Having been flying since he was nine years old, and having a step-father that was a flight instructor with his own Cessna 150, Chuck began flying regularly every week-end at Cable Airport, in Southern California at the young age of fourteen. The family also had an old straight-tailed Cessna 182 that was eventually sold in order to “upgrade” to something that was faster and would picked up its’ legs. A 1972 Cardinal RG was that replacement. As Chuck recalls, “the Cardinal was a real nice airplane. You can look straight up from the pilot seat and see the sky above you. The doors open almost 90 degrees, which made it a lot easier to get in and out of. The Lycoming IO-360 was a little anemic on hot days. But, as long as you had the asphalt in front of you, it wasn’t too much of a problem. It was a good airplane until the day came for our first Annual Inspection. I don’t remember all of the particulars, but it had some serious engine issues. I remember taking the aircraft to Hagelin Aircraft for the necessary repairs. They had to drill out several cylinder hold down studs that had broken clean off, and replace them with new ones. Not long after that, our partner wrecked the aircraft off of the end of the runway at Cable. The replacement aircraft was a 1968 Cessna 182. I flew a lot of hours in that airplane. Most of them not even logged, as the experience at Hagelin Aircraft with the Cardinal, got me more interested in the maintenance side of airplanes, than the flying side”. Chuck enrolled in the A&P curriculum at Victor Valley Community College right out of High School in 1981, but shortly thereafter, VVCC lost their FAA accreditation.
Since then, Chuck has had a colorful career in both the automotive and aviation industries. He worked at Alpine Yamaha during his High School years servicing and setting-up motorcycles, and of course riding in the desert and the mountains any chance he got. Chuck started his own Volkswagen repair shop not long after High School with the knowledge obtained from working at the only VW engine shop in the town of Big Bear Lake, California after moving “off-the-hill” in 1983. This same year, he began working at a VW parts store, where he took over building their engines and eventually became their racecar fabricator, where he built two off-road racing cars for them. This job also included race support and “pre-running” the race courses. In 1984, Chuck opened VW Unlimited with an employee from the parts store, but after a year of conflict with his partner, the two parted ways, Chuck took the business, changed the name to VW UNLTD., and expanded the business to include the Porsche brand as well. During this time, Chuck got into road racing with SCCA & Cal Club building racecars and driving in the Formula “V”class. It was during this period that Chuck honed his welding and fabrication skills. Chuck is heavily into Volkswagens and Porsches, and continues to service both brands when time allows.
In 1999, Chuck, his wife Heidi and their three German Shepherds moved to Sandpoint, Idaho to escape the “madness” of California. Once here permanently in 2004, it took Chuck four more years to finally move the expanse of tools and equipment out of Redlands, and set up a temporary shop at Sandpoint Airport. In 2013, Inland Aviation Specialties LLC moved into a permanent facility at the North West end of the Sandpoint Airport, (KSZT).
Chuck continues his tradition of high quality maintenance, repairs and restorations here in North Idaho, offering complete engine overhauls, complete restorations on automobiles, aircraft, and the occasional Coke machine, as well as conducting an “Aircraft Welding” class that is an entry level, two day course on welding and metallurgy in the aviation industry. When asked what kind of repairs he can’t perform, Chuck answered, “we’re almost a one-stop shop that can overhaul your Continental or Lycoming aircraft engine, rebuild and restore Grandpa’s old airplane that’s been sitting at the back of his barn for the last thirty years, or perform an Annual Inspection on almost any aircraft flying today. I am Rotax certified, I have experience on the Jabiru 3300 aircraft engine, and the Limbach line of VW based aircraft engines, as well as any VW and Porsche aircooled engine. We have made the capital investment in the proper tools and equipment to be able to perform just about any repair or maintenance operation on just about any General Aviation aircraft flying today. Including ones that haven’t flown it quite some time. But, to answer your original question, no. there’s not much we can’t do”. When asked what kind of services Inland Aviation Specialties offers, this is what Chuck had to say. “We can perform Annual Inspections, Annual Condition Inspections for your S-LSA or E-LSA, Pre-Purchase inspections both in-house and at remote sites, weld repairs on exhaust systems and other components, avionics installations, sheet metal repairs and fabrication, fabric re-covers, upholstery and interior work, Field Approvals, tubular fuselage repairs and fabrication and the list goes on and on. Our specialty is complete restorations though. Our last complete restoration won the Gold Lindy award in the Contemporary Custom class at AirVenture 2016 at Oshkosh. The owner never thought he’d win such a high award.” When asked if there are any other “show winners” in his repertoire, Chuck cheerfully responded, “Why yes. Yes there is. I helped my father restore his 1946 Ford Woody which won second place at the Palos Verdes Concourse d’ Elegance car show in 2001. He had spent nearly twelve years of week-ends and vacation time to complete the car. And again, he had no idea that he would win any awards with it. Another car was a mid-engine sand rail a friend of mine and I ended up building over a bet with some friends of ours. The bet was that “you guys couldn’t build a car as good as the ones we build”. Well, the bet was on, and the car, named “Terminal Velocity”, was featured in the August 1997 issue of VW Trends magazine. Obviously, we won the bet”.
When Chuck was asked about his opinion on the cost of quality workmanship, this was his response. “That’s a very good question. Unfortunately, most people in this industry and most other industries for that matter, all have a different definition of “quality workmanship” regarding their product. I’m from German descent, so I already have a built in sense of pride for high quality workmanship, which is good most of the time, but a curse at others. What I mean by that is, I have to have things as perfect as I can possibly get them. This in turn is directly proportional to the cost of service provided. This is sometimes not appreciated by the guy paying the bill. A lot of times, the airplane owner just wants whatever it is, done as cheaply as possible. There are two things that bother me the most about that type of attitude towards their airplane. First, they’re strapping the butt’s of themselves and their family in that thing, so wouldn’t you want it to be in the best, safest condition as possible? Second, is real simple. Cheap work isn’t good, and good work isn’t cheap. You know the old saying, “you get what you pay for”, and that’s generally true. I have to put quality ahead of quantity every time. If one doesn’t understand the value of excellent workmanship and just looks at the cost of it, then he needs to find another shop to work on his aircraft. We’re not it. You’re paying for our years of knowledge and experience and a well equipped shop. It cost us a good chunk of change to acquire all of the tools and equipment to maintain aircraft properly and to such high standards. Aircraft are a very expensive investment. It would be in ones best interest to maintain the aircraft in the best possible condition to maintain the value of that investment. In the long run, quality doesn’t cost, it pays”.
Inland Aviation Specialties was formed in Redlands, California by Chuck Luettgerodt in 1992 out of pure necessity. While working at a busy Maintenance FBO, it became apparent that the lack of detail within this organization, along with the apparent absence of thoroughness, was not an environment that he thought was conducive to aircraft maintenance. Chuck realized that something bad would eventually happen that could jeopardize his new found profession if something didn’t change. And, fast. Chuck received his A&P certificate through San Bernardino Valley College in 1992, shortly thereafter he and the FBO parted ways, and he opened Inland Aviation Specialties at the west end of Redlands Airport, performing quality based maintenance and repairs. Three years later, he obtained his Inspection Authorization endorsement.
You know the old saying, “you get what you pay for”, and that’s generally true. I have to put quality ahead of quantity every time. If one doesn’t understand the value of excellent workmanship and just looks at the cost of it, then he needs to find another shop to work on his aircraft… We’re not it.