Shad Sones is one of the most recent acquisitions of Blackhawk Aerospace. Located in Columbia, Missouri, Shad has over 24 years of avionics experience. He has had the opportunity to do major retrofit of newly designed avionics technology from major vendors like Garmin, Universal, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell and more. In his role as General Manager, he continues to provide customer service, manage operations, events, and schedule maintenance. Graduating from Alexandria Technical College in 1997, with a degree in Avionics, he started his career in the avionics field. Shad also holds a commercial pilot license with an instrument rating, Citation Type rating and more than 1,200 hours in single and multi-engine aircraft.
Conrad Theisen joined the Blackhawk team in 2021 to expand strategic opportunities within the avionics marketplace. He moved into this newly created position when Blackhawk purchased Columbia Avionics later the same year. With new engine STCs now requiring close collaboration with avionics OEMs such as Garmin or Collins Aerospace, he helps bridge the gap within Blackhawk.
Theisen brings 25 years of avionics expertise and experience working with OEMs from his former position, director of avionics sales at Elliott Aviation. During his tenure with Elliott, Thiesen was responsible for G1000 King Air retrofit programs and the Collins Aerospace Modernization upgrade on the King Air series aircraft. He reports directly to the Blackhawk Aerospace Executive Committee as he pursues avionics opportunities within general aviation and the government/military market.
Mark Wilken joined Blackhawk Aerospace Technologies in 2021 as the company acquired Columbia Avionics and Aircraft Services. Prior to joining the team, he was the vice president of avionics and operational logistics at Elliott Aviation. While at Elliott Aviation, Wilken was instrumental in leading the development of more than 50 STCs for installing the latest avionics systems on Beechcraft aircraft including the King Air, Beechjet, Premier, and Hawker. He also lead MRO marketing and sales for the Garmin G1000 for King Air model aircraft, maturing the company into the largest MRO Garmin dealer in the world.
Wilken began his professional career at Elliott Aviation in 1990 as an aviation technician after receiving his bachelor’s degree in advanced technical studies, aviation management from Southern Illinois University. He held several positions at Elliott with increased responsibility in developing and growing avionics and modifications projects.
A founding partner, Bill Smrtic brings not only pride of ownership to Blackhawk Composites but a strong determination to build the highest quality products possible, following his motto: “we will find a way.” His strong background in composites includes aerospace, wind energy, and the automotive industries.
Smrtic’s expertise with out-of-autoclave processing techniques helps Blackhawk offer a lower cost solution for customers’ complex requirements. His technical expertise extends into development and fabrication of high-quality composite tooling utilizing conventional laminating and VARTM techniques. He is also skilled in using FaroArm coordinate measurement equipment to inspect or reverse engineer your product.
A founding partner of Blackhawk Composites, Kaylah West offers a mix of company knowledge, management, and hands-on composites experience, giving her a unique perspective to address specific customer needs. West’s strong product knowledge and a can-do attitude help her provide extraordinary customer support as she’s always available to answer a variety of customer questions.
A 32-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, Rory Crews brings a wealth of leadership, industry experience, and business acumen to Blackhawk. He develops and leads the company’s successful new programs, executes its major defense industry MRO contracts, and maintains our extensive quality management system. During his tenure, he’s been successful in managing engine MRO for more than 200 military aircraft in 81 countries and negotiated several high value contract negotiations.
During his service in the U.S. Air Force, Crews held several operations, training, and leadership positions in addition to flying as a special operations pilot. He retired at the rank of Lt. Colonel. His also served as an airline transport captain and air cargo consultant before joining Blackhawk in 2015. Aviation has always been in Crews’ blood. One of his first jobs as a young man was as a refueler at a local FBO so he could earn money for flying lessons. Today he is an ATP-rated multi-engine airplane pilot with more than 11,000 hours of flight time.
Dr. Pete Franks is the President of Blackhawk Aerospace Solutions, provides dynamic leadership for a forward-thinking small business that offers small business opportunities to large businesses and government organizations to accomplish engine, propeller, and landing gear upgrades and MRO management of components. Dr. Franks served 23 years in the U.S. Army as an aviator, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. He served as a maintenance company commander during Desert Shield/Storm and a battalion commander during OIF 1. His terminal assignment was two years in the Pentagon as the Director of Aviation Logistics for the G4. He has worked within the defense industry for fifteen years as a Program Manager and Director of Software Systems that developed some of Army Aviation’s most critical software in the Aviation Data Warehouse and ULLS-A; and as the Modification and Obsolescence Manager for L-3 Technology on the Army C-12/RC-12/UC-35 LCCS program. He earned his Doctorate through Capella University in Business Administration with a focus on Strategy and Innovation. In addition, his dissertation focused on the utilization of analytics in the defense industry. He has been with Blackhawk Aerospace since September 2015 at the President of Blackhawk Aerospace Solutions. He enjoys being able to offer cost affordable options for extending the service life of military aircraft that removes obsolescence, making them safer and provides better performance for the aviators and service members who use those aircraft.
An Air Force Academy Graduate, Cook flew in the Air Force as a T38 instructor prior to starting at L3 in Waco. Cook worked at L3 for 28 years with experience primarily in the flight test department as a flight test engineer and Test Director. He also has experience working in mechanical installation design, stress analysis of aircraft structural loads, and was a Chairman of the Weight Control Board within L3 to advise Program Management on how to meet weight requirements for interiors. Cook’s diverse engineering background allowed him to be a multidisciplined engineer which led him to be a better flight test engineer and test director.
Cook saw an opportunity with Blackhawk to be more involved in multiple aspects of engineering, facing bigger and more diverse challenges and looks forward to the chance to work with everyone to find a solution and see the impact of that result. Cook is the Senior Vice President of Engineering and manages engineering projects, STC development, performs flight testing, and provides input for future projects. Cook is motivated to be thorough when finding a solution so that there are no surprises in the end, for Blackhawk or for the customer.
Edwin Black joined Blackhawk in 2007, coming to the company after 9 years at Raisbeck Engineering where he’d most recently served as director of marketing and sales. A private pilot, Black’s passion for aviation product improvement is personal. After helping Raisbeck build a 50% King Air penetration with their upgrade kits, he joined Blackhawk out of interest in seeing further speed, safety, and value for the King Air. He enjoys the thrill of seeing customers experience the best performance possible from their aircraft and makes it a point to stay in touch with all his customers.
Black received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and is a licensed sky diver.
A graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering, Bob Kromer has spent 40 years in the general aviation industry. Throughout his career, he served in several engineering flight test and senior leadership positions, including flight test engineer at Cessna Aircraft Company, engineering test pilot at Mooney Aircraft Corporation and Sino-Swearingen Aircraft, executive vice president and general manager of Mooney Aircraft Corporation, executive director of Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association, vice president of sales, marketing, customer service at Piper Aircraft Corporation, and vice president of marketing at SimCom Training Centers. He holds a commercial pilot license with instrument, multi-engine, and all flight instructor ratings.
Since joining Blackhawk in 2013, Kromer has remained dedicated to delivering added speed and aircraft performance for customers, overseeing crucial development and certification tests for obtaining new engine and propeller upgrade STCs while respecting the original manufacturer’s limitations and operating instructions.