L-3 Wins Two 747-8 Completion Contracts

 - August 1, 2012, 4:05 AM
An elevator designed and fabricated by L-3 Platform Integration is unique in that it includes a stop in the baggage bay.

L-3 Platform Integration, one of the premier cabin outfitters of widebody bizliners, had “a great year” last year, and with contracts in hand to do the interior completion on two new Boeing 747-8s, this year and beyond look bright as well.

Ken McAlpin, v-p of head-of-state programs at the Waco, Texas-based center, pointed out that the shop has done green completion and major refurbishment work on no fewer than a dozen widebody airliner conversions in its 40-year history.

L-3 has already ordered a cabin environment package from Swedish supplier CTT Systems for both of the 747-8s. CTT’s Cair system bumps up cabin relative humidity to about 20 percent without causing condensation. The system also “effectively precludes the transfer of bacteria within the aircraft,” said a representative of the Nykoping-based cabin environment specialist.

In addition, L-3 is one of only two completion centers to have designed and engineered an elevator to carry passengers between the 747 main deck and the ground. The L-3 elevator will also have a stop at the cargo deck.

787 Composite Fuselage Presents a Special Challenge

L-3 is also looking forward to the challenges presented by Boeing’s new 787, and McAlpin said the company is in discussions with some owners.

But he points out that with its composite fuselage the 787 will present some unique challenges for those outfitting the big twinjet.

For example, the hard composite materials are much more effective acoustic conductors than aluminum, and special attention must be paid to reducing cabin noise. The composite hull also responds differently from the way an aluminum hull reacts to the extreme cold of higher altitudes. In total, approximately 50 percent of the materials in the 787 are composites, requiring special tooling and special training for those involved, from design to installation.

“We’ve spent a substantial amount to ensure we are ready to deal with it,” said McAlpin, “and we’ve been spending a lot of time with Boeing.”

L-3 Considers Expansion

While L-3’s main center is in Waco, the company has been considering some other L-3 sites to support completion and refurbishment work on narrow-body bizliners, such as the Airbus ACJ and Boeing BBJ series. Among them are one in Tulsa, Okla., and another in Canada.

“We were the first company to do an ACJ320 interior and Airbus has expressed interest in us as a resource,” said McAlpin. “We’re open to getting formal Airbus approval for its ACJ green completions, but we want to build our business intelligently. If you’re honest, a commitment to one customer might mean turning down another. It’s a matter of capacity and flow, not simply capability.”

An area in which L-3 has some experience not typical of other completion centers is producing and installing an Aircraft Threat Countermeasures Solution, “a proven missile warning system that provides exportable anti-missile protection against shoulder-mounted launchers and can be retrofitted to any transport-category or business aircraft.”

McAlpin noted that to date L-3 has installed about a half-dozen such systems in civil and head-of-state aircraft “and hundreds on military aircraft.” He declined to comment when asked if these latest 747-8 head-of-state aircraft outfitting contracts call for a countermeasures system.

The widebody hangars in Waco are cleared now in anticipation of the arrivals of the first 747-8s for completion in October and November. The rapid succession of delivery of 747-8s to L-3 is due to Boeing’s production schedule and McAlpin pointed out that even though Boeing’s schedule called for delivery of the two airplanes barely a month apart, they are about six months apart in terms of the overall completion process when design, engineering and supply-chain setup are taken into consideration.

L-3 expects to have 400 to 500 workers busy by the time the first 747-8 outfitting is well under way, “and we may move to a healthy second shift,” said McAlpin.

“We have the two [747-8s] airplanes well spaced, and I expect 2012 and 2013 will be just as busy as 2011 was,” he concluded.