Huffy’s Airport Windsocks give direction to pilots worldwide
If you have been a customer who orders windsocks from Huffy’s Airport Windsocks, Inc. of Spencer, Nebraska, chances are you have reordered or recommended them to other pilots or airports throughout the world.
Huffy’s prides itself on putting out a quality product, mostly constructed of nylon and polyester. Their sales numbers are now in the thousands.
Huffy’s got its start back in 1985 with the first of a multi-generation family headed by Gary and Karen Hoffman. Their son, Mike Hoffman is a second-generation owner who took over the business six years ago and now is assisted by his family. Hoffman also farms raising, corn, beans and cattle on his 1,000-acre farm.
As the saying goes . . . “Necessity is the Mother of Invention.” Many of these inventions are spawned from the need for a better product. Coming from a windy farm airstrip, the Hoffman’s had tired of having to replace windsocks from other suppliers that only had a shelf life of about six months.
Nebraska wind is legendary. Pioneers joked of measuring wind speed with a log chain attached to a solid wooden corner post. If the chain rattled, they said, it’s a mild breeze. If the chain is whipping and standing straight out from the post, it’s a light gust. Only if the chain and post are ripped away entirely would you say it’s windy.
Speaking of wind velocity, Hoffman said he was sent a photo from a client that showed only his windsock standing after a tornado ripped through the area.
“We’re hearing people say they are getting many more years of use from our windsocks depending on location; there may be some color fading, but structurally they’ll last longer,” noted Mike.
In the early days, the company got its initial start after Gary and Karen brought a windsock of their own making to a convention of the Nebraska Flying Farmers and Ranchers in Kearney. The windsock Karen made was going to be donated as a door prize. After other pilots saw the improved quality and workmanship of Karen’s windsock she obtained orders for 11 more.
And so it began. Karen started doing all the sewing from home. Gary, an accomplished welder and designer, made a bracket that would hold the windsock open and keep it from blowing away. As the business grew, the operation was moved to a Spencer Main Street location and renovated farmsite hog barn where the screen-printing is done for custom orders. Whether it’s flying, farming or making windsocks, the Hoffman’s work together. Today, four of the Hoffman’s children, ranging in age from 7 to 14, add to the combined eight employees that keep the business flying. His parents, Gary and Karen, are still active in the business, and continue to help as needed or to work air shows.
Mike and his dad are longtime pilots. They own two planes, a Piper Cherokee 6 and a 1953 Super Cub. Karen’s father, John Rustemeyer, also had a passion for aviation. He served in WWII as a belly gunner and photographer, flying 36 bomber missions in the Pacific.
When the need came about for a company name it didn’t take much thought to call it “Huffy’s Airport Windsocks. Huffy was always a nickname for Gary and after that, Mike and his kids were also nicknamed Huffy’s.
So what makes Huffy’s windsocks stand up and above others on the market?
“We use all American made materials, the bright orange nylon fabric coated in urethane is made just specifically for us,” explained Mike. We do a lot of different things such as triple-stitch, we band at both ends and use brass grommets with drain holes. So here’s the lifespan of an average windsock. Typically it will fade out and the wind will rip out the tail end of it and shred back out to the mouth very fast. A polyester and UV inhibitor coating further the life of the windsock.”
Windsocks vary in size from 4-inch diameter x 15 inches at the mouth to 36-inch diameter x 144 inches. Maintenance-free brackets are made of steel and powder-coated. Thirteen-inch and 18-inch brackets have bushings for quiet, smooth movement. Custom size windsocks can also be ordered.
“We’re hearing guys come to our Hangar A and D booths at Oshkosh who tell us they’ve had their windsocks from us up for five years. We also attend SUN ‘n FUN airshow in Florida,” said Mike.
The government has required windsocks at many locations. Mike went on to say that the water resistant nylon in their windsocks meets government specifications. (FAA: L806 AC 150/5345-27 [Current Edition] ETL Certified). They are also in other industries and sectors such as oil and gas, hospital helipads, city municipalities, cold warehouse storage, agriculture and aviation.
Turnaround time for custom printing, once artwork is approved by a customer, is normally a week to a week and a half. Most other orders can be shipped in one or two days. Mounting the windsock is very easy and if anyone is having troubles Mike can describe it to them over the phone.
You might think that orders for windsocks might come in singles or pairs. For example, in 2002, the New York City Port Authority, fearing chemical attack, needed something to gauge the wind. They ordered windsocks for the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. They placed their order on December 30 and wanted the windsocks for New Year’s Day. The Hoffman’s filled the order in time. Another company ordered 1,500 custom-printed windsocks.
Numerous factors have played a significant role in the companies success.
To supplement the windsock business, Huffy’s also has a giftline that includes such things as prop clocks, keychains, airplane bookends and such.
“We pride ourselves on customer service and fly by our own windsocks,” said Mike. “You can get hold of us on holidays, weekends or after hours; we’ll take your call and then call you back. If you need something we’ll take care of you. We stand behind our product and treat customers the way we want to be treated.”
Read: Gauging The Wind With The Flying Hoffmans by Nebraska Life Magazine in 2006