Avcon Strengthens ISR Work with New Aircraft, Expansion

 - June 17, 2022, 4:03 PM
Avcon ISR officials are expecting the Learjet 60 to be the next preferred target towing aircraft and as such, an ideal platform for hardpoints. (Photo: Avcon ISR Solutions)

Newton, Kansas-based business aircraft modification specialist Avcon ISR Solutions has undertaken a rebranding, expansion, and new platforms as it looks to increase its foothold in the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) market. Previously known as Avcon Industries, the company’s mainstay has been the Beechcraft King Air series for special-mission applications.

In fact, earlier this year the company received supplemental type certificates (STC) for the installation of wing-mounted inboard and outboard hard points on the King Air. They are available along with an optional satcom radome on the King Air 200, B200, 300, and 350.

At the same time, Avcon has expanded the aircraft platforms on which it offers its special-mission modifications, including developing and receiving FAA STCs for fuselage sensor ports and a camera hole on the Cessna 208 Caravan and 208B Grand Caravan. More recently, it developed hard points for underwing sensors, pods, and a target-reeling machine for towing targets on the Bombardier Learjet 60.

Avcon is particularly bullish on the prospects for the Learjet 60 hardpoints. For many years, the company modified the Learjet 35 with internal hardpoints and underwing hardpoints for towing targets as well as the carriage of stores or pylons.

“Those aircraft are aging, obviously, and a lot of the customers are looking for that next better airplane,” Avcon president Marcus Abendroth told AIN. “And the Lear 60 just happened to be a great fit for that modification. We just basically have brought the Lear 60 to the same type of role and operation the Lear 35 has been doing for 30-plus years.”

Abendroth added that the Learjet 60 hardpoints are seen as a long-term product for Avcon. “We are hedging that the Lear 60 is going to be the next tow target aircraft in replacement of the Lear 35,” he said. “That’s the feedback that we are getting from customers.”

Avcon customer Air Affairs Australia purchased two Learjet 60s, one of which was used for the development of the hardpoints STC. Chris Sievers, Air Affairs CEO, said his company committed to hardpoints on the Learjet 60 “to address a need in the future market.”

Development of the Learjet 60 hardpoints STC took about 18 months, including a flight-test program that Abendroth—who did the flight testing alongside an FAA DER test pilot—described as “probably 75 percent of what you do when you certify a new airplane.”

With the addition of the Learjet 60, Caravan, and expanded King Air work, he said the 45-employee company needed more space, which is why Avcon purchased an existing 12,000-sq-ft hangar at Newton City/County Airport, where it already operates from four buildings, including two major modification hangars. That will solve its space requirements for at least the short-term, he said.

“A lot of customers are coming for the custom engineering on the ISR aspect,” added Chris Reedy, executive v-p at Avcon parent company Butler National. “We have picked a niche where we seem to be finding quite a bit of success.”    z