Special Report: Completions & Refurbs

 - April 16, 2008, 6:59 AM

What a difference a year makes.

In the spring of last year, AIN reported a record 1,025 business aircraft deliveries for the year 2000, up from 876 in 1999. About the same time, and even as the damper of recession was being pulled over the hottest business aircraft market in history, Mike Smith, then chairman of GAMA and president and CEO of Honeywell Aerospace Electronic Systems, was predicting another good year in 2001. Said Smith, the “advantages of business aviation will not go away even if the economy slows.”

And slow it did, and stumbled on into the summer. Then came September 11. Part 91 business aircraft sat idle, grounded by government mandate. Business aircraft manufacturers reluctantly reported some outright order cancellations and admitted as well to a minor flood of requests to reschedule for later delivery.

The impact on business aircraft sales after September 11, however, was not immediately noticeable, at least not from the numbers. In fact, the returns on early post-September 11 deliveries were quite positive. Last-quarter 2001 total deliveries of turbine business aircraft, according to AIN research, totaled 324 aircraft, well above the 290 deliveries for that period in the previous year.

But as if to prove the financial adage, “past profits are no indicator of future profits,” the next quarter showed a dramatic difference. Deliveries of turbine business aircraft in the first quarter of this year dropped a little more than 25 percent to 201 aircraft, well below the 266 deliveries recorded in the first quarter of last year.
Good Ends from Evil Doings?

Some saw the terrorist attacks as ultimately benefiting the business aircraft industry as a whole. As airline business travelers chafed at the long lines and canceled or delayed flights resulting from increased security, it was thought they would ultimately turn to business aircraft as a solution. Charter and fractional ownership operators anticipated an increase in business.

At the same time, others like aircraft broker Joseph Carfagna of Franklin Lakes, N.J. had reservations. Interest, predicted Carfagna, is going to increase, but he added, “The economy may put a cap on what people are willing to spend.”

As it turned out, everybody was a little bit right and a little bit wrong. The initial interest in both charter and fractional ownership failed to translate into big gains, but at the same time, neither segment claims to have suffered.

While most major airframe manufacturers admitted production would level off, or even be reduced, over the next 18 to 24 months, few were willing to go beyond that.

In the long term, Fairfax, Va. aviation analyst Teal Group in its 12th annual forecast predicted a total of 6,908 business jets will be produced over the next decade. On the other hand, Honeywell Aerospace of Phoenix was predicting deliveries of 8,400 business jets over the same period. Forecast International of Connecticut split the difference with a guess of 7,300 deliveries for approximately the same 10-year period.

For several months after September 11, used aircraft brokers and dealers were in shock as sales dropped and inventory climbed. But it appears to have been temporary. A survey of 1,500 brokers and dealers by Aircraft Shopper Online of Corte Madera, Calif. earlier this year revealed that 50 percent of respondents anticipated a 10- to 25-percent increase in sales in the second quarter of this year.

They pointed to the latter months of 2001, when used aircraft inventory grew, forcing prices lower. Then came the early months of 2002, and buyers looking for bargains were apparently searching in earnest. In the first quarter of this year there were 372 business-jet transactions, a healthy increase of 96 over the same period last year, according to business aircraft sales analyst JetNet of Utica, N.Y. Sales activity for pre-owned turboprops was close to even for the two quarters, at about 230 transactions. “The pre-owned market last year virtually stopped,” said one broker. “Now [in May 2002],” we’re busier than ever.”

Mike Winters, president of AvCraft Aviation, a completion and refurb center in Tyler, Texas, hopes the recovery continues. He is holding a repossessed Gulfstream II for which his company did the interior and notes that an appraiser who placed its value at “a little more than $4 million in early 2001 now estimates that it’s worth barely $3 million.”

An Unstable Completion and Refurb Market
If the recession and terrorist attacks cast confusion among the manufacturers, doubts were even greater among the independent refurb and completion centers, which traditionally ride the wave of new and used business aircraft sales. Some have survived the post-September 11 slump and economic downturn handily. Others have struggled.

A few independent completion and refurb centers saw a drop in business in the months after September 11 as client concerns for the economy overshadowed their vision of business aviation as being safer and more efficient. Others experienced little or no change. Both Stevens Aviation in Greenville, S.C. and Jet Aviation in West Palm Beach, Fla. reported “a little slowdown” before September 11 and a stagnant market for several months thereafter.

By early this year, with the economy improving, demand began to rise for refurbs by independent facilities. “We had our best first quarter ever in 2002,” said Walter Berchtold, v-p of refurbishment and completions at Jet Aviation in West Palm Beach. That facility saw a Gulfstream III and a GIV come in for total refurb shortly after the beginning of the year, along with two more Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters for the Egyptian government (in addition to two other Black Hawks delivered last year). And, said Berchtold, “We also had at least half a dozen minor refurb projects, from a Falcon 900 to a Boeing 727.”

Larry Baker, v-p of operations at Stevens, agreed that since the first of the year, “Business has taken a dramatic turn upwards–paint, interior refurb and avionics upgrades. The owners are trying to get everything done they can.” And Baker added, “They’re spending discretionary money, and we believe that indicates they have a positive outlook on the economy.”

Many independent completion and refurb centers are already looking forward to profits, at least in the short term.

Jet Aviation’s West Palm Beach facility, which has just put into operation a new finishing center, was expecting a “green refurb” GIII into the shop in late spring, and two GIVs and a Challenger 600 were scheduled to arrive this summer.

Jerry Gore, president and CEO of Gore Design Completions of San Antonio, said his company experienced very little negative fallout from either September 11 or the recession. Gore delivered a Boeing 767 to the Chinese government late last year and is already negotiating for a Boeing 757 refurb job, as well as two green widebody completions and two green Boeing Business Jet completions.

The independents are cautiously optimistic as the economy continues to recover. In the long term, people like Mike Minchow and Shelley Ewalt, both with Duncan Aviation in Lincoln, Neb., expect the completion and refurb business to remain healthy.

But while some see a long-term benefit from the terrorist attacks, Minchow sees a short-term negative impact as far as refurbishment is concerned.

According to Minchow, owners now are more aware than ever of the value of their corporate airplane as a business tool. “They’re flying more hours than ever and are reluctant to put their airplanes out of service for the time necessary to do a cabin refurb.” And, added Ewalt, “if they are planning a cabin refurb, they’re planning much farther ahead to minimize the down time.”

Duncan, she said, is making an effort to help reduce that down time. Between the company’s Lincoln headquarters facility and the Battle Creek, Mich. center, she said, Duncan had some 50 business aircraft in for some type of work in May. At least half of them, she added, were also having some level of cabin refurb done at the same time as another job, such as a required maintenance inspection or avionics upgrade.

In fact, said Ewalt, in the long term Duncan expects to see some additional surge in interior refurb work as owners begin bringing their airplanes in for upgrades to meet the new DRVSM (domestic reduced vertical separation minimums) requirements, which become mandatory in the U.S. on Dec. 1, 2004.

Ewalt may be right, if the economic recovery continues. But if money remains tight, customers may see it as an either/or problem–either mandatory compliance or a discretionary refurb. At a cost of about $200,000 for the DRVSM upgrade equipment and as much as $200,000 more for installation, it is not difficult to imagine some customers deferring the refurb in a time of scarce money.

Facing Other Challenges
For some independents, the challenge was not one of surviving the economic downturn or the dark days following September 11, but remaining profitable in the face of other events.

Dee Howard, which had announced less than a year earlier a return to the corporate and VIP interiors market, ended up filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Not until May was the matter resolved when Singapore-based VT Systems’ bid to buy the company at auction for $14.2 million was accepted by the courts. Reorganized, the San Antonio-based facility will continue to do business-aircraft interiors, but as San Antonio Aerospace.

General Electric’s Garrett Santa Barbara completion center, which opened in mid-1999 for the express purpose of providing interiors for Boeing Business Jets, was less fortunate. Located in a southern California high-rent district at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, the center had expected to roll out between six and 10 finished BBJs a year. But like some other Boeing-approved facilities, it had underestimated the time required to finish the big business jet interiors and by mid-2001 had delivered only one, and two more were well behind schedule. At that point, a decision was made to decline further BBJ contracts and refocus on a new contract with Bombardier to do interiors on green Global Express business jets.

As part of what was described as a decision by the parent company “…to adjust its business activities to the current market conditions,” GE announced in April this year that it would close the Garrett Santa Barbara facility. And with the delivery of the last two Globals in mid-June, the doors were indeed closed.

AvCraft, an independent completion and refurb company in Tyler, Texas, relatively untroubled and thriving, nevertheless found itself in a quandary earlier this year.

When Fairchild Dornier filed for insolvency in April and fell into the hands of a bankruptcy administrator, AvCraft had three of the German/American company’s 328JETs sitting in its hangar awaiting completion. The 328JET is the basic airframe from which the Envoy 3 is created by the addition of a corporate or VIP interior.

AvCraft president Winters said work had already begun to install a “quick-change” interior in two of the aircraft. The design would allow easy conversion to cabin layouts accommodating up to 29 passengers in a shuttle configuration or 12 to 14 passengers in a more traditional corporate configuration. Winters said the work included converting the drop-aisle floor to a flat floor and that an STC was expected by early June. The third Envoy 3, he said, was being designed with a more conventional corporate cabin.

Winters said work has been temporarily put on hold on the third Envoy 3 and one of the two “plugged-floor” versions, both of which were contracted by Fairchild Dornier. Work is continuing on the second plugged-floor Envoy, under contract by a private customer.

Winters said that in the months before September 11, AvCraft had done a Boeing 727 interior and a series of Gulfstreams, Falcons and Citations. In the weeks after September 11, he said business dropped so dramatically that he was forced to lay off about half of his workforce of 100 people. He added that in recent months AvCraft has had the misfortune to be linked with Tyler Jet, now in bankruptcy. AvCraft was created in 1999 when Tyler Jet’s completion division was sold to an independent investor. “We’re being perceived as still part of Tyler Jet, and the truth is that we are in no way associated with that company or involved in any way with its financial difficulties.”

Growth, Even in Tough Times
Despite the recession and the effects of September 11, there was also growth in the completion and refurb industry, particularly among the independents.

Gore Design, since 1988 an aircraft interior and industrial design firm, became Gore Design Completions in September last year. The company had already bought the assets of Specialty Mill Works, a cabinetry and upholstery shop, and reached an agreement with Dee Howard to lease a 20,000-sq-ft hangar at San Antonio International Airport and to share people and resources.

Even before the name change, the company had embarked on its first project, a head-of-state Boeing 767 intended for the government of the People’s Republic of China. The aircraft and Gore Design would subsequently make international headlines when it was discovered that covert listening devices had been installed in the aircraft cabin. It was later found that the “bugs” had actually been placed by a member of the Chinese government’s own delegation.

Alpha Omega Jet Services, launched in late 2000 as an aircraft management and consulting firm, also expanded more firmly into the completion and refurb business. The Sulphur Springs, Texas, company acquired interior cabinetry specialist Aircraft Components Manufacturing in March. Alpha Omega had done the Embraer Legacy demonstrator interior on display at the NBAA convention last December after having hired a completion specialist who had been laid off by ACM. Alpha Omega subsequently handled the interior completion on the first Legacy to go into customer service, delivering it to Swift Aviation of Phoenix in January this year.

DeCrane Aircraft Systems, which had billed itself as a single-source supplier of aircraft interior components, expanded its role in November when the PATS division of the DeCrane Aircraft Systems Integration Group completed a 42,000-sq-ft hangar facility at Sussex County Airport in Georgetown, Del. and began interior completion of its first Boeing Business Jet.

A spokesman for DeCrane said the interior was being done at the request of a customer who was not content to wait.

Interior components manufacturer Enflight, which specializes in pocket doors, monitor lifts and mounts and hi-lo pedestal tables, made a big move from its old location in Austin, Texas, to Georgetown. The 20,000-sq-ft facility includes 10,800 sq ft devoted to production and new product development. And a spokesman noted that another 50,000 sq ft is available for expansion.

Wing Aviation, based at Montgomery County Airport in Conroe, Texas, about 45 miles north of Houston, is a new kid on the block with an interesting approach to diversification. The 54,000-sq-ft facility, in the last stages of construction, is expected to open late next month or early September and will include not only a completion and refurb facility under a 40,000-sq-ft hangar, but a 14,500-sq-ft modified downdraft paint bay, an aircraft maintenance facility and a full-service FBO. According to v-p Brian Wing, the first airplane into the new facility will be the company’s own GII, which is scheduled for new exterior paint. “We plan to show it off at the NBAA convention in September,” said Wing.

Fiber Art, a Cibolo, Texas company providing interior composites–headliners, side panels–also expanded, moving from a 12,000-sq-ft site to a new 30,000-sq-ft location. A spokesman said September 11 and the recession had “no real impact” on the company and that Fiber Art has remained busy.

B/E Aerospace found itself hit hard by what it considered to be a combination of September 11 and the recession and announced a $104.1 million net loss for 2001. The company’s business jet products division, which includes interior completion components, was not affected, said a spokesman. But at the same time the company was in the final stages of the acquisition of interior components specialist Bomhoff of Tucson, Ariz. The deal was expected to be finalized by late last month.

At Moline, Ill., Elliott Aviation broke ground for a 48,000-sq-ft paint and completions facility on March 7 this year and expects to see it operational next January.
The focal point, according to a spokesman, is the 5,600-sq-ft downdraft paint bay capable of handling aircraft as large as the Citation X.

Mixed Blessing for Some OEMs
While the impact of September 11 and the recession had a noticeably negative impact on the OEMs in terms of new aircraft sales, it was a mixed blessing of sorts. For some OEMs, still behind in meeting scheduled delivery dates for finished airplanes, customer-deferred delivery dates were an almost welcome opportunity to play “catch-up.”

Gulfstream Aerospace claims that, with few exceptions, deliveries of finished GVs and GIV-SPs are now on schedule. And the company is gearing up to integrate the new GV-SP into the completion process at its Long Beach, Calif. facility, starting later this year. “We’re on schedule to do what we have promised,” said a spokesman.

In the past year, the schedule has involved consolidation of the Savannah, Ga.-based company’s far-flung completion assets after closure of its Alliance Airport (Fort Worth) facility’s completion center. Gulfstream took control of the Alliance site as part of General Dynamics’ June 2001 acquisition of Galaxy Aerospace and its Astra SPX and Galaxy business jet lines–redesignated the G100 and G200, respectively. The G200 is now being completed at Gulfstream’s Love Field center. The G100 interiors are being installed by Duncan Aviation using interior kits of Duncan design and manufacture, though Gulfstream expects to “take over that function shortly at one of our current Gulfstream sites.” Sources say the company’s Appleton, Wis. facility is the most likely candidate. Whether Duncan will continue to provide the kit interiors remains to be seen.

Bombardier had initially underestimated the amount of time required to engineer and build an interior for its Global Express and had fallen behind promised delivery dates. The first airplanes were taking as much as 60 weeks to complete, and promised delivery dates slipped in some cases more than a year.

In an effort to catch up, the company reached an agreement with several independent completion and refurb centers to do green Global interiors–Garrett Aviation Santa Barbara (Calif.), BFGoodrich in Seattle and Marshall Aerospace in the UK–and also began sending green Globals to be finished at its own Tucson, Ariz. center.

According to Stephane Leblanc, director of operations for the Bombardier Completions Center in Montreal, the program is now under control. By the end of this year, said Leblanc, all the Globals produced at the Montreal de Havilland plant will enter completion at Bombardier’s Montreal facility. At that point, Leblanc expects that completion time will be down to 45 weeks, “with a goal for 2003 of 40 weeks, and less.” This year, he added, Bombardier will deliver 18 finished Globals, three times the number delivered two years ago.

Leblanc said the Montreal facility is now fully staffed with some 1,200 workers, “some of whom have worked on 25 to 30 Globals.

“We’re much better at spec’ing the airplanes now,” he said. “We know what we can do and what we can’t do, what will work and what won’t work, and we’re seeing recurrent engineering that allows us to reduce the time involved in the completion process.”

Bombardier expects to see many of the lessons learned with the Global Express put to use when it begins completion work on the new Global 5000 derivative. Among changes to the process is the integration of as many interior elements as possible during the production phase, from bracketry to wiring harnesses for cabin avionics. Greater use will also be made of the new “configurator” computer software in assisting customers in selecting interior components and designs, giving Bombardier’s engineers a running start.

Like the Global Express, the Global 5000 completion process will be managed out of Montreal. The “running start” described by Leblanc begins with S/N 0002, which despite its role in the certification test program, will have a “fully functional interior” that will allow Bombardier to begin developing supplemental type certificates.

Cessna Contracts Out CJ1 Completions
Cessna says it is delivering completed Citations on time, “with very few exceptions.” But the company, which has traditionally kept its completion process in-house, broke with tradition last year. Cessna sent “something less than a dozen” CJ1s and “interior components specific to each airplane” to Tyler, Texas, for installation by AvCraft.

Each airplane was inspected by a Cessna team before delivery to the customer, to ensure that the interior “met everyone’s expectations.” A Cessna spokesman said the customers were aware that the installation was being done by AvCraft.

According to Cindy Halsey, Cessna’s v-p of interior design, engineering and development, Cessna’s completions center has seen some interesting side-effects of the terrorist attacks. One of the most remarkable, she said, is the desire by many new U.S. owners to have the national ensign emblazoned on the tail. “It’s almost as if they’re using it as a symbol of defiance,” she said.

Halsey also noted that instead of opting for a typically innocuous exterior paint job, more owners are choosing to express a degree of individuality. In some cases, a rather flamboyant degree of individuality. One owner asked for a “fleet of flamingos” to be painted on his airplane. Another chose a giant tiger face and a series of orange-and-black stripes on the fuselage (see photo on page 34). “I’m talking wild stuff,” said Halsey. “They’ve discovered that their airplane is one giant canvas and they’re loving it.”

As for the interior, Halsey said buyers seem more concerned in recent times with resale value and the earning power of an airplane that can also be placed on a Part 135 certificate and made available for charter.

One Citation X owner ordered a modular design that would permit the addition of a seat by the quick removal of one section of galley storage cabinetry. Another ordered quick-release seats, making the airplane appropriate for charter in its conventional configuration. In its less conventional form for private use, the missing section of seats allowed the owner to carry his motorcycle along.

Halsey laughed when she described the work of Cessna’s design engineers as sometimes akin to creating a Swiss Army knife version of a business-jet interior. “They’ve gotten very proud of these skills, like a design in which removal of two drawers converts that section of the cabinet into a microwave compartment. We’re used to doing this all the time in the smaller airplanes, and now more and more owners of the larger airplanes are demanding it.”

Halsey said that while Cessna has in the past placed a lot of emphasis on new aircraft completions, the company has begun examining a more active role in the refurb market.

“We’re comfortable now [with the green completion process]. The work flow is going smoothly and we plan to expand our aftermarket maintenance support to include interior refurbishment.

“Our customers have been asking for it,” she explained, “and we’re going to be much more proactive in that market.”

Security Becomes a Concern
“Suddenly everybody’s got a security device for sale,” said a completions executive for a major OEM. “I’m not sure how much of an actual market there will be, but since September 11, there is certainly more concern for security.”

Near the top of the “gotta have” list for a few head-of-state and high-risk customers for whom money is not an issue is a missile countermeasures system. Few OEMs or independents were interested in discussing such systems in great detail, but Jerry Gore of Gore Design Completions said his company noted a sharp increase in concern by high-profile customers following the accidental destruction of an Aeroflot Tu-154 airliner by an errant S-200 surface-to-air missile fired by the Ukraine navy last October in the Black Sea.

It prompted the San Antonio company to spin off Gore Integrated Defense Solutions as part of its completion services. Rather than offer the Matador system that had been installed on a number of Gulfstream business jets, Gore opted to seek the latest technology in missile detection and countermeasures. Said Gore, “The heart of the Matador was a cesium lamp that required bulb replacement after nearly every flight and was not effective against the new generation of surface-to-air missiles.”

Gore selected a system developed for the military by Avisys of Austin, Texas, that was released only in the aftermath of September 11, and then only for installation in head-of-state aircraft. The laser-based system has a missile warning alert, electronic jamming device and a laser energy pulse countermeasures component. According to Gore, Northrop Grumman also has a similar missile countermeasures system, but at a higher price and not yet field tested. Sources say a twin-turret Avisys missile countermeasures system recently installed on a wide-body head-of-state aircraft cost a little more than $7 million.

Gore admits that the price would deter many from buying the latest missile countermeasures technology. However, he points out that anything less is incapable of defeating the latest missiles.

Nevertheless, Matador infrared countermeasures equipment from BAE Systems continues to be popular and has been installed by Gulfstream Aerospace on a number of head-of-state aircraft. The system uses modulating infrared lamps to disarm shoulder-launched heat-seeking missiles. Total Aircraft Services of Chatsworth, Calif., is exploring the possibility of developing STCs to install Matador on other corporate jets, such as Bombardier’s Global Express and the Boeing Business Jet.

While not everyone wants or can afford a missile countermeasures system, there is a growing market for lesser, and perhaps more practical, security measures, from electronic information shielding to simple locks.

“Knowledge is power,” said 16th century essayist and philosopher Francis Bacon. In this modern age in which massive amounts of knowledge are passed electronically in the blink of an eye, the theft of knowledge has become a major industry. And business aviation travelers are more and more concerned with the security of that knowledge. DPI Labs of LaVerne, Calif., is at work on a solution to information security and recently introduced Safe-Link, which it describes as “the industry’s first full-duplex, two-way communication system to boost aviation security.” It is already in service aboard U.S. government transport aircraft and is now available for commercial aircraft.

Safe-Link is a PBX-style voice/ data distribution system that shields aircraft communication at its most vulnerable stage, in the raw form before encryption and after decryption. It dampens the communication signal within the aircraft, says DPI Labs, “so not even today’s most sophisticated detection devices can intercept information.” One-tenth the size and weight of previous voice/ data distribution systems, it has six identical redundant channels on up to six independent handsets, with intercom and conference calling ability when used as an entire secure channel system. It is a full-duplex pathway not only for STU-III encryption, but also for UHF transmission. High-frequency HFS interfaces allow two UHF boxes to be linked–one set to receive only, one to talk only–for full-duplex, two-way communication at all times.

In conjunction with DPI’s Smartlink-III cabin management operating system, Safe-Link can create additional levels of security or certification before authorizing use. Using software, handsets can be disabled or functions modified on a flight-by-flight basis, without removing or revamping phone hardware.

Hijacking Transponder Alert by Avtech
With visions of terrorists taking over an airplane still fresh in the public mind, Avtech Corp. of Seattle is offering a transponder add-on device to provide continuous transponder transmission in the event of a hijacking.

With the FAA expected to issue a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the subject in June, Avtech announced in April its remote ATC control module (RACM), initially as “…a cost-effective solution for the airlines, requiring no modifications to the existing control panel or transponder.” It will, said Avtech, “ensure an alternative, uninterruptible power source during a hijacking, forcing the transponder to transmit the hijack code by providing an alternative Arinc 429 control code source.

There are also the usual ground security devices for aircraft, ranging from motion sensors to video surveillance. Completion and refurb centers have recorded a sharp increase in interest in such systems, though the cost in some cases has been a deterrent. In past years, most of the focus on video equipment has been for passenger entertainment. Now there is greater emphasis on video as a security surveillance tool, and a few business aircraft operators have had video cameras installed to allow the cockpit crew to determine at a glance conditions in the cabin.

Greg Light, an instructor for the Executive Protection Institute, recommends that those for whom security is a high priority should consider a state-of-the art, multi-level aircraft security system in combination with video surveillance. A good monitoring system should also provide a remote silent alarm, electronically notifying the flight crew, security personnel and passengers, by cellphone or pager, of an intrusion. Nevertheless, said Light, “It never ceases to amaze me that a company will spend millions of dollars buying a jet, then balk at a sophisticated $100,000 alarm system.”

According to Jim Jetton, president of Aircraft Security & Alert Systems of Dallas, Texas, there is also a greater interest than ever in door and compartment locking devices. The company has produced Medeco aircraft locks since 1981 and now reports that not only are customers having locks installed on the aircraft door, but on the baggage bay as well, and some have gone so far as to have locks installed on every outside access panel on the airplane. Some OEMs, said Jetton, have begun looking into installation of door locks as standard equipment, either on the production line or during the completion process.

Simpler security devices are security tape or wax, made by a number of companies. Once they are placed, a door cannot be opened without breaking the tape or wax seal. The disadvantage of the tape is the sticky residue that is sometimes left behind. There have also been stories of the wax failing to adhere in extremely high or low temperatures.

Nevertheless, one pilot said that even though his Gulfstream is equipped with an intrusion alarm, he typically uses security tape as well. And, he pointed out, his preflight walk-around includes a careful visual examination of the aircraft for any sign of tampering. “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean nobody is out to get you,” he said, and added, “You know, that’s an old joke that’s not so funny anymore.”

A Safe Cabin Environment
With passengers spending longer hours in the air on larger airplanes, the matter of a healthy cabin environment has become an issue.

Safe drinking water is a major concern for those whose airplanes are traveling abroad, often to places where any source of drinking water is suspect. Even in places where potable water has always been a given, there is reason to wonder.

In 2000, Britain’s Public Health Laboratory Services agency conducted a survey of aircraft drinking water at 13 airports and from aircraft operated by 21 airlines. The result was not encouraging. There was a 9-percent fail rate. In fact, 15 percent of 850 samples of water from drinking fountains or taps on board aircraft showed the presence of “potentially harmful material, including food-poisoning bacteria and fecal traces.”

To ensure the safety of drinking water aboard the aircraft, growing numbers of owners are opting for installation of an ultraviolet treatment system. International Water Guard of Burnaby, British Columbia, offers an entire water system for larger aircraft that includes the tank, upstream filtration (to eliminate sediment