Big-body cabin completion gaining

 - December 29, 2010, 6:05 AM

The single-aisle and widebody bizliner completion business is gaining traction on a global scale, and with new-aircraft sales by Airbus and Boeing on the rise, available slots for the highly specialized task of outfitting these large private aircraft could fill quickly, leaving some owners with a green airplane and no place to have it completed.

Lufthansa Technik is happy to have the business, and sales and marketing senior v-p Walter Heerdt said the company is preparing for something of an outfitting traffic jam at its facilities in Hamburg, Germany.

The initial deliveries of four 747-8s were due at Lufthansa Technik last year, but delays in certification now have all four of the jumbos arriving for executive outfitting in Hamburg in the space of 12 months. The first is due to arrive late this year.

According to Heerdt, Lufthansa Technik plans to begin work on two aircraft–both for the same customer–almost simultaneously. At one point, the center will have three of the four aircraft in the shop at the same time. The cabin completion of each airplane is expected to require 16 to 24 months.

In September, Lufthansa Technik delivered its 10th Airbus A318 Elite, to Swiss charter operator Comlux.

In the U.S., wholly owned Lufthansa Technik subsidiary BizJet International recently completed and delivered a BBJ to Boeing’s own flight department. It is the second such delivery this year to Boeing by Tulsa, Okla.-based Bizjet.

Comlux America in Indianapolis received approval earlier this year from Boeing as a preferred center for outfitting the OEM’s Boeing Business Jet line and expects similar approval from Airbus before year-end.

According to CEO David Edinger, Comlux has an A320 Prestige, an ACJ and another BBJ in its green completion future.

New Zealand company Altitude Aerospace appeared at the NBAA Convention with a mockup of what it is calling its “Pounamu” cabin for the Boeing Business Jet.
In Maori, Pounamu is a word for the highly valued nephrite jade stone unique to New Zealand, a stone considered by the Maori to possess great mana, or “the stuff of which magic is made.”

Rather than build a typical cutaway mockup for the show, Altitude acquired a retired Boeing 737 fuselage to create a more accurate display of the skills and abilities of its artists and craftsmen.

A new ducting system allows a more spacious cabin with four inches greater headroom. From the grand entrance foyer, the visitor passes through a salon with bar and seating for six to a conference room equipped with 55-inch high-definition monitor, and on into a sumptuous suite. Throughout the cabin are exotic wood veneers, swiveling executive seats and LED lighting.

Greenpoint Technologies, a Kirkland, Wash.-based independent center, focuses exclusively on Boeing single-aisle and widebody outfitting. Anticipating a growing market, the company has placed renewed emphasis on development of a healthier supplier base.

The center has identified suppliers and vendors as “a vital element in best practices and risk mitigation” in Greenpoint’s overall program success.

Greenpoint, said senior director of supply chain management Dave Linder, reviews supplier performance metrics monthly, and through the third quarter of this year added 10 vendors to the approved supplier base. He further noted that 92 percent of Greenpoint’s suppliers meet or exceed qualifications for AS9100 and ISO9001:2000 quality standards, as well as those of an FAA Part 145 repair station.
Meanwhile, Greenpoint is experiencing a healthy bump in completion and refurbishment work. The latest addition to the schedule is a green BBJ3 for an unidentified Middle East client and contracts for two BBJs.

Amac New and Gaining
Amac in Basel, Switzerland, is relatively new to the business. The company began work on its first outfitting in October 2008 and has since delivered two Airbus executive aircraft–an A320 Prestige and an ACJ. Both were completed in the company’s original 45,208-sq-ft hangar.

The grand opening of a new 90,416-sq-ft completion and refurbishment hangar was held on December 2 (see page 21), but Amac was at work on a Boeing 777-200LR there weeks earlier. Another 777–a -300ER–is scheduled to arrive this month, to be outfitted on behalf of the government of Abu Dhabi. Another ACJ is due to arrive in next year’s fourth quarter.

Also in Basel is Jet Aviation, long a standard in the single-aisle and widebody completion and refurbishment world. Most recently, the center delivered two ACJs to Monaco-based Boutsen Aviation and a 737-800 to an unidentified customer.
In the hangars now are a Boeing 747, a 757 and an A340. And going forward, the center has contracts for two ACJs and two BBJ3s. According to senior v-p Heinz Aebi, “We also have letters of intent for three 787s and we’re negotiating for a couple of 747-8s.”

Further expanding overall capacity, the former Midcoast Aviation (recently­ ­rebranded Jet Aviation and part of the General Dynamics business group) is now offering completion and refurbishment work on single-aisle bizliners. “In addition to our ongoing Bombardier green completions projects, our completions and MRO operation in St. Louis is acting on its long-planned entry into the [single-aisle] completions and refurbishment market,” said Aebi.

Gore Backlog Out to 2015
Gore Design Completions in San Antonio has typically been a busy shop. The only thing that’s changed is that it may be even busier. Earlier this year Gore delivered an A340-500 to an unidentified head of state, and currently undergoing completion are two A340s, a 777 and a 767. An A320 Prestige for a head of state was expected to arrive in San Antonio this month and another A340 early next year.
Relative newcomer JetTech, of Spokane, Wash., is already watching its completion slots fill. The company originally opened in February 2009 as a Cascade Aerospace subsidiary but was acquired by former Cascade executive Bret Burnside and reopened this past summer as JetTech.

The completion and refurbishment center has received OEM approval to outfit the BBJ line.

As JetTech, the center was expecting to see its first green BBJ arrive this month and the finished airplane is scheduled for delivery in November next year. The ­facility can accommodate two BBJ completions simultaneously.

Pats Aircraft Systems of Georgetown, Del., is now a stand-alone company with the backing of Wayzata Investment Partners, and recently delivered its 20th BBJ completion.

The completion and refurbishment center has the advantage of being able to install its own auxiliary fuel and tank system to give the BBJ a substantial range boost and has just received FAA approval for a similar system for the Boeing 757.

According to new Pats CEO John Martin, “We feel that as a stand-alone company in charge of our own destiny, with strong financial backing and restructuring, we’re back in the saddle again.”

BaySys Technologies in Accomac, Va., has just delivered an A340-200 and expects to deliver a 777-200ER in next year’s first quarter. 

“We’re talking to a lot of people about a lot of airplanes, including major refurbishment jobs on 757s and 777s,” said director of sales Mark Anderson.
Earlier this year, BaySys announced an agreement with “a strategic regional investor” to support development of an executive completion center in Casablanca, Morocco. The facility is now up and running and was preparing to take in a 757 outfitting before year-end.

Airbus v-p Francois Chazelle said at the NBAA Convention he expects the OEM will deliver a record 16 aircraft this year for configuration in an executive role–three A318 Elites, eight ACJs, three A320 Prestige and two A330/A340 Prestige widebodies. That would be two more than in 2009.

Looking ahead, Airbus also has orders for one A380, eight A350s and eight ACJs.
Since last October, Boeing says it has  sold two BBJs, a 747 and a 777, and has delivered three BBJs, a BBJ2, three BBJ3s, a 777-300ER and a 777-300LR. Further into the future, Chicago-based Boeing has orders for eight 747-8s and a baker’s dozen 787s for completion in executive or head-of-state configuration.

Five 747-8s will be delivered “all in a clump” to various outfitters at the end of next year. Two more will be delivered in 2012 and an eighth in 2013. Deliveries of 787s to completion centers are expected to begin in mid-2012.

According to Boeing Business Jets president Steve Taylor, the backlog (as of October) is valued at about $6 billion.

Embraer has delivered six Lineage 1000 executive versions of its E190 airliner to date. The latest went to the Al Habtoor Group of Dubai in early September, where it is being managed and operated by Royal Jet.

While maintaining that demand for the lightweight single-aisle bizliner continues, Embraer declines to reveal exact order numbers for the Lineage 1000, saying only that the combined order book for the Legacy 600/650 and Lineage 1000 now stands at 17 aircraft.

The first four Lineage 1000s were outfitted by Pats Aircraft Systems in Georgetown, Del. Subsequent 1000s are being finished at Embraer’s São Jose dos Campos facilities in Brazil.

As new aircraft sales accelerate and deliveries grow apace, the choke point is going to be at the independent completion centers, where capacity is finite. If that happens, outfitting slots are going to fill up quickly and owners may find themselves waiting in line.

“Reserve a slot as soon as possible,” is the unsurprising advice of Amac strategic president Heinz Köhli, who noted that some centers are already booking slots into 2014.