Chris Norton, co-founder of 2Excel Aviation, explains how the company has dealt with rapid growth and why investment in staff training helps the business retain talent

2Excel Aviation has grown from the world’s first acrobatic airline, The Blades, to an aviation services business working across a range of industries.

The company was founded in 2005, starting with The Blades, and now has its activities organised around two business lines: 2Excel Aviation, which comprises Capability Development, Special Missions and Charter; and 2 Excel Engineering, which provides large aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul.

The company serves industries such as defence and security, engineering, events and disaster response. Chris Norton, co founder of 2Excel, has overseen the growth of the business, which now employs 400 people across four sites in Northamptonshire, Doncaster, Lasham in Hampshire and Copenhagen in Denmark.

500 per cent increase in headcount and turnover

Since taking over their base at Lasham Airfield in Hampshire, the company has grown from 43 people to 250 today – an increase of 500 per cent, along with a 500 per cent increase in turnover.

Norton said cultural change was also requirement alongside the increased headcount. He said: “When we took over Lasham, which was about three and half years ago, it had 60 years of history. It had two sites, one of which was Boeing, one of which was Airbus. We took over Boeing site, so we effectively got the Boeing people.”

“We have now recreated the capability, so its a new maintenance organisation with new certificates. We added Airbus to it two years ago and we have this year derestricted it, so we can do everything with Airbus. For the organisation, that is a cultural change.”

“The Airbus is a very different aircraft to maintain and a little bit different to fly. That cultural change has been where we have really been focusing.”

Investment in people creates “psychological contract”

2Excel’s fleet has also grown from 10-12 aircraft in the first year to over 60 last year. Norton added: “Managing all of that requires a change in scale, a change in scope much more delegation of responsibilities and changing all the procedures and processes to be relevant to the modern world.”

Norton said the company, which is employee-owned, focused on investing in its people with 17 apprentices now in their third year of the company’s apprenticeship programme. The company also provides and pays for the training of other staff. “We invest in our people to create a psychological contract between them and us, which retains them, keeps them and invests them in the business,” he said.

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