Aviation Technology - Page 3 Aviation Articles

Recurring Thoughts

I have done some reflection on the past year. This was fueled by several conversations and sessions during the recent NBAA convention in Orlando. It has been supported by some of the consulting work I've done this year as well. I come to several recurring themes. I think all combined, they can help business aviation tell, and sell, our story.

Learn the language of business.We need to understand the languages of business as well as aviation.  Acronyms and jargon shorten the conversation for "insiders" but serve to confuse and exclude those not in the group. Aviation leaders  need to be bilingual in understanding the language and needs of aviation and business. An example of this is building the case to replace your aircraft. You need to explain the value of the new aircraft to the business in terms of being more effective and safe at accomplishing the mission. You better brush up on Net Present Value when talking to the CFO about the costs, too.

Run the aviation department like a business.The business aircraft adds value to the effectiveness of those who fly on it.  Your customers are the passengers and the product is the transportation. You are responsible to the shareholders (CEO, Board, etc). You know you need to develop a budget.  Use it like a "profit & loss."  The profit is the increased effectiveness and flexibility the aircraft provides. Take care of your people and look for ways to do a better job with the assets at your disposal. Develop meaningful metrics that tie into the effectiveness and efficiency of using the aircraft. Track and report them.

First, define and agree on the assumptions.This is for both developing a budget and for discussing options for the aviation department. Before you submit your budget, first have the discussion with the users and financial team about what they expect. If the users need 700 flight hours and expect simultaneous aircraft available one or two days per week, then get that agreement up front. Then you can provide the budget necessary to accomplish that mission. You can't do that with one aircraft and two pilots. If your flying is increasing, then it is reasonable to expect that your budget will, too. If the priority is that your budget must be reduced by 15%, then users need to understand how that affects your ability to deliver. If your budget is based on $3.50 per gallon fuel, what happens if fuel costs go up next year? This works for the mission as well.  If we agree that non-stop range with four passengers must be 2,300 NM, that will set up a set of requirements for the aircraft specifications. By agreeing on the assumptions, the discussion then becomes what resources are necessary to meet the obligations.

Use data, not opinions.If you need additional staffing, it can't be based on a feeling.  Likewise, justifying replacing your current aircraft needs to be supported by data. Gather your facts and be prepared to develop and explain the logic used.   If your assumptions are agreed to up front, and your recommendation is fact-based, then the discussion can be handled with reason.  When I consult with individuals and companies about their aircraft, I keep everything fact based. The  person signing the check can use emotion in the aircraft decision, but not me.

Listen actively.

Active listening is a communication technique that requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond and then remember what is being said.  Two tips for you. Remember what mom said, "Look at me when I'm talking to you." Mom was right. No checking your email or multitasking of any kind. It does not work. Maintaining eye contact in a conversation tells the other person that they are important as well as is what they have to say. The second tip is to suspend judgment while you listen. Many of us start  forming our reply while the other person is talking. Talk the time to concentrate on what is being said and how the person is saying it. So often we jump to the conclusion before someone is finished talking and miss their point entirely. Think of listening like a checklist, you take each step in order and confirm that it was accomplished. 

Business aircraft are productive and efficient tools. Their main value is in enabling the face to face communication we humans need in order to understand and be understood. All the above can help us be better in justifying, selling, and communicating the value aircraft add to a business. 

 

I Toured the UPS Worldport and it Changed my Life

One of the major perks of attending the only flight university in Kentucky is that we have a great relationship with UPS. Seeing as their worldwide air hub is located about an hour and a half down the road, it only makes sense that a partnership was created and has been growing for several years now.

I consider myself a Kentucky girl and anyone from here knows what a huge deal UPS is for our state. Most of the pilots who are training at EKU that are originally from Kentucky started their piloting education because UPS inspired them. It is hard to miss a giant Airbus, MD-11, or Boeing 747 flying through the air on any given day in UPS livery.

They allow a group of students from EKU Aviation to come tour once a year. Getting into the Worldport was a big deal. We each had to provide personal information so that they knew exactly who was on the premises at what time. Our tour began at 10:00 PM on a Friday night and lasted until 3:00 AM because they wanted us to be there during their "rush hour," so we could see everything in action.

We met our point of contact and tour guide in the parking lot and he ushered us into the building that was clearly designed for touring groups. Large dramatic photos depicting their fleet and operations hung from the walls and a screen showed a live feed of where all of their planes were currently positioned. The first impression that this place gives off is awe-inspiring. We all checked in and filed into the next room where they had models of all of their aircraft types. Our guide gave us a quick overview of the planes and their capacities. Our group knew a little bit more about airplanes than a typical group would so he told us some mechanical facts too.

You could tell that the people who were in charge of public relations were the best of the best. They were courteous, friendly, professional, and seemed to really love their jobs. Their enthusiasm for sharing the UPS Worldport with us was amazing and they continually encouraged us to someday join their company as pilots or employees in another capacity. This was a huge deal for most everyone on the tour, who has an end-goal of flying for UPS.

They showed us a video presentation about their production capacity and it literally gave me chills. They have the capacity to process 416,000 packages per hour, and process an average of 1.6 million packages a day. They turn over approximately 130 aircraft daily, and they keep 2.5 million gallons of fuel on site. During their peak season they will use all of that fuel during one 4-hour period. These are just a few of the quick facts that they presented on the video.

After the video we split the group in half, and one half went to tour the Worldport while the other half went to fly the simulators. I ended up being in the group that did the simulators first, and it was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in aviation yet. They took us to the training building and we got to fly in the Airbus A300. All five of us fit comfortably in the simulator because it was as large as a room. There was the part for the pilot and co-pilot, a large chair with controls on it for the simulator operator, and two jump seats in the back for observers.

The simulator was full motion so everyone could feel every control input. I flew in the captain seat first and he guided me on how to takeoff, fly to some headings and eventually fly an ILS down to the runway. It was so amazing applying everything I have learned from my training thus far to try to understand the complex systems of the A300. Just as my experience from flying a RJ simulator a few years back taught me, using the trim was extremely helpful and necessary for flying this beast.

After we flew in the simulators the instructors offered to write the time in our logbooks. I am so happy to say that I now have actual simulator time logged flying the A300! We thanked our instructors and headed off to the maintenance hangar. They had the 747 and an A300 sitting in this maintenance hangar that appeared to go on forever. We did a walk around of the A300 and they pointed out a few interesting features. The one that fascinated me the most was the large red dot that was located under the tail. Our guide told us that during the preflight inspection, pilots look to see if any of the paint on this red dot was scraped off. If it was, the previous flight had a tail strike!

From here we went out to the actual ramp and road around in a tour bus to see different phases of the operation. With a steady stream of flights coming in as our background, we saw employees unloading the giant containers of packages and transporting them to the package sorting area. They stopped the tour bus where we had a perfect view of the active runway. UPS planes were landing every two minutes, touching down only a few yards away from where we were. It was so fast and high-energy that we could not help but stare in awe for as long as they would let us stay.

Our tour of this side of the Worlport ended with us walking around the package sorting area. This particular part of the premises has been on television specials such as Modern Marvels, Ultimate Factories, and many more to showcase how it is the number one most efficient factory of its type in the world. I could write an entire article just about this place. It boasts over 100 miles of conveyer belts and takes up an area equal to more than 90 football fields. There was so much going on that it made my head spin. They have truly perfected the monumental task of sorting and tracking thousands of packages every minute.

We got back in our bus and headed to the Global Operation Center (GOC) across the road. This building contains offices for crew scheduling, flight dispatch, maintenance control, contingency functions, and their meteorology department. The operations here control every UPS flight worldwide. It was amazing how every department was situated in the same room, so that if something were to happen in flight dispatch that needed assistance from crew scheduling, they only had to walk a few feet away and talk to the person in charge of that department. Perhaps most importantly, they have an entire meteorology department located about 10 feet away from the flight dispatchers.

They gave us a briefing on each of the functions of the departments and allowed us into the main room after an intense security screening. The lights were very dim so that employees would keep their voices down and have an easier time focusing. There was no photography allowed at this point of the tour and it was a very serious environment. The safe and successful operation of their entire fleet was dependent on the people in this room so it gave us all a bit of a tense feeling.

Although it was almost 3:00 AM at this point, I was wide-awake from all of the amazing things I had seen during our tour. UPS is truly one of the most advanced and efficient companies in the world. I was continually blown away by their innovation and professionalism in all aspects of their operations. I hope that some day I am able to work for UPS, or any company of such high caliber. It truly changed the way that I see possibilities for the future and what a passionate group of hard workers are capable of achieving.

Does your aircraft make "cents"?

It used to be that the choice of what business aircraft to acquire was a decision made by the CEO and the Chief Pilot. The boss said "I want this aircraft" and the pilot either got it or tried to dissuade the boss for reasons of speed, cabin or range. Today, opportunities to use business aircraft are sufficient only if the numbers make sense, and make "cents."

Some years ago I did a study for a manufacturer who was expanding from the Americas into Asia, particularly China.  They already had a larger-cabin business jet, but the senior leaders were considering a much larger airplane with global range to better meet their expanded travel needs. The CEO and Senior VP were clear on what they needed—the  ability to go global.

The CFO was just as clear on what he needed—financial justification. There was no way would he stand for a what he called "A Royal Barge."  In other words,  the aircraft had to earn its keep, or he would recommend the board veto it. This is exactly why you hire a CFO. It is their job to make sure every dollar gets spent wisely.  Our goal then was to recommend an aircraft upgrade that could handle the global travel of the CFO and SVP, both as flying-office and as restful-space, so that these rainmakers could do business right after landing. But since, the the CFO and board were not going to write a blank check, we needed the financial justification for the global jet.

Going from the corporate headquarters to to Asia was two-stops with the aircraft available at the time. One-stop to Asia was technically feasible but only if the weather was perfect and the headwinds were light. Our analyses identified two sets of aircraft.  A 4,100 NM range aircraft  could get them to or from Asia with one-stop 95% of the time. A 6,000 NM range gave them the desirable non-stop capability. Aircraft in these categories all have comfortable cabins with the latest navigation and communication systems. The seats could fully recline allowing for the executive to rest, if necessary. The galley could prepare the meals needed to fuel people for a 10 to 14-hour trip.  The financial differences that had to be addressed were:

 

  • Any new aircraft would cost more to acquire than the sunk investment in their current, smaller business jet.
  • Operating costs would go up with a bigger jet. However, given the newer aircraft's more fuel efficient engines and advanced systems, the cost jump was minimal.
  • Acquisition had to make sense financially.

 

We were able to show the added days in the office and the business jet’s more productive travel environment en-route were valuable to the company. The reduced travel time and more restful experience en route was seen as significant by the CFO. The saved travel days, the productive work environment on the business jet, and the secure work environment were good financial reasons for the new aircraft. Still, the question remained— do they obtain the 4,100 NM jet or the 6,000 NM jet? 

Looking at the Asia trips, we compared the added costs to acquire and operate the larger jet with its 6,100nm range with the cost of the fuel stops and added travel time of the 4,100 NM jet. We looked at the difference in the ownership costs - acquisition and residual value after 10 years in this case.  Based on the trip frequency, we arrived at a cost savings of about $600,000 per year by accepting the one-hour fuel stop needed with the 4,100 NM jet on Asian trips. The CFO was not sold on the 6,100 NM aircraft as adding that much more value. The flight department, CEO and Senior VP were satisfied with the 4,100 NM jet, which is the aircraft they purchased.

Given the frequency of their Asia trips, the 6,000 NM jet was not financially justifiable.  Operationally, the flight department favored the shorter stage lengths with a break, even with the added crew member.  For this company, the numbers made send for the 4,100 NM jet. For another company with higher trip frequencies or greater passenger loads, the 6,000 NM jet would make better sense. In all cases, you have to look at the costs and the benefits to do what makes "cents" financially within the parameters of the mission requirements. 

 

Will You Pay More in the End?

By Adam Doyle – Paint and Interior Sales Manager
Elliott Aviation

Customers should shop around for the best deals, best customer service, and best quality of work. Sometimes when a customer has a particular need, they try to look for the specialty shop that does just that one thing instead of a shop were they execute more than one discipline. On certain products that may work, although when it comes to repainting an aircraft or getting an updated look to the interior, customers may see these people as experts since they focus solely on one discipline; the inverse, in fact, is true. Let’s take a look at some situations that would call for a one-stop shop compared to a single trade shop.

Elliott Paint PAINT

A quality paint job should last at least six years but can sometimes last longer. We recommend that customers look at paint as a maintenance event. Even if you don’t think you need new paint in six years, you should seriously consider it because paint is the first line of defense and you never know if there is corrosion underneath until you strip the paint completely. We have all heard stories about paint shops where it’s one guy and a paint gun on unfinished floors, not to mention zero controlled atmospheric conditions and absolutely no dedication to quality procedures. This example may be extreme, but there are qualities to look for in a paint shop while there are others you will want to avoid.

You want a facility that is adequately staffed to address an issue if something goes awry in the process. Items like flight controls and other critical elements to an aircraft, for example, can follow strict guidelines that may require maintenance manuals. If the shop where you take your aircraft does not have the manuals because they don’t generally deal with this type of aircraft, this could compromise the customer’s service. Paint that has been on an aircraft for years may be hiding some issues and, once you strip it, there is no going back and those issues must be dealt with.

When searching for a paint facility, look for one that will provide quality work and technicians who will pay attention to the details so that the aircraft is safe and will have a paint job that will withstand the years. Paying a little more now for a quality paint job that will last for many years, will, in the long run, save money because there wouldn’t be further downtime or paying for paint again in just a couple of years. Find a facility with a clean booth because even a speck of dusk landing in the paint can cause problems. As we stated, paint is the first line of defense and, when flying and changing altitudes, pressures and climate conditions at 500 miles an hour, the paint should hold up and not have any reason to crack.

If the aircraft is within a warranty period and the scope of work failed, understanding when and where the aircraft will be repaired along with verification of the warranty and knowing who exactly will be paying for it can be a cause of concern. Look for companies who will provide that information in the original contract. In some circumstances, a company that wants a satisfied customer who will return when work is needed will most likely make exceptions and see that the issues are resolved in a timely manner. If these paint and interior only shops do not have the adequate equipment and manpower or even the proper manuals for the specific airframe, it may potentially cost more downtime and more money out of pocket.

Quality takes time and a good facility is likely to be booked weeks in advance, which means it will be extremely difficult to take drop-ins. Planning ahead is the best option when needing quality work done.

INTERIOR

A quality shop understands it is more than just finishing and moving on to the next project. It is about knowing the product and its limitations. For example, how a part is prepped can make all the difference. Does the panel need to hold its flexibility or can we repair it to be more rigid? Is there a certain way to seam a panel or a seat to extend the wear and longevity of the panel or seat? That is precisely what a customer should look for in a shop: some place that is going to take the time to look at each section of the interior and determine how to make it last longer to increase the value they are putting into the aircraft.

When prep work is not done properly, the materials will not wear as well as they should. If you are unsure about the origin of the work or the quality a particular shop provides, beware of an aircraft advertised with "new interior." Some shops just re-dye seats and use pre-cut carpet kits that may not fit well and show loose surging/threads, possibly unfinished edges and those solutions won’t hold up as well. It will have the new carpet and new leather smell but time will tell how long either will stand. Some shops take shortcuts; for instance when seats are re-dyed and not done properly, they can become sticky and even pull layers of dye off when conditions are right.

While refurbishing an aircraft, a quality facility should have the solutions to every detail, no matter how small. For instance, if doing partial refurbishment, will all the hardware match? Will they make sure there is a full set of throw rugs? Will the shop go above and beyond to create an excellent customer experience? Even the smallest of things will go a long way.

It may seem complicated but we have said this time and time again when doing an interior refurbishment; even a small change to an aircraft interior can affect a lot more than you think. Find a shop that focuses on the smallest of details, one that takes the time to really look at an aircraft to figure out what is best for that specific aircraft and airframe.

Having a facility that can handle any issues that arise, mechanical or otherwise is critical when repainting or refurbishing an aircraft. A shop with one trade may not be capable to handling issues that arise that aren’t in their field. Also keep in mind a facility that can do everything will have adequate "specialists" already on hand for each specific situation. Quality work that will lasts over time will pay for itself in the long run.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation, Adam has earned many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.

The 400E Program

By Meghan Welch – Interior Sales and Design Manager
Elliott Aviation

The 400E program is the next generation Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP upgrade. The program is a full Beechjet 400A/Hawker 400XP refurbishment including Garmin G5000 avionics with Lumatech LED master warning panel, Gogo WiFi with Gogo Vision (On-Demand-Movies), innovative exterior full paint design and a completely redesigned weight saving interior.

The Idea

As an Authorized Service Center with many Beechjet/Hawker 400XP customers, we have heard from various operators asking for an affordable update to their aircraft that also increases useful load. They also were in need of more headroom for their passengers along with entertainment options. Lastly, operators needed an avionics update to fulfill the 2020 ADS-B mandates. After much research, the 400E provides Beechjet/Hawker 400XP operators exactly what they were looking for.

Weight Saving Interior and Improved Functionality

The 400E program offers a completely redesigned interior that includes USB charging ports, redesigned cabinetry and variable color LED upwash and downwash cabin lighting all controlled through a mobile app. The newly designed shell kit is complete with a recessed headliner. The new shell kit creates a welcoming and more-open feel in the cabin with more headroom. The 400E program includes a redesigned arm ledge with LED accent lighting in the PSU’s, drink holders, window reveals, and toe-kick lighting. The electric window shades create the ease of light and comfort into the cabin. The variable LED lights add a multitude of atmospheres the user can create from a relaxing environment, to a cabin conference center, to a place to enjoy.

Other interior features include Gogo WiFi with Gogo Vision (On-Demand-Movies), allowing passengers the comfort of knowing they can have the option to continue their work while in flight or to kick back, relax and watch a movie or surf the web.

The Elliott team looked extensively into the weight savings options. By redesigning the forward baggage cabinet, we were able to use what was once unusable space. The redesign now allows useful storage and amenities while gaining a prep/serving area. With newly fabricated cabinetry, the team was able to lighten the front end.

Garmin G5000 Avionics

The Garmin G5000 avionics system is the latest system upgrade for Beechjet 400A and Hawker 400XP. With the new Garmin G5000 avionics system, there will not be a need for CASP or high yearly avionics maintenance cost. The system meets all ADS-B 2020 mandates and includes WAAS/LPV. Not only will it cut maintenance cost, but the system comes with touchscreen controls, synthetic vision, new LED displays, autopilot and XM weather. Lastly, the G5000 will cut weight of the aircraft as well.

The 400E program will allow Beechjet 400A and Hawker 400XP operators an affordable way to upgrade and will allow an increased usable payload, increased aircraft value, and increased comfort and interactive experience for passengers. After Elliott Aviation did the research, we are able to give Beechjet/Hawker 400XP operators what they asked for.

A completed Elliott Jets owned 400E will be available for viewing at the indoor static location of the annual NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition November 17th-19th in Las Vegas, NV.

Meghan Welch joined Elliott Aviation in 1998 as an Aircraft Sales Assistant and later helped build the paint and interior sales and design department in 2003. In 2007, she helped create the Design Center and was promoted to Interior Sales and Design Manager in 2015. Meghan has been successful in building a solid relationship with worldwide customers to personalize the interior of their aircraft to meet the customer’s functionality and style. Meghan has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration with a focus on Marketing and Finance from Augustana College.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA).

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