Canadian companies upbeat at NBAA 2016

There weren’t many jaw-dropping developments when the biggest names in business aviation gathered last week in Orlando, Fla.

But many smaller Canadian firms who attended the National Business Aviation Association’s Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) had plenty to celebrate.

Thousands of people, including Canadian exhibitors, packed the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., for the 2016 National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE). NBAA Photo
Thousands of people, including Canadian exhibitors, packed the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., for the 2016 National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Conference and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE). NBAA Photo
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Despite a challenging market for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), many smaller companies were upbeat about both the current market and their prospects for the future.

“We’re getting a lot of interest from a lot of European companies and also a lot of companies down in the States,” said Bryce Dougan, account manager for Mississauga, Ont.-based Aviatechnik.  “As far as private aviation goes or business aviation goes, I think it’s a very healthy market right now, as opposed to some of the other markets.”

Aviatechnik is a landing gear maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company that also services regional aircraft.

“The regional market’s a little bit tighter right now,” said Dougan. “It doesn’t seem to be as busy, and a lot of companies are trying to take stuff in-house.”

The market has also been strong for TrainingPort.net, an online training firm based in Richmond, B.C.

TrainingPort.net, a Canadian online training company, welcomed many visitors to its booth on the show floor and was celebrating a new flight attendant training program. Ben Forrest Photo
TrainingPort.net, a Canadian online training company, welcomed many visitors to its booth on the show floor and was celebrating a new flight attendant training program. Ben Forrest Photo

“We’ve seen growth, and this year over last,” said Nikolas Chapman, the company’s vice-president of business development and projects.

“And we’ve seen more people attend to their training needs and to better understand risk mitigations, or training that is mitigating risk. So I think we see people more in tune with that, and knowing that online training’s an option for them and finding a way to tailor their programs more to meet their risk profiles.

“And with that, we see more people looking to us as a solution because we deliver a comprehensive program to meet their online training needs.”

TrainingPort.net was celebrating the release of a new flight attendant training program it developed with Sterling Aviation Services of Calgary, Alta.

“Bringing their expertise into this makes just a fantastic flight attendant training program that we haven’t released before,” said Chapman. “We’ve delivered to flight attendants, but we haven’t had the depth of content that we can now offer with Sterling.”

Montreal-based Traxxall also had positive reports about demand for the maintenance tracking system it launched three and a half years ago.

“[We have] quite a few aircraft on the system now … starting to get a little more mature, and we have big plans to continue developing,” said Jeff Dougherty, a maintenance analyst.

“It’s very strong. There’s only a few providers of the products like this that track maintenance, so the market for us is really good.

“We’ve had really good success in the past three years.”

CASP Aerospace, a Montreal firm that specializes in the repair, overhaul, exchange and sales of aircraft safety and life support equipment, was upbeat about the connections it made at the show.

“It’s more about seeing the vendors, seeing the customers,” said Abdel Basset, customer account manager.

“This year we’re actually better than last year when it came to sales. It’s really increased–sales and repairs, and we saw a lot of new accounts, new customers, new business, which is good.

“It was a good year.”

The show was a chance to promote new products and network with existing and potential clients. Many Canadian firms were upbeat about their prospects. NBAA Photo
The show was a chance to promote new products and network with existing and potential clients. Many Canadian firms were upbeat about their prospects. NBAA Photo

While not based in Canada, Eastern Aviation Fuels was celebrating a major expansion into the Canadian market.

Eastern Aviation is the fuel distributor for Shell Aviation fuels in the United States and now services 30 fixed-base operators (FBOs) in Canada.

“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do,” said Tracy Daniels, a contract fuel sales employee of Eastern Aviation Fuels.

“We just had to work out the logistics, because with the exchange rate there’s a couple of different things that took some smoothing out, but it’s working well.”

Another U.S. company, Florida-based Satcom Direct, announced it would be acquiring TrueNorth Avionics of Ottawa. The 10-year-old company designs and manufactures satellite communications equipment for business jets and OEMs.

“The acquisition of TrueNorth will broaden our avionics product portfolio and enable us to accelerate our efforts to bring fully integrated communications solutions to our customers,” said Jim Jensen, founder and CEO of Satcom Direct. “The ingenuity behind the Satcom Direct Router (SDR) and our SD Pro flight operations platform combined with TrueNorth’s highly advanced avionics will give aircraft operators an unrivaled ability to manage their aircraft communications systems.”

Jim Jensen, founder and CEO of Satcom Direct, right, shakes hands with Mark van Berkel, president and CEO of TrueNorth Avionics, on the NBAA show floor. Ottawa-based TrueNorth has been acquired by Satcom Direct. Lisa Gordon Photo
Jim Jensen, founder and CEO of Satcom Direct, right, shakes hands with Mark van Berkel, president and CEO of TrueNorth Avionics, on the NBAA show floor. Ottawa-based TrueNorth has been acquired by Satcom Direct. Lisa Gordon Photo

The transaction is expected to close by the end of this year, with TrueNorth becoming a business unit within the Satcom Direct family of companies.

“We pride ourselves on being a technology leader in our market, and we’re very excited to be part of a world class company like Satcom Direct,” said Mark van Berkel, president and CEO of TrueNorth Avionics. “Together we will bring cutting edge capabilities to our customers to truly enable the connected aircraft.”

Business is steady at Flying Colours, the Peterborough, Ont.-based aircraft completions and aviation services company. Skies spoke with Sean Gillespie, Flying Colours’ executive vice-president of sales and marketing, who reported that the VIP and MRO markets are solid, while special missions work has “taken off.”

The company is finishing the first of three dedicated medevac completions on a Bombardier Challenger aircraft, which Gillespie said will be a “complete flying hospital” for the European market.

While the mainland China market has slowed, Flying Colours recently completed the fourth of eight CRJ 200 conversions, delivered to joint venture partner Sparkle Roll Jet Co. Ltd. of China.

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Gillespie said business has been steady in Hong Kong and Singapore. The company opened an interiors and completion facility within Bombardier’s service centre at Singapore’s Seletar Airport in 2015. Currently, there are 20 people on staff who specialize in Bombardier Global and Challenger interior work and warranty support.

Meanwhile, the Peterborough facility continues to undergo expansion. Gillespie said one notable project involves a privately-owned Global Express that is undergoing a complete modernization. It will be the first aircraft on which Flying Colours will install the pre-engineered INAIRVATION integrated smart cabin system, a joint venture from Lufthansa Technik and F/LIST of Austria.

Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) hosted a luncheon during NBAA to update the media on its products and services. The Montreal-based engine manufacturer’s PW617F1-E engine received type certification from Transport Canada. The powerplant was selected by Embraer for the new Phenom 100 EV, reportedly offering better hot and high performance for entry level jets.

So far, Pratt & Whitney Canada has completed over 9,000 hours of testing on the PW800 engine, including 4,000 hours of flight testing. P&WC Photo
So far, Pratt & Whitney Canada has completed over 9,000 hours of testing on the PW800 engine, including 4,000 hours of flight testing. P&WC Photo

The PW600 engine family is built with half the parts of a conventional turbofan, making it easy and fast to maintain. It incorporates the latest technologies to deliver highly fuel efficient power with low carbon emissions. It also comes equipped with dual-channel full-authority digital engine control (FADEC), which translates into reduced pilot workload and engine monitoring with longer time on wing.

P&WC also announced enhancements to its Eagle Service Plan (ESP). The new “ESPecially for Your PT6” engine program provides the first 400 hours of coverage for free to customers of new PT6A engine-powered aircraft. Another change enables customers to apply their ESP plan investment toward a new engine of the same model or a new engine conversion at time of overhaul.

Michael Perodeau, vice-president of marketing for business aircraft, offered an update on the PW800, P&WC’s long and ultra-long range business jet engine that was certified in February 2015.

“So far, we’ve completed over 9,000 hours of testing including 4,000 hours of flight testing. We have over 12,000 cycles on the full engine,” he said.

Customers can now enroll in the ESP PurePower PW800 engine service plan, which provides coverage for heavy and line maintenance.  Technical publications have been completed, while engine maintenance training has begun.

The PW800 was selected by Gulfstream to power its new G500 and G600 ultra-long range jets. The choice was significant in that Gulfstream had previously equipped its aircraft with Rolls-Royce engines for more than 60 years.

Overall, a positive feeling permeated NBAA-BACE 2016, with exhibitors reporting an optimistic outlook on the business aviation market. Despite a lack of major announcements, the show was deemed a success. As always, there was no shortage of opportunities to connect and discuss business on the show floor.

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