Standard Aero’s Associated Air Center is gearing up to receive its first Boeing 747-8 completion at its Dallas facility. The project is expected to take three years and will include a fuselage-to-tarmac integrated elevator, Greenpoint Technologies’ Aeroloft second-story module over the aft fuselage to create additional sleeping berths for crewmembers, a civil aircraft anti-missile defense system, redundant satcom, encrypted Wi-Fi and HD monitors and entertainment systems.
While most details of the aircraft layout remain confidential, Associated general manager Chris Schechter did say it will feature VIP seating for 100 in both traditional first-class and lie-flat “cocoons,” three galleys, and a dedicated area for the principal, including a private bedroom and reception area.
While known primarily for its single-aisle completions, Associated has been performing widebody completions since the mid-1990s. To date it has worked on two 747s, one 747SP, one 747-400, two 767s and an Airbus A330.
The contract is requiring Associated to add and train staff, purchase new fixtures and upgrade its IT platforms, including its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. “Just the sheer scale of the materials management piece of the project is making us buy a new backbone,” said Schechter. “We are going with an ERP system that is specialized for the completion industry.”
Associated is upgrading its employee training, sending some to Boeing as well as conducting cold metal working and software classes. New modular work stands can be used on both the 747-8 and a wide variety of other widebodies, including the A330.
“We are also spending a lot of money testing decompression and stress and strain on the larger cabinets” and other internal fixtures, said Chip Fichter, Associated vice president of engineering.
Installation of the to-the-tarmac elevator clearly presents the largest technical challenge, said Fichter. All of the engineering data for the installation is being provided by Boeing and the unidentified elevator vendor. “Most of the installation work will be done here, and it’s a massive job,” said Fichter, but he added that it is going more smoothly than other large modifications the company did to 747s 20 years ago, due largely to better engineering computing on systems such as Catia.
Associated has experience with large structural modifications on 747s; it moved the internal main staircase on a Boeing 747-400 completion to accommodate a customer-requested floorplan, necessitating the cutting of support beams and requiring overpressurization and flight tests to verify the aircraft’s structural integrity post-modification. “That was as large a modification as installing this elevator,” said Fichter.
“One reason the customer picked us was our high level of vertical integration, including our expertise in stress analysis, certification, sheet metal work and other talent on hand to deal with the risk associated with this project,” Schechter said.
Building a solid relationship with suppliers and placing component orders early is also critical to the process, he said. “We are being proactive at locking down supplier capacity and flowing down contract risks to our suppliers. We are sharing the risks with them,” Schechter said.