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Thursday, September 1, 2005

News - PAMA, SAE Form Affiliation

On August 1, the Professional Aviation Maintenance Association formally affiliated with SAE International (the Society of Automotive Engineers). By November 1, all of PAMA's 3,000 members will become members of SAE. PAMA will retain its own board of directors and all PAMA chapters will continue as independent entities, PAMA president Brian Finnegan is now a managing director employed by SAE International.

Reasons for the affiliation include the need to provide more value for PAMA members and more financial stability for PAMA. The affiliation did not involve any financial exchange; neither PAMA nor SAE paid any money to each other. But as PAMA transitions to the SAE administrative infrastructure during the rest of 2005, it will save money by not having to pay for its own administrative personnel who currently work for a management company under contract to PAMA.

One of PAMA's biggest problems has been growing its membership rolls. "PAMA has always been good at getting new members," said Finnegan, "but has had a hard time retaining them. We lose about 40 percent of our members each year. If we can get our retention rate up, we're going to grow 30 percent a year. We should see a wholesale increase in membership during the next five years."

Finnegan and the PAMA board believe the the affiliation with SAE is a perfect fit. "Our industry has moved to concurrent engineering and maintenance," he explained. "What we're doing is following along with SAE's committment to total product lifecycle." The SAE product lifecycle includes aircraft design, manufacturing, operation, maintenance, and recycling. "In aviation," he added, "maintenance goes on for many many years after the product is delivered. And there's a lot of engineering in upgrades and modifications."

PAMA's existing member benefits will continue, but Finnegan planned to announce additional benefits due to the SAE affiliation around the beginning of September. PAMA's legal services plan will remain, and Finnegan hopes to grow the PAMA Olympics even further, with more regional events leading up to the national contest at the annual Aviation Services & Suppliers SuperShow in March. PAMA will also continue working on its Golden Eagle mechanic recognition program. PAMA chapters will receive a rebate of member dues to help pay for their activities, and chapter leaders will have opportunities to receive SAE training on how to run their chapters.

According to Finnegan, PAMA has discussed affiliation opportunities with other associations. "We've been struggling with survival now for some time," he said. "We need to get beyond survival mode and into prosperity, and SAE represents that. They really are about what they consider `mobility engineering,' they're about more than automotive."

As the PAMA-SAE relationship strengthens, PAMA will have an opportunity to fully merge with SAE, Finnegan said, in about six years. Meanwhile, PAMA members and future members will continue to pay the current $49 per year membership fee through 2008. After that, fees will gradually harmonize with SAE's normal $90. Student membership will be just $10, and for an additional $15, students can also receive the organization's Aerospace Engineering magazine, which PAMA members began receiving in August.

Stage 4/Chapter 4 noise standards take effect on January 1, 2006. Aviation Fleet Solutions of Renton, Washington, has devloped a new noise reduction system for MD-80 operators. The Quiet MD-80 System is a package of modifications that can keep MD-80 aircraft viable by bringing them into compliance with the new Stage 4 regulations. Aviation Fleet Solutions claims that once equipped with the system an MD-80 is as quiet as a 737 Classic or an A320. "We partnered with Pratt & Whitney to bring to market the most advanced and effective MD-80 Stage 4 noise system possible," said Bob Babbitt, vice president operations and customer support. The system is the result of years of research and development by P&W coupled with AFS certification expertise. "P&W has the lead on the system design and engine certification. AFS has the lead on airframe certification, sales and marketing, and product production," Babbitt said.

The system includes four major components that treat inlet and exhaust air to reduce the noise signature of the aircraft. First, a new advanced-technology mixer reduces jet and core noise. The mixer is made of inconel and replaces the existing mixer on JT8D-200 engines.

Next is a new exhaust tab nozzle that suppresses jet noise. Made from aluminum alloy, it is designed to suppress noise in both forward and reverse operations and to work together with the new mixer.

A new engine core muffler replaces the existing tail plug and reduces engine combustor noise.

And, finally, a new fan case liner reduces forward radiated fan noise and improves fan blade containment.

The combined effect of these components is a reduction in actual noise levels by up to six dB, according to the company. The system works with all MD-80 models and has two configurations. One is for high-gross-weight (160,000 pounds or less--HWS) and the other for low-gross-weight (149,500 pounds or less--LWS). "Depending on configuration, LWS or HWS, and depending on whether exchange equipment is utilized," said Babbitt, "the modification can be incorporated on airframe in as little time as one crew shift. With the entire modification contained to the engine and thrust reverser, the modification can be incorporated with a basic engine change, or the entire modification can be accomplished on the airframe without removing the engine." The company is working closely with P&W to obtain FAA supplemental type certification in early fourth quarter of 2005. Total weight impact is 262 pounds for the HWS and 90 pounds for the LWS. "Initial list price for the HWS is $825,000 per aircraft and $675,000 for the LWS," Babbitt added.

Perkins PMA Windows Approved by Bombardier

Although Perkins Aircraft Services has had FAA PMA approval for its cabin windows for Learjets for many years, Bombardier recently recognized and approved Perkins PMA cabin windows as an alternate source. This approval signals Bombardier's willingness to accept a PMA part as an alternate spare, something that many aircraft manufacturers tend to avoid.

According to Jim Perkins, president of Perkins Aircraft Services, the process to achieve this status was lengthy. "To receive this approval we approached Learjet engineering to review our tech data and sample parts. After several months of work and many follow up questions we received the approval and are now listed as an approved alternate spares supplier," Perkins said. "At this time if you call for spares on these items, Learjet will refer you to an alternate as they do not have any in stock," he added.

Many OEMs are looking for ways to better support their older fleet. "This is a step in that direction that other OEMs with legacy aircraft should pursue," said Perkins. "It allows them to concentrate on supporting their newer aircraft without pushing the older aircraft operators aside."

OEM acceptance of PMA parts is gaining more of a bona fide status within the industry. "We now have approvals from Gulfstream and Raytheon, as well as LearJet. We are seeing more and more airframe manufacturers looking for less expensive, high-quality replacement parts. The PMA route is easiest because there is already a proven part available," Perkins said.

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