StandardAero’s Associated Air Center signed its first Boeing 747-8 VVIP completion contract last month. The client is from the Middle East. The aircraft was scheduled to arrive at Associated’s Dallas completion center during the time frame of the NBAA convention, and the completion is expected to last 36 months.
Associated general manager Chris Schechter said the 747-8 is to be equipped with a Greenpoint Technologies Aeroloft second-story module over the aft fuselage and a through-the-fuselage elevator, from an unnamed manufacturer, that extends down to the tarmac. Installation of the elevator will add approximately 12 months to the average widebody completion time of 18 to 24 months.
While most details of the aircraft layout remain confidential, Schechter did say it would feature VIP seating for 100 in both traditional first-class and lie-flat “cocoons,” three galleys, 3-D digital entertainment with large monitors and a dedicated VVIP area for the principal, including a private bedroom and reception area.
The Aeroloft module will be used for an extended luxury crew rest area and be configured with eight small bedrooms and a shared changing room. The aircraft will also be fitted with advanced environmental controls, including an air-humidification system, extra water tanks, all the latest dual redundant satcom–notably, Ku band broadband Internet–and “best-in-class” design and style with the help of some high-end designers brought into the project to augment Associated’s recently upgraded internal design capabilities.
Negotiations for the completion began early this year. Schechter said the contract would require the addition of 30 to 35 percent more employees, but would not force Associated to expand into any new core competencies. “It’s a big expansion of our capacity, but it is a fairly gradual expansion,” he said. “Right now we have just under 400 employees and we will probably expand to 500.”
Schechter said the elevator installation is the most challenging part of the completion. This will be the first to-the-tarmac elevator installation in a 747. It will lift up to four people or one person in a wheelchair with an attendant. “That adds a substantial amount of time because that involves a lot of structures work and engineering work,” he said. He also anticipates that the engines that arrive on the green aircraft will be swapped with newer engines that offer increased performance via service bulletin during the completion process. This is Associated’s fifth 747 and eighth widebody aircraft. The company has completed 81 narrowbody/single-aisle aircraft.
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 is finishing an Airbus A330. The company can accommodate two simultaneous widebody completions in its Dallas hangars. “Obviously, they need to be staggered; we can’t have them peak at the same time,” Schechter said. “We’re very careful at predicting our manpower requirements by manpower skill set, by month and by aircraft, and not overbook ourselves,” he said, acknowledging that this has been an industry-wide problem in the past.