“The reports of our demise are greatly exaggerated. Quite the contrary, we’re here at EBACE [Booth No. 439] and we’re thriving,” Jack Lawless, president of Associated Air Center (AAC), told AIN. While the Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) and Airbus Corporate Jet (ACJ) maintenance, modification and completions center has faced challenges during the past few years, Lawless said extensive process improvements and efforts by employees have yielded better throughput, and on-time and on-budget deliveries.
According to Lawless, some of the improvements include a reengineering of the beginning-to-end completions process to ensure AAC quality control from concept through redelivery. “We’ve also completed a comprehensive improvement project in the finish shop that upgraded all of our processes, practices and controls, and incorporated the highest quality chemistry available to the industry. We are now seeing superb finishes while using less material and resulting in lighter weight interiors,” he said.
On the supply-chain side, the company revamped its practices and procedures and instituted methods for identifying material requirements with a tracking process to ensure it can maintain production schedules. AAC also initiated a systematic approach to identifying opportunities to reduce interior weight while maintaining structural requirements and aesthetic standards. “One upcoming initiative will be to implement an enhanced quality management system with the goal of becoming ISO certified,” he said. He expects that certification by the middle of next year.
During the past few months AAC has delivered two Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) as well as its 13th Airbus Corporate Jetliner (ACJ). The deliveries represent the company’s 17th and 18th BBJ completions since becoming a BBJ-approved completion and service center. All three aircraft were redelivered with well appointed interior configurations including such options as external cameras, moving-map/flight information systems, high-end in-flight entertainment systems consisting of a high-definition capable audio and video-on-demand systems serving several multi-zone surround sound systems. They were also equipped with high-speed-data satellite communication systems capable of voice/fax/data transmissions and Internet access.
The 13th ACJ and 17th BBJ deliveries were for Eastern European clients and included interiors custom designed by Peder Eidsgaard, a London-based aircraft and yacht interior designer. The 18th BBJ is the third aircraft completed by AAC to
be based in India. Its interior was designed by Alberto Pinto Design, a Paris-based residential, commercial and aircraft interior designer appointed by the owner to work closely with the AAC team.
In 2008, maintenance and modifications represented about 9 percent of Associated’s business. Since then, that number has doubled, and according to Lawless, the goal is to double that number yet again.
AAC’s maintenance and repair organization continues to add services to support BBJ customers, including SFAR-88 modifications, main-landing-gear trunion-pin replacement as well lower cabin altitude modifications. The company recently completed its 17th SFAR-88 mandatory fuel tank modification on a BBJ. These required modifications are driven by airworthiness directive AD-2008-28-01 issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. AAC currently has three more BBJs scheduled to undergo these modifications.
As the BBJ fleet achieves full SFAR-88 compliance, the next major event driving their scheduled maintenance visits are the main landing gear forward trunion pin replacement, required by an FAA AD, and a landing gear overhaul due to calendar time limits. AAC owns the necessary tooling and equipment for the removal and re-installation of the landing gear providing customers with better flexibility in scheduling their aircraft’s work. The company has completed these landing gear replacements in two BBJ aircraft and has three more on its schedule.
Separately, AAC is working to help with passenger comfort on long flights. Until recently, BBJs were certified for an 8,000-foot cabin altitude while flying at a maximum service ceiling of 41,000 feet. In response to customer demand, and to improve passenger comfort while reducing crew fatigue during ultra-long-range flights, Boeing engineered and recently received FAA certification for a 6,500-foot cabin altitude modification known as lower cabin altitude (LCA). AAC has completed these LCA modifications on four BBJs and has another scheduled.