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In the world of aviation, time is of the essence. The faster a helicopter component can be designed, modified or repaired, the faster the aircraft can get in the air. For this process to be as efficient as possible, a few key factors need to be in place. The proper equipment must be available, as well as a team of experts, and the ability to swiftly approve designs in accordance with national aviation authorities is also hugely important.
Based in the small town of Acton, Ont., ICARUS Aero Inc. has all of these things and more. Founded in 2013 by Ryan Hader, a Transport Canada design approval representative (DAR), ICARUS is a design approval organization (DAO) for Transport Canada, which Hader said gives the company the ability to “modify and design for anything with wings — whether it be rotor or fixed.”
With a team of five design engineers, ICARUS provides the engineering drawing, design and certification — including supplemental type certificates (STCs) — for specialized aircraft products, modifications, repairs or installations.
“My interest has always been in aircraft as well as design . . . and I have always loved creating something from nothing,” said Hader, who is a private pilot.
“Growing up I had several jobs. . . . I was always thinking about trying to improve processes. And even when I was working for delegates doing certifications, I felt that I could potentially do things more seamlessly or offer different services that weren’t necessarily being offered to the market.”
Now, Hader believes he is fulfilling that goal every day.
ICARUS specializes in developing repair designs or modifications for aircraft, developing and certifying special mission products and kits, as well as producing airframe parts and components. And with its DAO status, the company has a significant advantage in its aerospace approval process, Hader said.
“I love seeing the end result and hearing about the successes of our customers,” he added, “or where they have challenges that aren’t being met, and where we can help.”
Although ICARUS has the ability to repair aircraft parts or components, the company focuses mainly on the engineering design aspect of repairs. Once the design work is complete, customers may opt to take the information and complete the repair themselves, which comes with the added benefit of saving money.
“We provide the engineering drawing, the design and the certification — being Transport Canada certifications — and then nine times out of 10, the customer has their own services to be able to accommodate the work, so they opt to do the repairs themselves,” said Hader.
However, for customers who don’t have such repair capabilities, ICARUS offers to send technicians out to a facility to complete the repair, or to have the part shipped to its facility where the repair can be accommodated.
While the engineering design division keeps the company busy, ICARUS’s engineers also manufacture products and parts for the aviation market. The company uses the latest in 3D scanning and rapid prototyping technology to allow this part of the business to run as efficiently as possible.
Hader said the company operates a number of 3D printers in-house to assist in manufacturing products. But most of all, the 3D printers come in handy to create prototypes for customers quickly and cost-effectively.
“[The 3D printers] allow us to present a product to a customer largely before most competitors would be able to,” he said. “And we use 3D scanning to allow us to scan contours and complex portions of an aircraft to make sure we get the fit and function correct.”
Expanding on these capabilities, ICARUS also uses this technology, along with its engineering design skills, to create custom, sector-specific products that are not readily available to the market.
For the mission-specific
Helicopters are workhorses used for many different jobs around the world every day. Many of these jobs require specific equipment in order to be done right — something Hader and his team understand well.
A large part of the company’s business is engineering special mission systems for aircraft, as well as offering STC kits for aircraft modifications that allow such equipment to be installed.
“We have a number of search and rescue [SAR] products that we offer, a number of medical products, [and] military,” said Hader. “And then over and above that, we provide a service for developing specific custom products. In many instances we have customers that have a need for something that no one else has any need for, and they have no way of getting it done. So, we fill that void.”
In particular, ICARUS specializes in airborne surveillance equipment like multi-sensor turret cameras, searchlights, and moving map systems. If, for instance, a SAR operator had a need to mount a camera onto a helicopter, ICARUS’ team would design the mount and the full structural modification provisions needed to do so. On top of that, the company would take care of ground and flight testing, as well as the STC for the mount.
As a Transport Canada DAO, ICARUS has affiliations with the Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency offices, and in many cases, the company’s STCs get familiarized by the latter two authorities, Hader told Skies. This also allows the company to expand its customer base beyond Canada’s borders. ICARUS currently works with customers in the Canadian Department of National Defence and U.S. Department of Defense markets, as well as large air medical and SAR operators in North America.
As far as modifications and aircraft types go, ICARUS has no limitations — which can also be attributed to its DAO status. The company has worked with all types of helicopters, but Hader said the most common are the Airbus AS350/H125/AS355, the Bell 206, the Leonardo AW139, and due to the company’s work in the SAR and military fields, the Sikorsky S-92 and UH-60 Black Hawk.
ICARUS offers numerous STC kits for various aircraft types, such as its STC kit for a forward mounted side arm for the provision of Wescam, FLIR or other camera systems on the AW139. However, Hader said the company’s ability to “tailor products to very specific needs” is what sets it apart.
“We’re close to the customers in that we are developing something for them specifically for their needs,” he said. “And we are an all-in-one company. There are engineering competitors that offer just the drawings and just the certification. Whereas we then offer the full manufactured kit, and we’ll offer installation services.” He added that all modifications and installations are certified by a Transport Canada DAR.
The next phase
As ICARUS continues to gain traction in the industry, its need for additional hangar space has become more of a necessity. While it has been based in Acton since its inception, ICARUS is in the process of transitioning into a new, and larger home in Muskoka, Ont., known by many Ontarians as “cottage country.”
The company’s new 5,000-square-foot hangar is based at Muskoka Airport, and is three times the size of its Acton facility. While Hader wants to keep the team at ICARUS relatively tight-knit, he foresees the need to bring additional experienced personnel onboard over the next few years due to the company’s growth.
But as ICARUS moves forward, Hader is focused on maintaining the same goals he had when he started the company.
“The goal is always to market to customers that need a service that really isn’t being offered,” he said. “We really try to go above and beyond for our customers. Providing them with a solution, quickly, for products that they’re trying to operate . . . and keeping their aircraft flying is what we do.”
ICARUS has held the same mantra for the six years the company has been in operation: “Engineer, Build, Fly.” And Hader and his team anticipate that mantra will live on at the company for many years to come.