HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. --- Supporting the U.S. military’s global mission through supplying the KC-46 program has special meaning to Pacific Component Xchange founder and CEO Gilles Aouizerat.
“I’m a naturalized U.S. citizen, so the pride I feel in being an integral part of such an important organization is humbling,” Aouizerat said during a video interview. “You probably can’t see it from the camera, but it actually gives me chills.”
Born in France, Aouizerat’s journey to establishing this electronic components distributor in Southern California might create some goosebumps, too.
“I got started in my parents’ spare bedroom, and our first warehouse was an unused bathroom, believe it or not,” Aouizerat said. “Back then, there wasn’t really a strong understanding of at-home businesses and the homeowner association that my parents lived in said we couldn’t be in business there, so we were forced to leave.
“And the rest is history.”
Thirty years after setting a dream in motion, Aouizerat’s small business of 42 employees is a key supplier for commercial and defense aerospace, including Boeing’s KC-46 program. The company provides fasteners for the KC-46A Pegasus as well as ground support equipment.
“Knowing that every day, every effort that I put in is keeping our country safe and independent, that makes a world of a difference to me,” said senior account manager Heather Siemaszko, who oversees the PCX’s KC-46 account.
Pacific Component Xchange is one of 650 U.S. suppliers across more than 40 states that contribute to building the world’s most advanced multi-mission aerial refueler. These businesses employ more than 37,000 American workers. PCX is one of more than 150 of KC-46 program support teams in California alone—from San Diego in southern California to San Jose in northern California with Boeing’s own presence in Victorville in between—and dozens more locations throughout the state.
“As a small business, every day we’re helping our government, we’re helping commercial industries and we’re helping everyone else produce the product they need,” Siemaszko said.
At PCX’s warehouse, Marine Corps veteran Craig Lipscomb is proud to continue supporting the U.S. military and fueling his passion for aviation as a distributor sales representative.
“Just seeing how aerial refueling has developed over time and being able to be a part of that standard of excellence in any capacity is truly an honor and a privilege,” he said.
The son of an Air Force colonel who “grew up on the flight line,” Lipscomb recalled how his love for aviation was ignited as a young boy attending a Thunderbirds air show at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey.
“When a plane goes past you at 600 miles per hour and the ground shakes so hard that you feel like it’s an earthquake, that is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience and you actually get addicted to it,” Lipscomb said.
PCX receives components from manufacturers at its warehouse and then ships those parts to its suppliers. But in between those steps, the components undergo a myriad of tests – including X-ray and electrostatic discharge tests – to ensure that quality specifications are met.
Aouizerat stressed that the importance of each component – no matter how big or small – cannot be overstated.
“By understanding that a part we supply can literally impact somebody in the field and can literally be a life-or-death situation is something that is viscerally impactful and we communicate all the time,” he said.