Comlux expands mx, completions at Indy

 - May 3, 2010, 8:57 AM

Comlux officially opened its new completion and maintenance facility at Indianapolis International Airport (IND) last week. The Switzerland-based company purchased the facility a year and a half ago from Indianapolis Jet Center as part of its plan to become a comprehensive business aviation services group.

The new facility has benefitted from an unspecified amount of government financial aid to support the $3.4 million upgrade and employee training. “Thanks to the support of the State of Indiana we have been able to massively upgrade the facilities and develop the necessary skills our mechanics, craftsmen and engineers needed in order to achieve additional qualifications that will bring us more business,” said Comlux USA president Ettore Rodaro.

This past February Comlux Aviation Services was named a Bombardier authorized service facility with full maintenance capabilities for the Learjet 40, 45 and 60 and the Challenger 604, 605 and 850 jets. The facility will retain its status as an AOG/line-maintenance facility for Challenger 300 and Global aircraft. It has also been approved as a Boeing Business Jet completion center.

Rodaro started Comlux, an aircraft management firm, in 2003, and by 2007, when Richard Gaona was appointed as the group’s president and CEO, Comlux was the largest Airbus operator in the world. “I always felt as an owner/ operator there was a big need for comprehensive support. I used to be on the other side of the table giving completion centers grief; now I’m sitting on this side of the table and as a result of my experience I know what customers expect,” he said.

Comlux USA has 181 employees, including 103 craftsmen, 33 engineers, 21 mechanics, and 24 administrative and support staff members. Since April 2009 the number of employees has been increased by 60 percent. The completion and maintenance center is divided into two sub-companies: Comlux Aviation Services and Comlux America.

Comlux Aviation Services provides design, completion and maintenance on traditional business jets. The 60,000-sq-ft facility has been an FAA-approved repair center for 40 years, a Bombardier AOG/line-maintenance facility since May 2009, and an authorized service facility since last March. The 22,000-sq-ft maintenance hangar allows sufficient infrastructure to work on up to 10 aircraft ranging from midsize to heavy jets. Additional services offered include major testing and inspection, unscheduled maintenance, complex structural repair and pre-purchase inspections.

Comlux America offers completion services for VIP and wide-bodied airliners and is an approved Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) Completion Center. A 25,000-sq-ft hangar and 7,700-sq-ft shop support the completion of up to three large cabin aircraft, including the Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) and BBJ. The facility is capable of doing full completions, partial or full refurbishment of the cabin, and cabin system upgrades such as SwiftBroadband. The operation also offers engineering, certification, cabin design and architecture, and STCs. Backshops include a cabinet shop, finish shop, avionics, upholstery and sheet metal.

“What we’ve done is bring all facets of completions in-house.  It has a dramatic effect on lowering overhead, controlling scheduling and staying on budget and on time on our deliveries,” Rodaro said. “Our first year goal is to do three airplanes a year like the ACJ and three of the smaller ones like the Challenger 850. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”

David Edinger, CEO Comlux America and Comlux Aviation Services was recruited to increase efficiency and productivity at the Indianapolis facility. “I’ve done this before, taken a completions center doing one airplane a year to doing six a year and my goal here is to do the same,” he said.

Edinger said it takes about nine months to do an interior on a large VIP airliner, not including the six weeks from initial contact to critical design review. “The key to being able to do multiple airplanes is to understand the time frame,” he explained. “At about three months and a week you want to be able to roll the engineers off that project onto the next one as the original project goes into production. Scheduling is everything.”