Rockwell Collins this week is honoring Jet Aviation’s St. Louis facility for being the market leader for installing its new Venue cabin management systems (CMS). The Jet Aviation team in St. Louis has now completed more than 25 Venue installations, earning it the avionics and cabin systems manufacturers crystal award as a “superior performing authorized dealer”—as well as lunch served to all 600 staff by a fleet of food trucks.
Refitting aircraft with the latest cabin entertainment and communications technology is a growing part of the business plan at Jet Aviation St. Louis, but it’s not all the company does to earn a living these days. With demand for green aircraft completions still somewhat subdued, the operation has been diversifying into an ever-widening array of refurbishment, maintenance, repair and overhaul work.
A classic example of this resourcefulness involved a 120-month inspection for a Bombardier Global 5000. The customer decided to take advantage of the relatively long downtime for this highly invasive process and so opted to have an extensive package of refurbishment installed, including a new CMS. In fact, the job was so extensive that it came to be described as “a recompletion.”
The aircraft’s new interior has an Art Deco feel, according to modifications sales and design representative Donna Cruthis. The carpet is made of a custom silk and wool blend and other aspects of the top-to-tail refurbishment included the following elements: replating hardware; new inlays for window linings and table tops; new granite countertops with real crystals; fully re-veneered, restained cabinetry; new seats with touchpad controls; a new galley; a full insulation package; and a completely new paint job. The cabin also now has the Venue CMS with iPad interfaces and SwiftBroadband connectivity with Satcom Direct’s SDR Router and Global VT service.
According to senior vice president and general manager Chuck Krugh, a key differentiator for Jet Aviation in what remains a highly competitive market place is that has all the key skills to complete complex tasks. “We offload very little work [to sub-contractors],” he told AIN. “We can handle every aspect of the interior work. We have a cabinet shop, we can do upholstery in house, we have our own design studio, plus painting capability and our avionics sales team can talk in depth about requirements. Our philosophy has always been to do everything ourselves to control quality and pricing.”
Jet Aviation (Booth 259) recently delivered a Global 6000 that underwent an overhaul and refurbishment and it has now booked in a similar job for an Australian operator of the same model. “We’re getting a steady tick of new work on the refurbishment side and we expect to see more contracts signed after the [U.S.] election. This has been a fairly good year, but we expect better in 2017,” said Krugh. “To some extent, the demand on this side reflects the state of the pre-owned market. Some owners can’t sell, or they want to keep their aircraft for longer, and so want to improve it. In other cases, there are savvy investors who are keen on buying aircraft of a certain size and price and then putting some money into it.”
By contrast, core maintenance, repair and overhaul activity is relatively flat. “Aircraft utilization is steady at best and this combined with over-capacity makes it a hard market, including the fact that some smaller facilities are trying to move up, in terms of the level of aircraft they work on,” Krugh stated. Jet Aviation has sought to set itself apart from low-price rivals by placing a strong emphasis on customer relations and having highly trained personnel. It is one of a relatively few facilities that has an open hangar policy, allowing customers to see their work being done and talk directly with those doing it.
In late May, the facility earned the Diamond Award for Excellence in the FAA’s Aviation Maintenance Technician program. To win the award for the fourth consecutive year, all eligible technicians completed more than 2,700 hours to cover the FAA’s latest training requirements.
In addition to the Global family, Jet Aviation St. Louis also works on all current Gulfstream models, as well as Embraer’s Legacy and Lineage jets, as well as Boeing Business Jets and Hawkers. It holds authorized service center status with Embraer and Gulfstream. As of early October, the facility had handled around 300 maintenance jobs in 2016.
With the support of its Swiss-based parent, the company has also had some success at attracting European customers to cross the Atlantic to have their aircraft worked on in the U.S. It recently signed up a new Russian customer, for instance.
The Jet Aviation St Louis partnership with Rockwell Collins also extends to the supplemental type certificate that it developed for the manufacturer’s Future Airspace Navigation System solution for the Bombardier Challenger family of aircraft. It has conducted more than 35 FANS installations to date.
The versatile modification specialist also has been stepping up its work in installing Ka-band satellite communications equipment, including Honeywell’s JetWave solution. “We’re looking at several other possible opportunities and should have more to say about this next year,” Krugh concluded.