February 1, 2024

This month, my sweet bride (often referred to as Saint Barbara by close friends because she lives with me) and I celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary. When I popped the big question some forty years ago, I made a couple of things real clear to her:

  1. I won’t change, so don’t even try.
  2. Don’t try to make me choose between you or my business. I’ll choose the business because it will be used to feed our family.
  3. One more thing that is best not shared.

After sharing with her my big three, I then promised her one thing: “I don’t know where we’re headed but it will be fun.” Thank God it all worked out well!

Recently someone I was interviewing for an open position at King Aerospace asked me where the company was headed. I responded that the company was heading to “no man’s land” and explained what I meant. I told the applicant that I wanted to take my company to a place where no other aviation defense contractor has ever gone. I want to have a company that truly makes a difference in the lives of those it employs, serves, and encounters. I want to have a company where people are united and work together, focused on common values and principles. 

I don’t think that my company or any other company will ever arrive at this “no man’s land” but we at King Aerospace are a lot closer than most of those we encounter. I remind myself that Moses never made it to the promised land, but his role was important, and we are forever thankful for his dedication. There’s a price to be paid for being uncommon and I accept it. I do pray that I always do God’s will, not my will.

Some twenty years ago, a long-term employee who worked for King Aerospace on the United States Air Force missile testing program we supported shared with me his observations based upon working with and around several defense contractors over a long career. With his head down, he slowly said, “Never has there been and never again will there be a company like yours.” I listened to him and was taken aback at how sincere and somber he was. I was humbled and respectful but didn’t accept his words as absolute.

I recall once being in the Washington, D. C. office of Wes Watkins, congressman from Oklahoma, sharing with him that as a defense contractor, King Aerospace wanted to give more than it took and earn a fair profit. He told me that he was impressed with my sincerity. He picked up the phone and called J.C. Watts, another congressman from Oklahoma, who was on the floor of the House of Representatives at that time. He said, “J.C., I’ve got Jerry King with King Aerospace in my office, and I want you to come and meet him. He’s a contractor who wants to give more than he takes and has values and principles.” Wes hung up the phone and said, “J.C. said ‘good luck at being a defense contractor with values.’ He also said he’d like to meet you.”

A guest at one of our July 4th celebrations at my ranch helped validate my desire to create or maintain a special company. The guest was working with King Aerospace on a classified program. I had been told that he was a brainiac and was officially “a national asset.” I watched the man, who I didn’t really know, enjoying a day with our employees and friends. Before he departed, he approached me and said “Jerry, don’t ever sell your business. This is the way it used to be at (company name deleted).”

There are lots and lots of great people that would like to go to “no man’s land” but unfortunately, they are trapped in organizations where the focus is different. There’s a price to pay for striving to reach “no man’s land” but we are willing to pay it and won’t stop trying to get there, despite lots of challenges. Maybe I’ll never get to that special place, but I would rather continue trying than wonder what “might have been” and “should have been” if I quit trying.

To be candid, my day is filled with praying or thinking about the Serenity Prayer:

        “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

          the courage to change the things that I can,

          and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Now that you know where I am headed, know that I’ll never give up the journey in service to God, Country and Family. Even if I never reach “no man’s land,” sharing this vision helps keep the effort alive! (I guess to be socially correct, we are seeking to go to “no person’s land”).

Written by KING AEROSPACE Founder, Jerry Allan King-Echevarria.