Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, CEO

Dec 30, 2016, 13:25 PM by Nancy Ransohoff
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree, CEO
Lady Leslie Ridley-Tree is well known in the community for her exceptionally generous philanthropy and perhaps also for her signature red hair- but few know her as a businesswoman. Though she recently turned 92, she still commutes three times a week to Chatsworth to put in long work days as CEO of her company, Pacific Air Industries + Air-Cert, Inc., which was founded by her husband, Paul, in 1959.

The thriving airplane parts distribution business and FAA-certified repair shop refurbishes and maintains an up-to-date inventory of high quality, traceable, documented airplane parts. It does business with an international roster of companies from Boeing and FedEx to Delta and Lufthansa. Lady Ridley-Tree graciously invited Dr. Kurt N. Ransohoff, CEO of Sansum Clinic; Ron Werft, CEO of Cottage Health; Peter MacDougall, community leader and Cancer Center Campaign Cabinet member; and me to come down to the company's corporate headquarters and warehouse facility for a personal tour.

Pacific Air Industries + Air-Cert (PAl) recently moved from its longtime Santa Monica headquarters to a spacious new building in an industrial area in Chatsworth. As Lady Ridley-Tree welcomed us into her office, she pointed to the closed-circuit camera screens that show feeds from various departments. "I find these very useful. . .I can see what's going on. For instance, when they're bringing in stock I like to watch," she said. This hands-on approach, with close attention to day-to-day details of the business, became even more apparent as Lady Ridley-Tree led us on an in-depth tour.

Lady Ridley-Tree is supported by a management team with an average of 28 years of experience at the company. As she introduced us to members of the staff, we saw clearly that this is a company that feels like family. Lady Ridley-Tree knows her employees well; she asked about their children and grandchildren by name as we made our way through the modest offices.

We met Tom Nolet, Vice President of Marketing, who has been with the company since 1971, and Sally Van Arnam, who is retiring from PAl after 37 years. Lady Ridley-Tree introduced us to Vice President of Purchasing Ron Munzlinger, saying, "Ron figures out how much we have of something before I buy too much more. He lets me know how much we're going to pay on the dollar." Ron informed Lady Ridley-Tree that they'd just sold a vital part to an airline that needed it on an urgent basis. PAl was able to provide the part in a matter of hours.

Some of us (OK, just me) had a hard time keeping up as Lady Ridley-Tree walked briskly down aisles stacked with meticulously labeled and coded boxes of airplane parts, from brake liners to torque tubes. She showed us the hydraulic test stands (for testing components such as landing gear) and new paint booth, which was built to FAA requirements. "We can turn things around faster now-we don't have to send them out for painting," she noted.

"When you're flying you want every part to be one of ours," Lady Ridley-Tree said, as we arrived at a table of parts that the FAA inspector had just passed with flying colors. She attributes the soaring success of the company to "the teamwork of these wonderful people who have the experience and the patience to do things right. I'm so proud of them."