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Monday, May 26, 2003

Vendors Display Their Wares At RAA

PHOENIX, Ariz. - A total of 171 exhibitors displayed their products and services at the Phoenix Civic Plaza convention center during the Regional Airline Association (RAA) show here last week. These ranged from major manufacturers such as Bombardier, Embraer, GE Engines, Rolls-Royce, Saab Aircraft Leasing, Raytheon Airline Aviation Services and BAE Systems to small, niche players fitting into the "Mom and Pop" category.

Although less well-known, smaller companies still play an important role in the regional airline industry.

Aviation Communication & Surveillance Systems (ACSS) announced at the show that it had received technical standard order authorization (TSOA) from the Federal Aviation Administration for its T2CAS terrain warning system. This certification allows the company to start delivering the system to airlines this month.

The T2CAS is a third-generation terrain avoidance warning system (TAWS) that computes the climb capability of the aircraft to warn the pilots when to pull up or to take evasive action to avoid approaching terrain. Earlier systems alerted the pilots that they were approaching mountainous terrain, but often did not provide the warning in time for the aircraft to climb fast enough to avoid the terrain ahead of it.

Hal Adams, vice president of business development, said that the company has contracts with Mesaba, FedEx, AeroCalifornia, European Air Transport, the U.S. Customs Service, Virgin Express and other carriers for the system. Mesaba is scheduled to take its first deliveries at the end of June or early July for installation on its Avro 85 regional jets. ACSS also has an agreement with ATR to develop an STC (supplemental type certificate) for the ATR42 and ATR72.

The system combines the aircraft performance-based TAWS with the TCAS 2000, a traffic alert and collision avoidance system (TCAS). Because of that combination, the T2CAS reduces space and wiring requirements. Mesaba will also be adding a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to the system as a line replacement unit, thus substituting one black box for what would be three black boxes.

ACSS is a three-year-old Phoenix-based company created when Honeywell divested itself of one of two avionics divisions. It was purchased by L-3 Communications and Thales Company, with L-3 Communications owning 70 percent compared to 30 percent owned by Thales.

Other vendors at the show included:

STG Aerospace, a Stuart, Ga.-based company promoting its SafTGlo photoluminescent (PL) floor path marking systems. Sales and Marketing Manager T.K. (Tommy) Nelms told C/R News that this system is being installed into regional aircraft either as original equipment or as a retrofit. This floor path marking system improves on conventional electrically powered systems in that it "stores" light through exposure to cabin ambient light or daylight, providing at least 12 hours emergency lighting.

An advantage, Nelms said, is that it doesn't have any spares - no batteries, bulbs, switches "or any ancillary electrical devises, which reduces maintenance and spares related costs." This means the system is always 100 percent reliable and 100 percent available, "with no electrical system to fail."

Vision Aerospace, based in Agoura Hills, Calif., is a "parts provider and problem solver," according to President Lance Huffman. Essential, the company helps airlines that are having trouble getting spares for their aircraft. "We listen to their complaints, then either produce the part ourselves or go out and find a spares company or manufacturer that can produce the part, normally for less money than the original source." Vision Aerospace is an authorized distributor of PMA (parts manufacturer approval) parts, offering a flat-rate overhaul exchange of rotable parts. It has a $2 million inventory of over 2,500 line items on the shelf ready to exchange for a needed part. It also provides a "package deal" for its clients consisting of drawings, pricing, reliability factors and information on competitors pricing, Huffman said.

One of the more esoteric exhibitors was Plane Detail, a company that bases its employees at regional airlines' maintenance centers to hand wash the aircraft as they come in for maintenance. It currently has contracts with Chautauqua, American Eagle, Mesa and other carriers at nine locations in six states, according to President Steve Rotermund.

The cleaning is done by hand with a petroleum-based wax and cleaner, a process that removes more layers of built-up dirt and grime than by using a power-wash, he said. It also cleans off carbon exhaust and any other types of accumulation. While an aircraft is in for its C-check, a Plane Detail crew can go into the aircraft to clean and polish both the interior and exterior. They also track a carrier's aircraft on their own database, so they will know which aircraft needs to be cleaned as it comes in for maintenance, Rotermund said.

Also on the service side is LJK Companies, a Minneapolis, Minn.-based "full-service lodging consultant" company. Alan Bergseth, director of sales and marketing, said its operation is similar to that of a travel agent, but it concentrates solely on hotel arrangements. The company has been in business for 26 years, with its biggest client being Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad. It is now "trying to break into the regional airline market," and announced at the show that it has signed Trans States Airlines as its newest client, Bergseth said.

Working under contract to client companies, LJK Companies arranges lodging at hotels throughout the United States, ensuring that the client gets the best rates available. It then does all the back end processing. This includes paying the hotel bills, auditing them to make sure the rate is correct and that the client hasn't been double-billed, making sure that all tax exemptions are met if the employee has stayed in the hotel over 30 days and even verifying that the person staying at the hotel is an authorized employee of the client. The client is then invoiced for the amount due.

Aero Instruments and Avionics, based in North Tonawanda, N.Y., is an Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-approved FAR 145 avionics overhaul and repair station that has worked "with a lot of regionals," according to Daniel Wisnieski, a sales representative for the company. It has worked with Bombardier's CRJs and with Comair's avionics packages, he said. It recently acquired a large amount of automatic test equipment (ATE) from Ansett when that Australian carrier went bankrupt.

"We currently carry around $7 million worth of spare parts in our inventory, so we can expedite the repair of any avionics system, generally turning it around and getting it back to the customer in a couple of days, particularly for an AOG (aircraft on ground) situation," Wisnieski said.

>>Contact: Steve Henden, ACSS, tel: 623-445-7021, e-mail: steve.henden@l-3com.com; Tommy Nelms, STG Aerospace, tel: 772-220-4897, e-mail: tommy.nelms@stgaero.com; Lance Huffman, Vision Aerospace, tel: 800-339-5695; e-mail: info@visionaero.com; Steve Rotermund, Plane Detail, tel: 636-530-9380, e-mail: srotermund@planedetail.com; Alan Bergseth, LJK Companies, tel: 952-826-2839, e-mail: abergseth@ljkco.com; Daniel Wisnieski, Aero Instruments, tele: 716-694-7060, e-mail: dan@aeroinst.com.<<

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