MRO Profile: DAS Wilmington

 - October 2, 2006, 1:30 PM

“Lindbergh flew off our ramp right out front,” John Rahilly, vice president of sales and marketing for Dassault Aircraft Services (DAS) Wilmington, Del., told AIN. “This used to be the Atlantic Aviation facility; it was here for some 75 years. We acquired it because our customers wanted a Dassault service center in the northeast part of the U.S.”

Dassault purchased the Wilmington facility in October 2000. It joined Dassault Falcon Service at Paris Le Bourget and The Jet Center (Little Rock, Ark). “We began a $30 million renovation program shortly after we acquired the facility and it’s almost complete,” Rahilly said. “I think it is important to note that Dassault made a conscious and sizeable investment to make sure there will always be a factory maintenance presence available to our customers.”

DAS Wilmington specializes in maintenance, interior modifications and refurbishment, paint, TFE731 and CFE738 major engine maintenance, engineering support services, and avionics installations and upgrades. The facility routinely works on Falcons, Gulfstreams, Galaxys, Challengers, Hawkers, Westwinds and Astras.

The Wilmington facility has more than 250 employees and 220,000 sq ft of hangar space, including a new paint shop, a structural repair center, a composite repair shop and a Honeywell-authorized TFE731/CFE738 major service center. Honeywell also has an on-site engine rep.

As an FAA-designated alteration station, the structural repair center can issue supplemental type certificates. Dassault transferred all of its original drawings to Wilmington so the facility can manufacture parts for even the oldest Falcons. The French company has also stationed a factory field service representative and a regional customer service manager there.

“We have 60 people dedicated to structural repair,” Rahilly said. “We have leading edge and wing tooling; we’re set up to handle whatever comes our way, from corrosion to collision. We’ve already dealt with everything from storm damage to baggage cart and fuel truck accidents.”

Rahilly said the facility gets a lot of damaged parts to repair and offers customers the option of a simple repair and return or an exchange program in which the technicians provide the customer with a new part, repairs the old one and add it to the spares inventory.

Facilities Upgrades

DAS is almost finished with a total ramp makeover. “We’ve invested heavily in concrete and asphalt,” said Rahilly. “The old paint hangar has been completely refurbished and is now used to support a contract to do maintenance and refurb work on NetJets’ fleet of Falcon 2000s.”

A new 24-hour cafeteria was recently completed, as were new meeting rooms, a maintenance lounge area and new customer offices. The avionics maintenance and refurbishment shops are almost completely renovated and feature the latest laser wire stamping equipment.

The FBO line service area has been completely rebuilt, the lounge renovated and new training rooms built. DAS has also added sales and executive offices with video conferencing, and new training classrooms. “When we celebrate our five-year anniversary on October 23 our entire facility will have been completely renovated,” he said.

Rahilly is particularly proud of the new paint facility, which opened in July last year. “The 40,000-sq-ft facility with three bays is certified to EPA Title V standards and meets all current and anticipated federal, state and local environment regulations,” he said. “It has been designed to provide the highest measure of safety for our employees and the environment. We are the only Dassault paint facility that paints other aircraft, including Cessnas, Gulfstreams, Hawkers and Westwinds. The facility is capable of painting more than 50 aircraft per year. You’d have to go to Duncan Aviation in Lincoln or Gulfstream in Savannah to find the next closest paint facility with our capability.”

Rahilly said he sees strong demand for a paint facility of DAS’s capacity in the Northeast. “We can put a Falcon 2000, Falcon 900 and a Falcon 7X wingtip to wingtip: stripping one, detailing one and painting one simultaneously. We use a powerful downdraft system that gives us a lot of flexibility and capacity.

A Convenient Location

“We have a supportive parent in Dassault. It has given us the necessary tools, personnel and financial backing,” Rahilly said. “We have employees with more than 20 years’ experience, including some from Atlantic who stayed on with us. We work in concert with our authorized service centers so our customers receive the best possible service throughout our network.”

The Wilmington facility is conveniently located in relation to Teterboro, N.J.; White Plains, N.Y.; Morristown, N.J.; and Washington, D.C. “Our customers in this area can fly here for maintenance in a matter of minutes. Another key benefit of our location is that we’re a two-hour drive from Teterboro. We have more Falcon parts warehoused at Teterboro than they have at the factory in France; Teterboro has 100 percent of all types of Falcon parts.

“Perhaps most important, our location allows us to get our crew and parts to an AOG airplane anywhere in the northeast area quickly,” he said. “This year we will exceed 700 AOGs, and we’ll dispatch our crew to their location for about half those cases. We have found our AOG service to be a powerful way of introducing ourselves to someone who we’ve not worked with previously.”

Dassault Service Network

Rahilly said the Wilmington facility is an integral part of a five-pronged Dassault
customer service program. In addition to the Wilmington, Le Bourget and Little Rock facilities the company also has Midway Aircraft Instrument, wholly owned by Dassault, and A-Pro (Aero Precision Repair and Overhaul Company), a 50-50 ownership with Messier-Bugatti.

Midway Aircraft Instrument is located on Teterboro Airport in a 24,000-sq-ft facility that is home to about 40 employees. The company specializes in the overhaul and repair of aircraft components. Its areas of expertise include electrical systems, flight control components, environmental systems, fuel systems, indicating systems, fire warning and control components, master warning and de-icing systems and associated authorized warranty and support services.

A-Pro has specialized in landing gear for Falcons, Embraers, ATRs and Dorniers. With nearly 70 employees, A-Pro’s climate-controlled, 41,000-sq-ft facility in Deerfield Beach, Fla., is equipped with a broad variety of the latest tooling. The company also works on carbon brakes, flight controls and hydraulic system components. The relationship allows DAS to perform on-site interim inspections, removals, reinstallations and operation checks during overhaul. The company also offers rental or exchange gear during repairs and overhauls to reduce the overall downtime.

“One of many initiatives under way at DAS is a technician exchange program that has already begun paying rich dividends,” Rahilly said. “The program periodically rotates technicians with varying areas of expertise to temporary assignments within the DAS Service Centers group. These rotations bring the best of the best to the table, sharing knowledge, cross-training technicians, expanding the scope of service offerings and ultimately enhancing the front-line experience of customers.”