“Adding maintenance capability just made sense; it made us more versatile,” Jerry Gore, president and CEO of San Antonio-based Gore Design Completions, told AIN. “We had customers telling us they wished they could get scheduled maintenance done while the aircraft is down for refurb,” he added.
The company specializes in corporate/head-of-state completions for large aircraft and offers maintenance including light and heavy letter checks, ADS-B compliance and airframe and avionics modifications on Boeing 727s, 737s, 747s, 757s, 767s, and 777s; and on Airbus A300s, A310s, A320s and A340s. In the corporate sector the company can accommodate the Boeing Business Jet, Airbus Corporate Jetliner and Gulfstream IV and V.
The company is a reflection of Gore and his wife, Kathy. After recovering from a work-related accident that nearly severed his right arm, Gore opted to professionally pursue a lifelong passion. He enrolled in art classes and ended up as a technical illustrator at General Dynamics. There, he developed special projects in advanced design engineering, including the cockpit layout of the Block C F-16 and other top-secret military programs.
His work caught the eye of Dee Howard, an aviation design guru known for doing the improbable. Howard invited Gore for a visit and showed him plans for a Boeing 747 for Saudi Arabian royalty and offered him a job as a senior industrial designer. Gore said, “I thought it was pretty cool, so I took the job.”
During his first year he met and married Kathy Bosse, who had been working for San Antonio aircraft designer Pyka Design and eventually joined Gore at Dee Howard as supervisor of styling. She was responsible for design, material selection and finishes on four widebody head-of-state aircraft.
In the late 1980s, the Gores were laid off. Cast adrift, they started Gore Design in 1988 with Kathy as executive v-p and v-p of design.
In 1999, Gore broadened the company’s design and engineering mission to include actual completions. The company’s first project was a Boeing 737-800 for an Asian head of state. “We converted the aircraft from all-high-density seating to include a forward VIP area modification,” he said. In addition to doing the design work, Gore acted as a general contractor on the project.
In 2000, Gore restructured the company and inked a deal for its first widebody VIP completion–a green Boeing 767. “Since we began doing our own work we have successfully completed every aircraft on the customer-agreed-upon schedule,” he said. The next year they renamed the company Gore Design Completions. (GDC).
Gore said when they started doing their own work they leased a hangar from Dee Howard. “It went fine but we decided it made more sense for us to have our own hangar so we could be masters of our own destiny. As a result, we are the only widebody completion center in the world owned by the designers.” Gore said other wide-body completion centers are typically owned by multinational companies.
“The advantage is significant. We completed our last Boeing 767 in six months from airplane input until it rolled out the door to the customer,” Gore said. “The reason is primarily because we do everything in-house. There’s no outside coordination or subcontracting other than electrical harness build-up. We do everything, so we can make immediate decisions and changes as necessary. Compare that to the traditional 12 or more months to do that type of project. Think about that: you’ve got a $110 million asset on the ground for more than a year and you just keep paying interest for something you can’t use.”
A new 100,000-sq-ft hangar is a $12.5 million venture located on 12 acres at KellyUSA, the former Kelly Air Force Base. Gore said the company chose KellyUSA for its abundant space for growth and its two-mile-long runway. “It’s an alternate landing site for the Space Shuttle so it ought to be able to accommodate any imaginable head-of-state aircraft,” he said.
“Joking aside, there is a synergy among the aerospace and manufacturing companies currently located in the 2,000-acre, master-planned international business park. It’s the right place to be.” The company lists as its clients, among others, the government of Taiwan, the president of the People’s Republic of China, the Detroit Pistons, the Sacramento Kings and Roy Disney.
John Kirby, manager of quality, said a new hangar entered service in October, at KellyUSA. “We now have two facilities: the new hangar at KellyUSA and our off-airport facility. The latter has 33,000 sq ft of backshop including a cabinet shop, sheet metal, upholstery, machine shop and an interior component paint facility,” he said.
According to Mike Childers, director of manufacturing, there is a 20,000-sq-ft building adjacent to the new hangar that is half dedicated to administration and half to airport support docks, a stock room, tool room and support. Childers said the facility offers the owner “a lot of security for his aircraft. We have a very good security package–16 digital video cameras continuously monitored from a security room 24 hours a day. There are around-the-clock guard stations at each aircraft to verify employee authorization, and the hangar is being outfitted with biometric access controls (facial or fingerprint recognition). We also have an FAA-approved drug and alcohol procedure so we can work with FAR 121 operators and we’re certified under the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).”
In October GDC earned ISO9001:AS9100 certification from TUV America. During the certification audit, GDC received a score of 95.5 percent, which places the company in the top 2 percent of aerospace companies worldwide. “We are proud of this certification as it demonstrates that GDC has a quality management system in place to provide our clients with the highest level of customer satisfaction and product reliability,” Gore said. “In fact, we are the only major widebody completion center with AS9100 certification.”