With an influx of first-time buyers and demand for upgrade projects from current owners, the market for VIP airliner refurbishment and MRO services “is hot right now, and we don’t see that tapering off anytime soon,” said Noel Christen, v-p of operations at Citadel Completions (Chalet A10) of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
“You’re seeing lots of new aircraft owners, especially in the narrowbody market, buying up the BBJs and ACJ319s,” he said. “I have three aircraft we’re doing large-scale refurbishments on right now that are for first-time owners.”
This week at MEBAA 2022, Citadel is presenting examples of its work and capabilities in a multimedia display environment hosted by key executives at its chalet. “We are showcasing our talents and accentuating the incredible team that we have for putting together aircraft completions and refurbishments,” said Christen.
The chalet has two private conference rooms for meetings and presentations, and visitors can also take iPad-based “tours” of interiors and don Oculus 3D goggles for virtual cabin walkthroughs. Its virtual demos are complemented by actual fine interior items on display. And, as marketing director Michelle Savoy noted, “It’s a nice space for people to come in from the sun, relax, and have some refreshments.”
Additional Citadel team members at the show this week include the company’s new UAE-based business development director Vanessa Roberts, whose 30 years of experience in the region include positions with Presidential Flight Group and Royal Jet Group; director of MRO sales Paul Kosik; and director of IT Taylor Simpson.
Founded in 2017, Citadel is something of a newcomer to the VIP completions arena. However, the predecessor facility had long experience in aftermarket work on transport category aircraft, while the lineage of Citadel’s ownership—the Adelson and Dumont families—have long ties to the Middle East. Citadel made its aviation world debut at MEBAA 2018 and exhibited at last year’s Dubai Air Show.
Based at Chennault International Airport, which has a 10,700-foot primary runway, Citadel has more than 260,000 sq ft (24,150 sq m) of hangar space, which has been busy over the past year.
“From a topline perspective, this year we did double what we did last year, and we expect even greater growth going into 2023,” Christen said. “We’ve had about 49 projects to date, a good mix of refurbishments and MRO.”
Indications are that the projects included the recent refurbishment of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s Boeing 757. The project made news as it was viewed as a portent of potential campaign activity; reports cited the aircraft’s return-to-service test flights around Lake Charles, Louisiana—home of Citadel Completions—in the third quarter. Queried about the reports, Christen said the project was “tremendously successful,” but when asked to verify that Citadel had performed the work on the Trump aircraft, he said, “I cannot confirm nor deny” the company’s involvement.
For all projects, he said, Citadel applies what it calls “dynamic project management.”
“Quality is our mainstay, and that starts at the onset with project management,” he said, involving timing and coordination of all aspects of the work, “Ensuring that every single thing we do is done with meticulous attention to detail, and everything is accountable.”
Clients are kept closely in the loop throughout the process, able to share project milestones remotely through interactive technology.
Citadel has no green completion projects in its hangar or under its belt to date, but Christen noted the company is a Boeing-authorized completion center for the 777, as well as an authorized Boeing service center, and it was recently named an Airbus authorized service Center and plans to seek Airbus authorized completion center approval.