perfect gopher; she loves taking behind-the-scenes roles and helping wherever needed.