Sabena Technics Looking For Middle East Completions

 - December 11, 2012, 10:00 AM

Sabena Technics (Stand 619) is promoting its capabilities in VIP aircraft completion and refurbishment, as company officials see the Middle East as a fertile region for its business. The company, whose parent TAT Group is based in Tours, France, also is engaged in aircraft leasing and real estate businesses. It plans to open a showroom in Bordeaux, France, where customers can plan their interiors.

“We have three aircraft in the works,” Jean-Luc Fournel, COO, customers, told AIN. Two of them are Airbus ACJ319s, while the third is a Boeing BBJ. The three narrowbodies will be operated by charter operators based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Next in line for a similar application in the same region will be an ATR 42-600 turboprop.

Sabena Technics’ Bordeaux VIP cabin interior facilities are involved in both completion and refurbishing. The aforementioned BBJ, for example, is 10 years old and is having its interior renewed, and in-flight entertainment and communications equipment fitted. Sabena Technics’ first project was high profile–the French government’s Airbus A330, which is still nicknamed Air Sarko One even though François Hollande has since replaced Nicolas Sarkozy as the country’s president. The A330, formerly a passenger airliner, was delivered in November 2010.

At the Bordeaux facility, 130 employees work in VIP completions, including 80 in the design and certification office. Design activities are on the technical side, as Sabena Technics has no in-house VIP cabin designer. However, as Fournel pointed out, the company benefits from a network of local experts also used by southwest France-based business and VIP aircraft manufacturers, led by Airbus and Dassault Falcon.

All this gives a capacity of “one widebody and two narrowbodies per year,” said Fournel. The actual output is still below that, he added, as “the market has not been very active.”

The company has seen a strong trend in customer demand for cabin electronics. “Passengers want to use their iPads with an on-board Wi-Fi that is hooked up to a satellite data link; they also want live TV,” he said. While tablets, wireless Internet and TVs can be seen as plug-and-play equipment on the ground, installation is tricky on aircraft. For example, “the antenna’s location should be chosen so the signal is not lost when the aircraft turns,” Fournel said.

Another of the company’s strong points, he continued, is its ability to provide maintenance support for the aircraft it has outfitted. Sabena Technics now plans to create a showroom in Bordeaux to highlight its capabilities. “We will be able to show customers choices of materials, equipment and so forth,” Fournel explained.