Under DeCrane, PATS takes on completion role

 - February 1, 2007, 10:11 AM

When DeCrane Aircraft Holdings bought PATS in 1999, the newly acquired company’s primary focus was on the installation of auxiliary fuel tanks, and in particular an exclusive contract to provide auxiliary tank systems for the Boeing Business Jet. At the time, DeCrane CEO Jack DeCrane noted that the Georgetown, Del.-based company had “significant growth prospects.”

DeCrane’s estimate has proved accurate, and today the PATS facility is not only continuing its role as a major provider of auxiliary fuel systems but has moved into the large executive/VIP business jet interior completion and refurbishment market.

To date, according to PATS vice president Dominick Scott, the company has installed 587 auxiliary fuel tanks as part of 87 auxiliary fuel systems and holds more than 75 supplemental type certificates for fuel systems. At the same time, PATS–a Boeing-authorized service center and Boeing-approved BBJ completion center–is carving a niche for itself in the large executive/VIP business jet interiors business.
The decision to go into green completions and refurbishments of large executive/VIP aircraft came in late 2001 when the Boeing Business Jet market was still booming. It seemed a logical move. After all, PATS had a virtual lock on installation of the auxiliary fuel systems in BBJs, and much of the interior finish could be accomplished during the three weeks required for installation of the fuel system, shortening the total downtime.

Since then, PATS has done interior installations on two green BBJs (one of them a BBJ2) and completed three separate major interior modifications for a single BBJ customer. Currently, a head-of-state BBJ is at the facility for maintenance work and installation of a new auxiliary fuel system, and Scott said the company expects to see the airplane back at some future date for a major interior makeover. Another Middle East head-of-state BBJ was delivered last month following minor interior modifications and an engine swap. PATS is also bidding on the interior completion of a BBJ2 in which the company only just finished installation of an auxiliary fuel tank system.

All this happens at the company’s Sussex County Airport facilities, where some 200 employees occupy a hangar, backshops and administrative offices totaling 112,500 sq ft. The 85,000-sq-ft hangar will simultaneously accommodate as many as five BBJs, and Scott allows that PATS would consider interior work on larger business jets.”

“We want to grow as a completion center, and at the same time remain opportunistic with regard to our niche,” said Scott. “We may not be as big as Lufthansa [Technik in Hamburg, Germany] or Associated Air Center [at Dallas Love Field], but we provide a personal touch that our customers like, from design straight through to delivery.”

While PATS sees its primary completion and refurb market as large executive/VIP business jets, the company is well aware that sales of the BBJ have fallen dramatically over the past two years, although Scott pointed out that with the next available BBJ delivery position in 2005, there remains a considerable backlog. In the meantime, said Scott, the company is courting cabin interior work on other large executive/VIP aircraft, and it has already done a major interior project for the Boeing 727 operated by the San Jose SaberCats arena football team. “Our capabilities,” he added, “extend well beyond the BBJ.”

PATS is part of the DeCrane Aircraft group of companies, which provide an extensive line of interior components such as cabinetry, seating and entertainment systems. But, according to Scott, requests for bids for interior products are treated by the parent company as they would treat bids by outside competitors. “We do not get preferential treatment,” he said. “We negotiate with the DeCrane vendors just like we would negotiate with any other vendor.”

PATS is also an authorized distributor for Rockwell, Honeywell and Max-Viz avionics products. BBJs delivered to date have included such vendor products as satellite-direct television from DirecTV, an enhanced vision system from Max-Viz, a high-speed Internet system from Lufthansa Technik and Boeing Connexion and Aviation Partners winglets. PATS provides engineering, certification, custom installation and service for a broad range of avionics, including terrain avoidance warning, flight management and satcom systems.

PATS has an additional revenue source in the form of its auxiliary power unit systems. In the past 20 years the FAA has approved PATS APU systems for use on 25 different aircraft. Current programs include complete APU system kits provided to OEMs for installation in the Citation VII, Learjet 60 and Hawker 800XP. “We acquire the engine and then package it, instrument it, test it and ship it, along with an installation kit,” said Scott.