Don Gallion: Trade Secrets

Don Gallion, President and CEO of FCX Systems, Inc. shares what he believes to be the key ingredient to our industry


Donald L. Gallion, Jr., President  and CEO of FCX Systems,Inc. in Morgantown, WVVITAL STATS
Name: Donald L. Gallion, Jr.
Title: President and CEO
Company: FCX Systems, Inc.
Location: Morgantown, WV

Q.What brought you to the industry 20 years ago?
A.My partners (all brilliant engineers) had a concept of developing a Solid-State Frequency Converter to replace the current day motor generator set, which was used to create 400Hz power for airplanes while parked at airports. Their vision went beyond the simplistic designs currently endeavored. Their design formed the mental image to encompass 300 percent overload to rival the flywheel effect of the Motor Generator. They also wanted to ship a unit anywhere in the world, wire it up, and have it work. This was very different from the 60 to 90 day technician calibration that was commonplace of the day. These concepts along with providing much larger units than were offered during that period, were a very unique approach to the Commercial Aviation power business. We believed 400Hz power was a market all it's own, and not an enticement to sell another product, as was the thought then. The concept made sense and obviously worked very well for us. The nature & significance of our understanding lead to the factors conducive to our superiority & success.

Q.What are some of the trends and changes you have seen while in the industry?
A.The trends and changes are varied. Everything from who purchases the 400Hz converter, to power requirements, to how the unit interacts with the aircraft. There has always been a changing philosophy every few years as to whether the airport or the airline would own the ground power equipment and therefore who purchased it. This swing has occurred several times throughout the history of FCX Systems. Power requirements of the aircraft have changed a great deal as well. Glass cockpit aircraft brought the switch from 60 to 90 KVA units. Wide body changes brought that to 180 KVA and we are seeing even larger needs with the A-380 about to come on the scene. These changes all forced the industry to make changes, but nothing has ever impacted ground power as "No Break Power Transfer" (NBPT) did. The almost simultaneous release of the 747-400 and MD-11 brought a huge change to our industry. Before these aircraft, all ground power was applied as a "Break Before Make" operation. With the new NBPT systems, the external ground power was tied live with the internal APU on the aircraft. This caught everyone off guard. The airlines, the airframe manufactures, as well as the 400Hz suppliers. This change caused havoc in the industry for several months. FCX worked closely with the airframe manufacturers and the software designers to help solve the problems. FCX was the company chosen to work with, as we were the only supplier able to handle NBPT from day one. With changes to the aircraft as well as changes by most of the 400Hz manufacturers, the problem was overcome.

Q.What are some of the challenges you face in your day-to-day?
A.Challenges we face day-to-day are no different from those faced by other businesses in other industries. We deal with health care premium costs, workers compensation costs, and taxes like every other U.S. Business. The reality of our strong international presence, with units in 58 countries on all 7 continents compels us to deal with emerging international financing issues as well as political change. These effect how and where we can do business, sometimes on a daily basis. Watching the continually changing political climate in so many countries is challenging and some times scary. It is a fact of life for FCX Systems however, so we have grown very accustom to it and have learned to deal with it as you would a law change in you own state.

Q.Who are your customers?
A.The "trade secret" I have learned in this industry would be one word - flexibility. This industry is comprised of a lot of very intelligent people. They all look to solve a problems a little different from everyone else. Therefore, each has items and issues they want as compared to someone else. This creates a need for flexibility on the part of the manufacturers. The more flexible the manufacture is, the easier to solve the problem. This is not an industry in which you can take the Henry Ford approach to manufacturing. You need to be flexible to be successful. The fact that FCX Systems started from day one with the flexible approach has greatly contributed to our success.

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