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The memory of the founder and former president of Kitchener Aero Avionics and Mid-Canada Mod Center, Barry Aylward, lives on through the recent installation of a bench and plaque in front of the Region of Waterloo International Airport terminal.
After dedicating 40 years to his companies, Aylward passed away on March 21, 2017, at the age of 59.
“Barry added a lot of value and operational effectiveness at the airport,” said Kitchener Aero president Bill Arsenault. “He was very involved in airport affairs, and we felt it appropriate to commemorate that fact with some sort of icon that people could look to.”
The plaque pays tribute to Aylward’s dedication to the aviation industry and to the Waterloo airport.
With the help of his partner, Arsenault, Aylward brought the corporate aviation market into Kitchener in 1996. Kitchener Aero is known for the installation, certification, and modification of avionics systems on many aircraft types.
Aylward paved the way for Kitchener Aero to achieve its many milestones, such as winning a contract to modify two jets owned by the Chinese government, landing harness manufacturing work for major airlines, delivering electronic news-gathering helicopters to the CTV television network, and more. He also served as the chairman of the Aircraft Electronics Association.
Before Aylward passed away, he and Arsenault had discussed a change in Kitchener Aero’s business model at the Waterloo airport. Later, Arsenault and the Kitchener Aero team had to make that change without Aylward. “He was a good partner . . . I had no intensions of ending [the partnership] prematurely,” reflected Arsenault.
He told Skies that Kitchener Aero is expected to move into the Chartright hangar at the Waterloo airport on Jan. 12, 2018, as its current hangar is too small to accommodate larger aircraft.
“I think [Barry would have had] some reluctance in accepting the fact that [our] hangar was too small and that we’d have to relocate,” said Arsenault. “But at the end of the day, Barry was a businessman, and he’d understand what it is that we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”
Aylward left his mark not only on the aviation industry in Kitchener, but also on his colleagues who became his friends through the years. Kevin Birch, vice-president of quality assurance at Kitchener Aero, and Sherri Birch, Kitchener Aero’s office coordinator, had known and worked with Aylward for 25 years.
“He was part of the family,” said Sherri Birch. “He would come for Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.”
It was in 1997 that Aylward offered Kevin Birch a partnership to be his vice-president and right-hand man at Kitchener Aero, which involved Birch and his family moving from Sault Ste. Marie to Waterloo to join the business.
“Barry put together an amazing team at Kitchener Aero, and we will continue to work hard and keep his legacy alive,” said Sherri Birch during Aylward’s funeral service in March.