Completions and refurbishments July 2004

 - April 2, 2007, 11:00 AM

After several years of cost reductions, layoffs, closings and general malaise, there are definite signs that a slow economic recovery is starting to have a positive effect on the business aviation industry, and many in the interior completion and refurbishment business are breathing a sigh of relief.

Last year at this time, Jim Renfro, president and owner of Highlands Aviation, allowed as how he was spending most of his time on the road “drumming up business and hanging on.” A year later Renfro’s independent refurb shop in Avon, Fla., is booked through the end of the summer, “and most if it is turbine equipment.

“It was a grim December, but business has been good since then,” said Renfro.

Some believe the corner was turned last summer. And there is some evidence, based on aircraft sales and delivery figures, to support this notion.

While turbine aircraft delivery figures showed a drop from 865 in 2002 to 729 in 2003, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) chairman Clay Jones said the industry really began to see an upturn in orders last June, when the bonus depreciation was increased to 50 percent from 30 percent. “We believe the incentive is continuing to stimulate sales.”

GAMA had better news in April, when it released turbine aircraft delivery figures for the first quarter of this year. Manufacturers, according to GAMA, delivered 115 new business jets in the first quarter, 14 more than in the same period last year. Business turboprop deliveries showed a more impressive gain, from 18 to 29 aircraft, a healthy 61-percent increase.

Boeing, which saw sales of its Boeing Business Jet at a record low through 2001 and 2002, is encouraged by a “dramatic upturn in demand in the last eight to 12 months.” At the European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (EBACE) in late May, Boeing Business Jets president Lee Monson said the Seattle company is ramping up to fill new orders for two BBJs and two BBJ2s, all for delivery next year.

Both Dassault Falcon Jet and Gulfstream reported a modest increase in first-quarter deliveries. Cessna, which experienced a drop in revenue and profit in the first quarter, nevertheless was encouraged by a significant increase in aircraft orders. As a result, Cessna has increased its delivery target for the year.

“And used aircraft availability has declined,” Jones noted. “We now have only 13 percent of the total fleet for sale worldwide.”

Based on growing demand and order activity sufficient to keep the Gulfstream funded backlog relatively constant, Nicholas Chabraja, chairman and CEO of Gulfstream parent company General Dynamics, expects the Savannah, Ga. manufacturer to “gradually improve in both earnings and margin rate through the remainder of this year.”

Raytheon Aircraft, after two rather dismal years, announced that its first-quarter sales, earnings and cash flow were at or over target. “We continue to see mild improvement in the market, with stable pricing and some increasing demand,” said Raytheon Aircraft CEO Jim Schuster. “We are becoming increasingly comfortable that we will achieve our 2004 financial targets.”

The Used Aircraft Market Points the Way

Raytheon delivered its 100th Premier I in May. The company has orders for more than 30 Hawker Horizons, “all of them from individual buyers.” (NetJets canceled its order for 100 Horizons in spring 2002.) Certification of the Horizon is expected this summer and the first delivery is anticipated before year-end.

There is a “trickle down” theory in the industry that supposes the first signs of an economic recovery will appear in the used aircraft market. While no one in this industry segment seems prepared to definitively announce an end to the downturn, there are signs here that a recovery is under way.

Last year, Rich Engles, president of Washington, D.C.-based aircraft broker Vance & Engles, noted that of some 10,000 aircraft in the U.S. business fleet, about 30 percent were officially on the market, [and] “unofficially, it’s probably more like 40 percent.” Now, while the fleet that remains is about 10,000 aircraft nationwide, Engles believes only about 20 percent are now on the market.

In spring 2002, Engles expressed the opinion that the ugly bottom had been reached, and the concern that an even uglier bottom was in the future. Last month, Engles said he believes that “uglier” bottom came about six months ago and since then there has been a steady, if slow, recovery.

“The used airplane market has stabilized and it is a more orderly market,” said Engles. “The OEMs have reduced production and eliminated the backlog of ‘white-tails.’”

Cessna also noted that the used aircraft market has shown signs of increased stabilization in terms of pricing and availability. “As the result of the stabilization of pricing, we incurred no costs for used aircraft market valuation for the first time in more than three years,” said a company official.

Bryan Comstock, AIN contributor and president of Jeteffect, a jet aircraft broker and marketing firm in Long Beach, Calif., is optimistic. “The used airplane inventory peaked in November at 2,059 aircraft, and that number is now down to 1,800 units.

“For us, the recovery started last August and it hasn’t slowed down,” said Comstock.
“It’s going to be a slow recovery, which a lot of us would prefer, [but] it’s a pleasant change from the past several years.”

“The economy is on the move, and in the right direction,” said Joe Carfagna Sr., president of Wings Aviation International of Franklin Lakes, N.J. At the same time, Carfagna warns that there are many factors that may affect the recovery, in one way or another. Among them: the rising cost of fuel; the war in Iraq; threats of terrorism worldwide; the U.S. Presidential election; an extension of the bonus-depreciation allowance; interest rates; and the availability of money.

The View from Outside, Seen by Insiders

Few individuals have a better overall picture of the completion and refurbishment industry than do interior consultants. Many of them have extensive experience, having worked in a variety of roles, from completion and refurbishment sales and marketing to production and installation.

Ed Harris, president of Jet Aircraft Interior Technical Services in San Antonio, has played shepherd to numerous interior completion projects, most recently the installation of a “quasi-executive interior” in a Boeing 737-200 for South American operator Aerolineas Argentinas. “I’m optimistic,” said Harris. “And the people I work with are too.”

Harris said Fiber Art, a composites specialist in Cibolo, Texas, has been “very successful” in recent months, landing contracts locally and with OEMs Bombardier and Gulfstream. And he noted that Dallas-based Associated Air Center is “very busy.”
This despite losing a two-airplane 747-400 interior contract to competitor Jet Aviation in Basel, Switzerland.

Harris also pointed out that interior shops will benefit as the crop of new personal jets comes to market in the next few years.

Turning the Corner

Cabin interior business among the independent completion and refurbishment centers appears to reflect the growing demand for aircraft–new and used. Having survived a two-year recession, many are now hopeful that a market that started to recover last fall is now well into a steady, if not spectacular, revival.

“We’re getting a lot more interest than last year at this time,” said Denise deYoung, an interior specialist at Stevens Aviation in Greenville, S.C. “And a lot of it is in the form of pretty detailed requests for quotes.”

A recent firm order for 29 Piaggio Avantis was good news for Stevens. The company has the exclusive contract to provide interiors for the Italian-made twin turboprop. “We already have a plan to handle the increased demand at the rate of about an airplane a month,” said Stevens director of marketing Monica Brownlee.

Associated Air Center, a specialist in large and widebody executive/VIP business jet interiors, felt the effect of the recession sufficiently that by the end of 2002 it had “mothballed” one of its large hangars. That lasted barely four months, and early last year it was reopened and dedicated to executive/VIP 747-400 work. “Business started picking up in 2003, and we signed a number of airplanes in the July/August time frame,” said executive v-p Patricio Altuna. In recent months, Altuna said the Dallas Love Field center has fielded an increasing number of quote requests–“much more than a year ago”–for both green completion work and interior refurbishments.

At Jet Aviation’s completion and refurbishment shop in West Palm Beach, Fla., business is also good. According to interior completions manager Jim Harrison, it started about four or five months ago, “and now we’re operating at full capacity, hiring talented people and building up a second shift.” The facility recently delivered a Gulfstream IV, Falcon 50 and Falcon 20 with complete interior refurbishments, and is nearing delivery of two Sikorsky S-70s with executive interiors. “We have a lot of quotes out, and we feel really good about the coming year.”

In Canada, Flying Colours noted an increase in business in the past six months, and reports that “work is pretty steady now.” The Peterborough, Ontario completion and refurbishment center also runs a major exterior paint shop capable of accommodating aircraft as large as the Global Express. The business of exterior paint has been particularly brisk, in part due to a preferred vendor contract with fractional operator Flight Options to repaint its fleet.

Duncan Aviation has a more conservative outlook than some independent centers. For the first two years of the recession, the Lincoln, Neb. company watched as core customers delayed discretionary spending, “stretching things as far as they could.”
At the same time, Duncan focused on finding new ways to work more efficiently and reduce the costs of its products.

According to John Slieter, v-p of completion sales and marketing, Duncan had a “really marvelous fourth quarter.” Unfortunately, “in January, it was like someone suddenly turned off the light switch.” More recently, he said, activity is again picking up, based primarily on used aircraft sales. “A lot of our shops are booked through the summer, and we’re again in a position of backlog management.”

The year following 9/11 was the worst year for Keeker Aircraft Interiors in Whitestown, Ind. However, said company president Randy Keeker, “Last year was our best in 25 years [and] we have a lot of new business coming in–a Galaxy, Gulfstream IV, Challenger, several Learjets and a couple of Citations–so it looks like 2004 will be a good year as well.”

Two years ago, Keeker teamed with composites specialist Fiber Art to produce Challenger 601 interior shells. “The old shells were monsters for maintenance,” said Keeker. The new shell kit is priced at about $21,000, and Keeker has already installed eight of them as part of Challenger interior upgrades.

Midcoast Aviation is a long-time player in the completion and refurbishment industry.
Unlike some competitors, the Cahokia, Ill. shop claims to have done well, even through the worst of the recession. According to Rodger Renaud, senior director of major modification sales, “2002 was a good year, 2003 was a great year and 2004 is starting off with a bang. We’re at capacity. Green completion is busy, and refurbishment is very busy. Midcoast continues to do interiors on green Challenger 604s. “We have two in the house now and a lot more in the pipeline through the next 12 to 18 months,” said Renaud.

But he noted that while operators are spending money on refurbishment, “They’re not spending it in the $2- and $2.5-million dollar chunks.

“There are more jobs,” he explained, “but they’re not the big jobs that we saw in the past. I think it reflects cautious spending, not casual spending. And certainly not careless spending.”

OEMs Gearing Up for Economic Revival

The OEMs, after several years of declining sales, are seeing signs that an economic revival is beginning to reach the business aviation industry.

Perhaps the most optimistic outlook comes from Cessna Aircraft. The Wichita-based company began gearing up almost a year ago to meet a growing demand for aircraft, lining up local vendor suppliers Global Engineering Technology and DeCrane’s Precision Pattern.

It was a very tough time, said v-p of operations Craig Estep. As the recession reached its low point, Cessna reduced overall employment in its completion and refurbishment facilities by 27 percent. “We’re having fun now gearing back up,” said Estep. “We’ve called back more than 400 people [most on second and third shifts] and we will have recalled everyone by the end of this month.” In fact, there has been an increase in the number of employees dedicated to interior refurbishment, and new refurb contracts include aircraft from the NetJets fractional-ownership fleet.

Hit hard by the recession, Bombardier has spent the past year restructuring its interior completion process. Global Express interior work was moved last summer to Montreal, where the aircraft are being outfitted at the completion center originally designed for that purpose. The new Global 5000 and the Global XRS interiors will also be installed there.

Interior installation work on the Learjet 40, Learjet 45/45XR and Learjet 60 is being moved to Wichita, where all three models are assembled. Interior installation for the Challenger 300 will also shift to Montreal, along with assembly of the airplane.

Interior completion work on the Challenger 604 has already been moved to Montreal, where the airplane is built. The new 604 completion process marks a radical change that calls for installation of engines and major avionics components during the interior finishing process. The idea, said a spokesman, is to delay final flight tests, thereby reducing inventory and total cycle time.

“We not only proved the concept, but we finished the first airplane in late December, more than two months ahead of schedule,” said Brian Adams, v-p of completions.
“We did it in 18 weeks, and I think over the next year we can trim two or three weeks off that.”

By the end of this month, Bombardier expected 90 percent of all the Challengers coming off the Montreal assembly line would be rolled across the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport to a completion center dedicated to 604 outfitting.
Ironically, that facility is in the same buildings where the former independent completion and refurbishment center Innotech once installed Challenger interiors under contract with Bombardier as a third-party player.

Adams said Bombardier does not expect to make any dramatic changes to its policy of outsourcing to independent vendors for cabin components. However, he noted, “We do have the capacity to do some interior kits here.”

Raytheon has expressed cautious optimism and expects “mild improvement” in the market and is gearing up its green completion force based on that expectation.

The first Hawker Horizon is expected to be delivered before year-end and will have an interior installed at the Wichita facility. As production rates increase, subsequent Horizon interiors will be installed at Raytheon’s Hawker Aircraft Services center in Little Rock, Ark. It will be a “somewhat slow” ramp-up, said a Raytheon source, “to allow for a smooth transition through 2005 and 2006.”

Interiors for the Premier I, Hawker 400XP (formerly the Beechjet 400A) and the King Air line are still installed in Wichita.

Piaggio continues to make exclusive use of Stevens Aviation in Greenville for installation of interiors in its Avanti. While the Italian manufacturer has expressed the intention to continue this association, sources say Piaggio is considering bids from other interior shops as the Avanti backlog continues to grow. Jet Aviation, which operates a completion and refurbishment center in West Palm Beach–and which is now Piaggio’s U.S. base–has been mentioned as an additional interior provider for the Avanti.

Piaggio recently received a record-breaking firm order for 29 Avantis and will be ramping up production for deliveries through 2006. Earlier this year, the company relocated its Piaggio America headquarters and sales staff to West Palm Beach, where it leases facilities from Jet Aviation.

As the Ae270 Spirit from Ibis Aerospace nears certification, Southstar Aircraft Interiors of San Antonio is gearing up to provide interiors for the airplane. The turboprop single, a joint venture between Aero Vodochody of the Czech Republic and AIDC of Taiwan, is expected to receive FAA certification in February. Southstar has already done an interior mockup and is now installing a VIP interior for Ae270 S/N 006 in time to go on display at the NBAA Convention this fall. The STC aircraft will be S/N 012. The contract calls for Southstar to do the first 50 Ae270 VIP interiors.

Embraer, anticipating a recovering economy and growing demand for its Legacy, a business jet version of the ERJ-135, announced in May a new interior for the Legacy Executive version. The cabin is divided into three areas, allowing for several configurations based on customer requirements. It includes a larger galley to serve hot or cold meals for up to 13 passengers, a roomier rear lavatory and an optional forward lavatory. Components for the interiors are being built by U.S. interior completion and refurbishment specialists Duncan Aviation and Nordam and shipped to Brazil for installation. The Brazilian OEM is producing Legacys at the rate of about 1.5 per month, in either the 16- to 19-seat Executive or 30- to 37-seat Shuttle model. The new cabin made its debut public appearance in a Legacy Executive on display at EBACE in May.

Full-service Capability as a Survival Strategy

Independent completion and refurbishment centers that also offer maintenance, avionics and engine service did, and continue to, enjoy an advantage.

“Being able to do maintenance and avionics, as well as interior refurb, we’ve fared very well compared with some,” said Stevens’ Brownlee. She also pointed out that in the immediate future, the requirement for RVSM and TAWS will continue to bring in the “added bonus” of interior refurbishment as operators of older aircraft bring them in for avionics upgrades.

At McKinney Aerospace in McKinney, Texas, business dropped off “dramatically” following 9/11. “And that’s the way it stayed for about two years,” said company president Dave Kitchings.

As business dropped off, said Kitchings, “We decided a new strategy was called for, one that was based on the belief that the economy is going to change for the better, and soon.” Part of that strategy was the addition last fall of maintenance service for Challengers, Falcons, Gulfstreams and Hawkers. The result was “an immediate increase in interior work to be done while the airplanes are in for maintenance.”

McKinney also formed an alliance with Wing Aviation of Conroe, Texas, about a 30-minute flight from McKinney. Like McKinney, Wing Aviation provides aircraft maintenance and avionics and interior refurbishment. Rather than do battle for business, the two shops decided to work together for the good of both. McKinney, which does not have a paint shop, now uses Wing Aviation as its primary source for exterior paint. And Wing has designated McKinney as its primary vendor for cabinetry and other interior components.

The strategy has been successful, said Kitchings. “We’ve done 10 significant interior refurbishments in the past year. We just delivered a Learjet 60 and we have three Gulfstreams, a Falcon 20 and a Hawker 800 in the works right now. We have jobs in the pipeline through the end of the year.”

Some other independent centers saw mergers and alliances as a means of surviving the recession, and as a result anticipate entering the economic recovery stronger and more prepared than they might be otherwise.

Earlier this year, MacCarthy Interiors in the UK reached an agreement with Harrods Aviation of London that would allow both companies to “provide full aircraft interior refurbishment and support to corporate aircraft.” The agreement allows Harrods to offer full interior capability at both its Luton and Stansted facilities, as well as in-the-field support throughout Europe. MacCarthy Interiors, basing experienced interior refurbishment workers at Harrods locations, provides manufacturing support from its Redhill Aerodrome center. Customers can arrange for interior refurbishment or maintenance through either Harrods or MacCarthy.

Last year MacCarthy signed a partnership agreement with PZL-Swidnik of Poland to provide complete interior installation for the Polish OEM’s family of helicopters. By September, the company was showing an SW-3 Falcon in VIP configuration.

Some of the mergers were internal. French completion and refurbishment specialist Sogerma merged its cabin products and interior completions products to take a more aggressive approach in the business aircraft completion and refurbishment market. The company said it expected to see revenues of approximately $120 million from its merged entities.

Vendors also saw advantages in alliances, mergers and acquisitions.

To expand its product offerings to business aircraft operators, Teledyne acquired Spirent aviation assets, including cabin display, wireless local-area-network airborne file-server equipment.

A somewhat overlooked acquisition in May saw Intheairnet of Irvine, Calif., reach an agreement to purchase all the outstanding shares of IEC In-Flight Systems stock.
IEC In-Flight, headquartered in London, is a cabin-systems integrator of entertainment and cabin-control systems for VIP and other large corporate aircraft.

Rockwell Collins sent ripples through the cabin-entertainment products business with the acquisition of Airshow in late 2002. Rockwell Collins immediately integrated the Tustin, Calif. company’s product line into its own cabin package, renaming it “Collins Airshow 21” and promoting it heavily at EBACE 2003. Rockwell Collins senior director of marketing and strategic management Bryan Vester noted that the product family includes the global office with high-speed Internet connection, entertainment with the latest in DVD, CD and satellite-direct television and cabin-environment control with a simplified user interface.

At about the same time, Airshow joined forces with DPI Labs to produce a total cabin avionics system for business travelers who need “uninterrupted access to news and amenities worldwide, including satellite-direct television, in-flight entertainment and cabin-management functions.”

Key to the project is Airshow’s new Tailwind 550 multi-region airborne satellite-direct television system, which interfaces with DPI Labs’ Smart-Link IIIO SL-III cabin-management operating system.

Shops Expanding To Meet Growing Demand

More than a few independent centers are making plans for expansion to meet demand as the economy improves. Others have already begun expansion.

Associated Air Center reopened a hangar it had closed when business was slow, and in anticipation of an executive/VIP 747-400 contract, a “doghouse” was added to the roof to accommodate the 64-foot-tall tail.

At Savannah Air Center, 2002 was “our slow year,” said president Frank Dodds. “But in January 2003, things took off, and it hasn’t slowed down.” The additional business convinced Dodds and his partners to go ahead with plans for a 12,500-sq-ft cabinetry shop, which opened six months ago. Now in the works is a 60,000-sq-ft maintenance bay, for which the Savannah-based company will break ground early next year. The maintenance shop currently shares hangar space with completion and refurbishment. “When maintenance moves into the new hangar, it will allow us to double the size of completion and refurbishment,” said Dodds.

AvCraft, a long-time resident of Tyler, Texas, announced just last month it will open a new 180,000-sq-ft maintenance and completion center in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The project will be completed in three phases. The first is a 72,000-sq-ft facility that will include back shops, administrative offices and space for maintenance of the Dornier 328 turboprop and the 328JET. The second phase is a 20,000-sq-ft shop for stripping, preparing and painting aircraft. The final phase is a 45,000-sq-ft completion center for the AvCraft Envoy 3, an executive version of the 328JET. The Envoy 3 comes in three basic configurations: Envoy Executive with a 12- to 19-seat interior; Envoy Convertible, with a quick-change cabin that includes shuttle, boardroom and stateroom layouts; and Envoy Executive Shuttle, with a 32-seat interior.

Elliott Aviation began work on its new completions center at Quad City International Airport, Moline, Ill., while the downturn was at its worst. The complex opened in February last year and will allow Elliott to rapidly ramp up its capacity, if needed.

The new facility includes an expanded interior and cabinet shop, a larger interior design center and an exterior paint shop. “This facility gives us the ability to triple our capacity here,” said company president Wynn Elliott.

Gore Design Completions, with a fresh Boeing 767-300ER contract in hand, broke ground this spring on a $12.5 million completion and refurbishment center.

The 120,000-sq-ft facility will house offices, shops and a hangar capable of simultaneously holding, “with the doors closed,” a 747-400 and a 767-300. “This new building will give us the opportunity to consolidate our operations into one facility and control our own destiny,” said president and CEO Jerry Gore.

Gore said the new facility will be ready in September, just weeks before arrival of the 767-300ER. “We’ll be ready to begin installation when the airplane rolls in,” he said.
German large executive/VIP aircraft interiors specialist Lufthansa Technik expanded its market, thanks to a cooperative agreement with Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services. Berlin-based Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services, which provides maintenance, repair, overhaul and interior refurbishment, has launched an expanded cabin- retrofit program for Bombardier’s Global Express. The facility at Berlin Schoenefeld completed its first whole-cabin Global Express refurbishment in May.

In recent years, Lufthansa Technik has aggressively pursued a greater completion and refurbishment presence in the U.S. The effort has included purchase of BizJet International in Tulsa, Okla., and establishment of Lufthansa Technik Completion Engineering (LTCE) in space adjacent to Tulsa International Airport. But it hasn’t gone as smoothly as Lufthansa, or BizJet, might have wished.

Last December, LTCE announced it would lease a 53,000-sq-ft hangar from BizJet to start a BBJ/ACJ interior completion and refurbishment center. As of early last month, that project remained on hold pending signing of a firm interior completion contract.
More disturbing was the announcement earlier this year that Lufthansa Technik had devalued its investment in BizJet International. According to a source at BizJet, Lufthansa wrote off a certain amount of that investment after alleging it had paid a premium for the company. “It has nothing to do with interiors refurbishment at BizJet International, which has been exceptionally strong,” he said.

BizJet recently delivered two major interior refurbishment jobs–a Sabreliner 65 and Falcon 20–and has just closed deals on a Gulfstream IV and Falcon 50. “Since last May, our interior business has been maxed out,” said BizJet head of sales and marketing Jace Stone.

Exterior Paint Business Never Slowed Down

For many completion and refurbishment centers, exterior paint was the only constant throughout the downturn. Not only were the paint shops busy, but old ones were expanded and new ones built.

In May, Flying Colours added a new paint booth that takes up two-thirds of an existing hangar and can accommodate aircraft as large as the Global Express.
Stevens expanded its paint hangar at Greenville earlier this year, replacing bifold doors with sliding doors to accommodate larger aircraft. The facility can now hold aircraft as large as a Challenger.

Wing Aviation, at Lone Star Executive Airport north of Houston, broke ground in May for a 20,000-sq-ft paint hangar capable of accommodating a Global Express. According to director of operations Frank Zimmerman, the new hangar will be dedicated to the stripping, preparation and detail process. The old hangar will be used exclusively for priming and painting. Wing’s new hangar is scheduled for completion in October.

Midcoast Aviation recently broke ground on a 46,320-sq-ft downdraft paint hangar, due for completion by October. It will allow painting of aircraft as large as a Global Express.

The paint facility is the centerpiece of Elliott Aviation’s new completion center. Interior hangar doors between the paint-finishing bays allow aircraft to remain in a controlled environment from start to finish. Balanced outflow through the paint bay, as well as computer-regulated temperature and humidity, creates an optimum paint environment. An oversized stripping bay accommodates multiple aircraft. It can accommodate aircraft as large as the Hawker Horizon or Citation X.

Also signaling a new confidence is the reopening of the Cheyenne Paint Shop in Cheyenne, Wyo. The shop had closed shortly after Roberts Aircraft and its subsidiary, Heli-Support, acquired the Cheyenne Airmotive assets last September. The shop reopened in May and within weeks had delivered its first job, a Bell 412 for Air Methods.

One of the few paint shops that suffered during the recession, and is only just recovering, is Canada’s Penta Aviation Service in Vancouver, B.C. The downdraft shop can accommodate aircraft as large as a Challenger 604. A source at Penta told AIN that in 2000, the shop was busy enough to run two shifts. Now, he said, there is
one shift.

New Facilities Open

While 2002 was marred by layoffs and closings, last year and early this year offered a more encouraging view of the completion and refurbishment industry as new facilities opened.

Atlantic Aero in Greensboro, N.C., opened a new aircraft interior facility at Piedmont Triad International Airport, a 6,100-sq-ft center “dedicated exclusively to interior work.” Atlantic Aero and its subsidiaries offer aerospace engineering, parts fabrication, an FAA repair station and an airfreight operation. “We’re particularly interested in applying our company’s extensive composites, engineering and fabrication capability to aircraft interiors,” said Atlantic CEO Don Godwin.

In Canada, a consortium made up of DEM Capital and Elisen Technologies opened MJet, a new corporate aircraft service and interior refurbishing business at Pierre Elliot Trudeau International Airport in Dorval, Quebec. The startup includes a “strategic alliance” with newly formed DeCrane Cabin Interiors. MJet facilities, upgraded at a cost of more than $1 million, include 80,000 sq ft of hangar, shops, offices and customer facilities. The 35,000-sq-ft former airline maintenance hangar is capable of accommodating as many as five Global Express business jets.

As an interior components vendor, DeCrane Aircraft is not new. But it is new to the process of interior completion and refurbishment.

The El Segundo, Calif. company, formed in 1989, didn’t begin a serious move into business aviation interior components until 1999. At that time, founder and CEO Jack DeCrane expressed the intent to create a one-stop shop for cabin components, and the company set about a series of acquisitions. Today, the company’s Cabin Management Group includes Audio International (audio and video entertainment systems, passenger control panels and switches and lighting); Carl F. Booth (fireproof veneers for aircraft furniture); Custom Woodwork & Plastics (cabin furniture and interiors); DeCrane Cabin Interiors (interior services, including upholstery, cabinetry and finishing); Infinity Partners (integrated cabin interiors); PCI Newco (structural composites for sidewalls, headliners and other components); and Precision Pattern (cabinetry and upholstery of seats, divans and other soft goods).

The company’s clients include most of the OEMs and many of the independent completion and refurbishment centers. Precision Pattern recently signed an agreement with Millennium Concepts for the fabrication of multiple galleys for installation in an executive/VIP Boeing 747.

When DeCrane acquired PATS Aircraft in 1999, Jack DeCrane described the Georgetown, Del.-based company as having “significant growth prospects.” At that time, the company was a major provider of auxiliary fuel systems. Today, it has moved into the arena of large executive/VIP busi