Planning is Key to Rotorcraft Completions Market

Oct. 20, 2014
Customizing new aircraft has become more encompassing with respect to aircraft systems, engineering, avionics integration and an exponential increase in luxury.

Mecaer Aviation Group has been working with aircraft for more than 20 years and has completed nearly 1,600 rotor-wing aircraft in the VIP, EMS, and utility markets. As an international company we have been fortunate enough to witness several trends and cultural differences in the completions market. So, what is the difference between then and now, and most importantly, where is our industry headed?

Corporate and VIP operators have migrated into bigger and faster aircraft which provide larger cabins, multi-engine platforms with longer ranges. As a result, customizing new aircraft has become more encompassing with respect to aircraft systems, engineering, avionics integration and an exponential increase in luxury. 

Helicopters are more sophisticated now which requires more planning and work to be performed up front. For example, the days of a light single landing at a completion center near you in the fourth quarter with minimal notice and no SOW are long gone. Some of these helicopters are being completed by the OEMs and the now larger twins are being negotiated eight to 12 months out and have components with similar lead times. The remainder of these aircraft are being completed by a small number of specialized completion centers.

Style of their own

Owners want a style of their own in the cabin. Luxury has taken on new dimensions with respect to the panels, cabinetry, passenger seats and inflight entertainment. All of these items now flow together and wrap in the design of the livery as well. Buyers at this level don’t simply choose matching leather, carpet and ultra-leathers for the panels. They host a designer, who has also designed their corporate jet, ground limousine and mega-yacht!

In addition to larger aircraft, the avionics in the cockpit has evolved dramatically. Aircraft are now being outfitted with “glass cockpits” straight from the OEM.  This is a good thing and keeps our crews and passengers safe with the latest and greatest technology. However, completion facilities are slowly decreasing the amount of upgrades and modifications to the instrument panel. This has transferred to additional work in the cabin. The retrofit market for updating of older aircraft to bring their cockpit technology up to the standard of current models has grown as a result of the popularity of this equipment as “standard equipment” from most helicopter manufacturers.  

Buyers of larger VIP helicopters typically utilize corporate fixed-wing aircraft as well and continually ask us to incorporate similar systems in their new helicopter. Inflight entertainment is ever evolving with modern systems and platforms. We no longer climb on board and put on a headset or perhaps utilize the sat-phone en route; we pair up our favorite smart device, listen to our favorite music, watch the moving map display, send emails, texts or catch up on social media. All done with Wi-Fi, blue-tooth or a USB port connection!

Impact on maintenance

The impact of these more complex interior completions can have a substantial impact on scheduled maintenance and inspection. If the ease of access to inspection areas and the complexity of the removal and reinstallation of interior components is not a major consideration during the initial design phases of the complete interior package this can significantly increase the down time of an aircraft.

The advanced technology now being incorporated as part of the state of the art Inflight Entertainment Systems (IFE) can also pose a challenge from a maintenance and troubleshooting perspective. The design and documentation including accurate installation drawings are vital to the success of the proper repair of these systems. Keeping technicians trained on the latest technology is also an important factor in staying up to date on the fast changing IFE environment.

So where are we going?

We don’t have a crystal ball, however we believe the trend will continue toward more sophisticated systems and larger aircraft. Completion centers and customizing houses will continue to upgrade STC’s, invest in engineering and educate themselves on new products and technology. VIP passengers are looking to walk off their corporate jet and step into their helicopter and experience the same feel in style and technology. 

The industry is currently experiencing an upward trend and is in a much better position than three to four years ago. Operators are upgrading to new aircraft or conducting major upgrades in their existing fleet and the global market for helicopters is ever expanding. We will be given the opportunity to certify new STC's and work with global civil aviation authorities. This will result in a broader target market and an opportunity to capitalize on the demand for luxury. We are excited for the next 25 years of corporate completions!

Mecaer Aviation Group (MAG) is an international provider of solutions for aircraft actuation and flight control systems, landing systems, cabin comfort systems and MRO services in the helicopter, business aviation, and general aviation markets. While headquartered in Italy, it has facilities in Hagerstown, MD; Philadelphia; and Dallas. For more information visit