Elliott Aviation sees opportunity in upcoming mandated avionics

 - May 5, 2008, 11:04 AM

Fall 2001 may not have been the most auspicious time to launch a new business strategy, but for Elliott Aviation its ambitious business plan for the next half-decade is showing signs of success, despite a faltering economy and the impact of September 11 on business aviation.

According to v-p of operations Alan Nitchman, Elliott’s new long-range strategy to strengthen and fine tune its profit centers had been in the planning stages for some time. Said Nitchman, “We believed that we had all these pieces and fitting them together was critical to our success, despite adjustments in response to the economy and September 11.”

The primary focus of that new strategy was the launch of an avionics program to meet the needs of customers faced with new regulations and improved technology. “Our engineering department was directed to focus its efforts on obtaining the necessary STCs to meet new and pending regulations regarding RVSM, TAWS and TCAS.”

Elliott planners figured that federal mandates would take the purchase of avionics to meet those requirements out of discretionary spending, and thereby create a solid market for some years to come. Nitchman noted that TCAS is already required in many business jets, domestic RVSM is likely to become mandatory in late 2004 and TAWS is currently mandated for March 2005. With a potential market of some 1,800 business aircraft on the near horizon, Elliott has already begun acquiring STCs.

Elliott currently has more than 35 RVSM-, TAWS- and TCAS-related STCs. Fifteen of those STCs have been granted since the strategy was officially launched last October, and the company expects to receive another 15 before year-end. Nitchman said Elliott has initially targeted six aircraft types as principal candidates for these avionics upgrades–King Airs, Falcon 10s and Falcon 20s, Learjet 35s, Hawker 700s and 800s, and Citations (up through Excels).

Installations have already begun in a Falcon 10 and Learjet 35, and Hawker installations are expected early this month, followed by a Citation upgrade next month. The avionics upgrades are available at all four Elliott locations: Des Moines, Iowa; Minneapolis, Minn.; Omaha, Neb.; and its Moline, Ill. headquarters.

Nitchman said customer needs vary, “but most are opting to have a multiple-item upgrade.” For the customer, he said, it amounts to a decision to take advantage of the downtime for one hardware installation to have another system installed, or even all three, during the same period.

Taking advantage of downtime is key to another element of Elliott’s strategy. The company’s completion and refurb capacity is expanding to meet anticipated growth as customers choose to include interior work while the avionics upgrade is being installed. Already under construction at the Moline facility, is a new 48,000-sq-ft hangar that will include a 5,600-sq-ft paint bay capable of accommodating aircraft as large as a Citation X.

An adjacent, oversized paint strip-and-prep area will hold two mid-size business aircraft. An interior installation and hangar will occupy another 8,000 sq ft of the new facility and will hold as many as five business aircraft. The interior installation hangar section will be able to accommodate aircraft up to a Global Express. The center is expected to open for business in February.

Elliott had planned to break ground for the completions and refurb center last September but Nitchman said September 11 and the stalled economy delayed it until this past March. The other pieces of the strategy puzzle already existed, he said. The completion center was the final piece.

To meet the expected growth in demand for avionics upgrades, Elliott has also launched a new rotables program to ensure an adequate supply of components.

Nitchman said the company also continues aggressively to market its active/passive sound management system (SMS) for the King Air series. It is already being installed by Raytheon Aircraft as standard in the Beech King Air 350 and is available as an after-market item for installation by Elliott in the King Air 300, 200 and 90.

At the NBAA Convention this month, Elliott will introduce its new upgrade “shaker” ATVA (active tuned vibration attenuator) SMS. An STC has been granted for the new system for the King Air B200 and it is being installed in two of the turboprops. An STC for the King Air 90 is expected “in the near future.” Both systems are in partnership with UK-based Ultra Electronics.