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SW Aviator Feb/Mar 2001
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The Schweiss Story
From Chicken Plucking Machine to Hangar Doors

Ideas come from the darndest places! Take for example the “birth” of the bi-fold hangar door in rural Fairfax, MN. Mike Schweiss, owner of Schweiss Bi-Fold Doors, relates, “It was 1980. I was at a wedding dance. A friend commented ‘Mike, you build lots of different things. Why not a door that folds up?’”

At that time Schweiss, and his three employees, were manufacturing things like farrowing crates for sows, snow blowers, farm trailers, tile plows, and -- can you imagine -- something called the Schweiss Chicken Plucker!

Mike chuckles “it was the Chicken Plucker that gave us name recognition, and in fact got us going financially.”

His first bi-fold door measured 12' x 12' and was installed at a Renville County Highway Shed, 10 miles from Mike's country factory location. The door is still in operation, although Schweiss admits, “we made it wrong every which way.”

There apparently isn’t anything wrong with the Schweiss Bi-Fold door now. Today there are nearly 3,000 of these unique vertical folding doors providing quick, quiet, and effortless entry to airplane hangers across America, and other parts of the world.

Schweiss’ latest innovation, the Strap-Lift System, debuted 22 months ago, and replaces the conventional cable system used by most mechanical door manufacturers. The Strap-Lift System utilizes nylon strapping material, which quietly wraps on a take-up spindle when the start-stop button activates electric motors to open/close the hanger doors. Tensile strength of this nylon strap is a whooping 29,000 lbs.! The polyester straps never rusts, making them more durable and longer-lasting than steel cables.

Depending upon door size, two, four, or six sets of straps are installed with each bi-fold door. Their biggest door to date is a massive 140' wide facility. Their biggest single project to date was 114 bi-fold doors, all 12' x 40' for T-hangers at a new, privately owned Arizona airfield!
Today the aviation industry claims about 75 percent of the total sales of Schweiss Manufacturing, which now employs about 50 people fulltime, and upwards of 70 on a seasonal basis when the Ag market ratchets up a notch or two. The Schweiss Bi-Fold finds a comfortable niche with many farmers building new machine sheds for their huge farm equipment. Door heights are now up to 18', and as farm equipment gets bigger, Schweiss sees no problem building his Bi-Fold door accordingly.
Costs vary depending upon size of door, but presently figures $110 to $130 per linear foot. This includes installation, which typically is a one-day process for the two to three man crew that delivers the door. Schweiss Bi-Folds can be ordered with a walk-through door, with windows, and even insulated. Doors can also be “custom cut” to gain extra headroom. In essence, the top portion of the Bi-Fold is slant-cut to follow the roofline.

Why the recent sales strength in the aviation industry? Having a good product obviously deserves credit. But Schweiss also notes a turnaround in the business and private aviation sector, “When Piper, Cessna, and others started building small planes again, our business with airport operators and airport builders really took off,” relates Schweiss.

Mike Schweiss is a licensed pilot, owning a Cherokee Six hangared at Hector, MN, eight miles from his office. The Hector airport is one of the more active small airports in Minnesota. Airport manager (also aerial applicator) Ed Neuberg is the guy who gave Schweiss the idea for the nylon wrap. “And that’s one person to whom I will always be thankful,” sums up Schweiss.

About 15 percent of sales are now Internet generated. Visit, or call 800-746-8272 for more information.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibility for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising fom it
SW Aviator Magazine • 3909 Central NE • Albuquerque, NM 87108
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©2001 Southwest Regional Publishing, Inc.