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January 12, 1990 - Image 59

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-01-12

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Businessman Alan Ross: "Problems to me are not complications. They all have simple solutions."


Features Editor

stuffed wolf behind
him, a framed $1 bill
with President Harry
Truman's autograph on his
right and a miniature plane
in front of him, Alan Ross is
ready to tackle the world.
"I don't believe in prob-
lems," he says, sitting at the
desk in his large office at the
IFL Group, an aviation com-
pany of which Ross is presi-
dent. Located at the
Oakland-Pontiac Airport,
the IFL Group's main project
is transporting cargo; it also
offers passenger travel on
charter flights and rents
hanger space to small,
private corporations.
"Problems to me are not
complications," Ross says.
"They all have simple solu-
A high-school dropout, a
young man with a learning
disability, the son of a Com-
munist Party member, Ross
today is the consummate
businessman. He sold pots
and pans and glass in
Europe, and started a
refinery business and a com-
pany responsible for
transporting prisoners. At
the IFL Group, he is
psychiatrist and banker,"
not to mention boss, for more
than 80 employees. And
when not working, he's com-


Wings Of Su

A self-made millionaire and
businessman, Alan Ross flies high
as president of the IFL Group.

ing up with new business
"My father used to get
ideas when he couldn't sleep
at night," Ross says. "I'm
get new and fresh ideas all
the time. They never run
"And I enjoy being in
business. For me, business is
business, but it's also my
He calls one plane "The
Pumpkin." Large, orange,
sleek but bulky, the U.S.
Navy used the plane in the
1950s for survelliance of
Soviet submarines.
Another plane, originally
from Canada, was fished out
of a lake where it sat for five
years. Made of aluminum, it
didn't rust.
A third is silver with blue-
and-red stripes. Ross bought
it from a man in Texas. It
was once used for smuggling

electronics into Mexico, then
was on display in a Grand
Rapids museum.
These are Ross' DC-3s, his
treasures. He loves them.
Housed in hangers at the
IFL Group, the DC-3s are
used to transport merchan-

"They look like
antiques, but they
go out to work
every day.

dise and constitute the
mainstay of his business.
"They look like antiques,"
Ross admits. "But they go
out to work every day.
Nothing runs better than a
Built between 1939 and
1946, most DC-3s were used
in the war effort, Ross says.
After World War II, the

government gave most of the
planes to Third World coun-
tries, about 700 of which
Ross says are still in use to-
Ross, who buys his DC-3s
through trade publications
or directly from owners, says
he looks "for a solid air
frame and a good history"
when he buys a plane. Those
blue-and-red stripes or that
bright orange on the outside
doesn't interest him.
"What a plane looks like
doesn't have much to do with
it," he says.
Ross determines the
plane's condition through a
series of X-rays. After pur-
chasing a DC-3, he generally
requires about six months to
renovate the plane so it can
fly again.
Ross completely replaced
the the wooden floor and
changed all tires on the

silver DC-3 with the blue-
and-red stripes.
Ross, who says his com-
pany, with five planes, is the
third-largest DC-3 operator
in the United States,
rebuilds his planes every
800 hours. The mechanics
literally take them apart
and put them together again
to assure that the planes are
in top working condition.
They change the oil every 50
hours, and use the excess
fuel to heat the hangers.
Fuel for the DC-3 costs about
$200 an hour, Ross says.
Extra DC-3 engines and
parts are kept in rooms just
off to the side of the hangers.
"There's just one 80-year-old
man who works on these,"
Ross says, pointing to one of
the engines. "He's been do-
ing them since he was a
Also in a side room is a
thick, heavy fire safe that is
more valuable to Ross than
just about anything he owns.
It's not that the safe con-
tains money — there's not a
penny in it. Instead, it is fill-
ed with records about the
history of each plane, when
it was last inspected and
when parts were replaced.
The Federal Aviation Ad-
ministration can come in at
any time and ask to see
those records, Ross says.
Have them or else.
Today Ross is right at
home with the DC-3s. But



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