Revue Thommen outlines plans for business aviation

 - November 30, 2006, 6:29 AM

Following a management buyout of its avionics division last year, Swiss manufacturer Revue Thommen decided to seek business in new markets more aggressively than in the past. With that in mind, the company opened a facility in Addison, Texas, near Dallas, in January. One of the functions of the new office, headed by avionics veteran Ken Paul, is to serve the large aftermarket of executive aircraft that have been in service more than 20 years.

As part of the same strategy, Revue Thommen (Booth No. 233) has appointed InstrumentTech, also based at Addison, as its official U.S. service center. The Swiss company records annual sales of approximately $25 million with a staff of 100. The share of the U.S. market in its turnover is currently a relatively low 22 percent.

Founded as a watchmaker in 1853, Revue Thommen entered the world of aviation in 1920, producing a clock for flight decks; then, in 1936 it created mechanical aircraft instruments for the Swiss air force. Today, its products encompass both mechanical and electronic flight instruments, including speed indicators, altimeters, vertical speed indicators, clocks and chronographs, air data displays and air data computers.

Revue Thommen claims to be one of the last global sources for high-quality mechanical instruments, including those used on older executive jets and turboprop airplanes. “This market is of little interest to large avionics producers that sell flight deck equipment for half-a-million dollars or more per aircraft, but for a smaller company like us, it is good business,” said sales and marketing director Rudolf Iten.
The company can easily find manpower to produce its mechanical instruments because it can tap the Swiss job market for experienced watchmakers with exactly the skills required. For the aftermarket, Revue Thommen produces flight instruments closely resembling those from Bendix/King, Rockwell Collins or Smiths that they will replace. Those installations still require STCs, but because the new instruments are so closely configured to the original, it generally is an easy, low-cost process. Its mechanical two- and three-inch standby altimeters, horizontal and vertical speed indicators are part of the original equipment of many types of executive jets, airliners, military transports and fighters.

Mechanical instruments also remain in demand for helicopters which operate at low flight levels where electronic indicators can be effected by strong electric induction fields such as those produced by ground transmitter antennas, power lines and other installations using heavy electric currents. Revue Thommen supplies mechanical flight instruments to major helicopter manufacturers, including Eurocopter.

The demand for Revue Thommen’s line of mechanical flight instruments is such that it produced more of these last year than ever before. In fact, they account for some 65 percent of the company’s sales.

Digital Instruments

Revue Thommen also produces digital versions of its basic instruments, as well as Mach meters, encoding altimeters, air data displays and air data computers for new aircraft and retrofits. Last November its standby altimeter and airspeed indicator units were selected as standard equipment for the Sino Swearingen SJ30-2.

The company’s AD32 digital air data display, available in several configurations and with various options, has found a niche in the retrofit market satisfying the reduced vertical separation minimum requirement.

Revue Thommen supplies the AD32 to holders of STCs for RVSM installations, such as AeroMech of Everett, Washington, which is retrofitting the Raytheon Beechjet 400, Mitsubishi MU-300, Cessna Citation 650 and other Citations, and Bombardier’s Learjet 30 series.

Raytheon, itself, uses the AD32 for RVSM retrofits on its Beechcraft King Air twin turboprops.

Several companies hold STCs for RVSM retrofits employing equipment based on the AD32. Among them is Elliott Aviation of Moline, Illinois, which offers an AD32-based retrofit for the King Air series. Other AD32-based retrofits are available for the Cessna Conquest, Piper Cheyenne 400 and the Sabreliner.

Another retrofit application of the AD32 air data display is on the King Air C90, where it replaces the obsolete indicator display control (IDC) unit. Overhauling the out-of-production IDC would cost about half the price of installing a new AD32, according to Revue Thommen. A complete retrofit of the C90’s electronic flight instrumentation system could hardly be justified as it would cost about half the aircraft’s value.

Revue Thommen’s digital components are also widely used in terrain awareness and warning systems, including in Honeywell’s enhanced ground proximity warning system.

Looking to the future, Revue Thommen is working with helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland to develop a new generation of flight decks based on the Arinc 429 databus. Last summer, it started delivering electronic encoding altimeters for the Agusta A109 Power.