Raisbeck Engineering is enjoying surging interest in Learjet and King Air performance modifications that continues to outpace the sluggish economy. “In the first six months of 2011, we sold 245 systems, which were installed on 123 different aircraft,” said James Raisbeck, founder and chairman of the Seattle-based company. “Nobody’s buying new airplanes,” he told AIN just before the opening of NBAA 2011 in Las Vegas. “They’re fixing up what they have. We had the best June in the history of our company.”
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have not always been thrilled about third-party modifications, even if these companies offered significant performance improvements for aircraft owners and operators. But in recent years, those attitudes have mellowed and OEMs are working with companies like Raisbeck Engineering as part of their efforts to keep customers satisfied with the original product. And hopefully, returning some day to buy new aircraft.
“We have a great relationship with Hawker Beechcraft,” said Mike McConnell, Raisbeck Engineering president. And that relationship has developed to the point where if Hawker Beechcraft has a problem that the skilled engineers at a company like Raisbeck can help solve, both companies now work together on a solution that benefits the aircraft owner.
“Bombardier is a fabulous partner for us,” McConnell added. During Raisbeck’s project to develop aft fuselage lockers for the Learjet 60, Bombardier was more than helpful. Bombardier provided aft fuselage components so that Raisbeck engineers could see how the newly designer lockers would fit. “We can do fit checks and understand where they put the stringers and where the APU is,” he said. “You rarely get the benefit of the doubt in this industry; you have to prove yourself. And that’s why we think our relationships are extraordinary with those two [companies]. Those are the two OEMs that we are partnering with.”
The fruits of those partnerships are a growing inventory of designs for useful modifications of King Airs and Learjets. The Learjet 60 wing lockers are the most current program–and due for certification in the first quarter of 2012–but Raisbeck Engineering has been improving Learjets and King Airs for many years.
Raisbeck King Air dual aft body strakes have sold about 2,400 shipsets, and Hawker Beechcraft began installing these on its assembly lines in 2001, followed by nacelle wing lockers on the King Air 350 in 2004. The new King Air 250 features Raisbeck’s ram-air recovery system, which lowers engine ITT and improves available power at altitude, allowing lower fuel burns for an equivalent torque setting and thus increased range.
While Learjet and King Air mods have been the backbone of Raisbeck’s oeuvre, McConnell and Raisbeck would welcome the challenge of solving problems with other airframers’ products. “We’d love to have the phone call,” said McConnell. “We’re devoted to our Learjet 60 program right now and we’re going to finish it, but that’s going to be finished soon. OEMs have called us, they call James all the time. ‘I got this problem here, can you help us?’”