MRO Profile: Cutter Aviation-Dallas

 - October 18, 2006, 12:24 PM

Cutter Aviation-Dallas is using the high-end car dealership as a model on which to base its facility, a strategy that is working well, said Andy Biery, general manager of the company’s operation at Dallas Executive Airport (RBD). Biery said the facility is designed to maximize customer interaction with key Cutter personnel, including service managers and parts and sales representatives.

“It looks and feels like a high-end auto dealership with a nice FBO up front,” he said. “When someone buys an aircraft from us the personnel, services and facility make them want to return for support during the length of their ownership,” he explained.

Not long after building the 28,000-sq-ft facility four years ago, Cutter became the exclusive Socata dealer for all states contiguous to Texas and now supports the piston TB series and TBM 700 turboprop. The company is also the exclusive dealer in the state of Texas for all Piper aircraft.

Cutter and Beechcraft have had close ties since 1947, making the company the longest-standing Beech dealer in the U.S. The company specializes in Beech products out of its Phoenix Sky Harbor, Phoenix Deer Valley and Albuquerque Sunport facilities. “We knew when we built the RBD facility that we’d eventually want to bring Beechcraft in here too, so from the beginning we brought in personnel who also had Beech expertise,” Biery said.

Under the direction of Marty Sisk, service department manager for the RBD repair station, the company is also an authorized service center for Lycoming engines, has Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 service and hot-section capability and Teledyne Continental engine repair and fuel system expertise. It also offers nicad battery service; borescope inspection capability; propeller, fan and rotor dynamic balance capability, including spectrum analysis for vibration; and non-destructive testing in both wet and dry magnet particle and fluorescent penetrant–Level II.

Collocated with the FBO and FAA Part 145 repair station is an additional 120,000 sq ft of tenant space. “We try to rent to the owners and operators of the aircraft we work on so we can offer them the best arrangement possible,” Biery said.

William P. Cutter founded the company in 1928 as Cutter Flying Service in Albuquerque, N.M. It is one of the country’s oldest family-owned and -operated general aviation service companies. Today Cutter Aviation has facilities in six locations. In addition to the New Mexico, Dallas and Arizona operations, Cutter also has facilities in El Paso and San Antonio. The company provides aircraft sales, maintenance, charter, aircraft management services and a full-service travel agency.

An Emphasis on Customer Service

In October last year Raytheon Aircraft Services at Dallas Love Field closed and Cutter RBD was named Raytheon’s authorized service center for north Texas. “We’re now a factory store for the three leading manufacturers of light corporate and owner-flown aircraft,” Biery said.

“Our segment of the market is one of the most challenging because we typically work directly with owners rather than professional flight crews. With that in mind we have tried to raise the service expectation and overall ownership experience for that segment. We did it by implementing process improvements making ownership a more positive experience.”

Biery said a critical step was taking all of his managers to one of Dallas’ premier automotive service providers–Sewell Lexus. The purpose was to study how Sewell management empowers its employees to fix problems and make people happy. As a result, Cutter developed a 14-page service business plan detailing internal processes. One of the key elements was the service advisor (SA) concept.

“An SA has to be a seasoned pilot and aircraft owner,” Biery said. “He has to have personal experience dealing with MROs and the appropriate credentials to fly the majority of the models we service. The SA flies with owners to see the problems first hand. He also rechecks the aircraft when it comes out of maintenance to ensure the problem no longer exists. We don’t believe in using owners as test pilots.”

Biery said the role of the service advisor includes all levels of communication between the owner and the company. “The SA meets and greets customers, watches the billing process and attends our daily 7 a.m. planning and scheduling meeting with the service manager and all the supervisors. They meet in our work schedule and manpower room, where we have a manpower and availability visual depiction on the walls. They talk about what’s coming in, what’s going out and where each airplane is in the process in comparison to the commitment we made to the owner. If it comes out that we are somehow behind, the SA immediately contacts the owner to keep him up to date. Everyone is working toward the same goal, giving the SA everything he needs to communicate with the owner so they don’t have to call us.”

In-house Maintenance Services

In addition to offering an FAR Part 145 repair station, Cutter is also an avionics installation center. “We focus on craftsmanship by doing such things as our own installation engineering, wiring diagrams on CAD and having our own highly experienced sheet-metal people,” Biery said. “Two other strong areas for us are performance enhancements, such as Raisbeck mods, turbocharging installations and engine conversions or overhauls, as well as situational awareness upgrades such as Nexrad weather.”

Biery said the company has carved out a niche in the major milestone event market. “When you’re flying a brand-new aircraft there’s not a lot to do, but if you’re flying an older aircraft there are all sorts of events, such as landing gear overhauls, engine overhauls and so on. We’re particularly well situated to accomplish those tasks, the things that maintain and enhance the value of the airplane but if done improperly could be a significant detractor. We have the expertise to maintain an aging aircraft per factory recommendations to ensure its maximum value. When we work on a Piper, Socata or Beech we are officially a factory sign-off in the logbook, and in the long run that’s going to maintain the value of our customers’ aircraft.”