In the world of professional boxing featherweight is a term used for the fighters of the lightest weight and while this might also imply lightweight skill, the gist is that huge talent is inherent in even the smallest – and lightest of things. It presents an apt segue to the newest product out of TIMCO Aviation Services, whose Brice Manufacturing subsidiary has crafted the lightest-weight seat on the market and in doing so has furthered the company’s place among the heavies of the industry.
It is a big development in a market that has seen its ups and downs, and while TIMCO has also experienced some of its own ups and downs since its founding, today the company is soaring.
TIMCO, which stands for Triad International Maintenance Company, was formed in 1990 in North Carolina with one hangar acquired by another company, Aviation Sales, a roll up strategy run by a former GE executive that bought several different companies. TIMCO eventually grew into an $800 million company, publicly traded, but then had liquidity issues in the late 1990s which precipitated selling off of some of the aviation service companies. Left after the sell off was a Greensboro location, Lake City, Fla., and Macon Ga. facilities, plus a Michigan overhaul facility and TIMCO Aero Systems. Sales plummeted to $182 million. In 2002 a completely new management team came in. Today, Aviation Sales is technically owned by TIMCO Aviation Services, which has restructured and rebranded its operation, moving its headquarters to Greensboro to save costs. In its new configuration, the company steadily recouped its lost earnings, and posted revenues in 2008 of $339 million. It acquired and divested companies along the way while focusing on operations and profitability.
“We grew quickly post-9/11,” co-CEO Kevin Carter recalls. “We were lucky in a way because the spinoffs and generation of cash took place in advance of 9/11. If we ran into 9/11 without doing that this company probably would not have made it. But we sold off businesses and got paid reasonable prices for them prior to 9/11 and most of the restructuring was complete prior to 9/11.”
Today, TIMCO Aviation Services provides fully integrated maintenance, repair and overhaul and line maintenance services for major commercial and government aircraft operators. The company current operates at its corporate headquarters in Greensboro and still maintains facilities in Macon and Lake City. Through its TIMCO Aerosystems division, it also provides fully integrated aircraft interiors design, manufacturing, integration and certification services. Maintenance operations are also supported by an advanced Engine Center in Oscoda, Mich., and fully integrated aircraft seat design, manufacturing, integration and certification facilities in California.
HAVE A SEAT
TIMCO has further grown its business through the acquisition of Brice Manufacturing, through the company’s FeatherWeight™ product line. “When we bought them they were a $7 million company; now they’re at $30 million,” Carter acknowledges, explaining the technology behind the seat: “It’s a cushionless seat made of special fabric that stretches in one direction and creates a tram poline effect with a pad about three quarters of an inch thick over top. It’s very comfortable. When we took out four inches of height from the old cushion we had to create four-inch-height in the seat base and legs, so the person in front is now four inches higher, giving the person behind four inches more shin room plus the ability to slide the briefcase under the seat.
“This new seat also takes out significant weight. When oil was at $144 a gallon we could make the argument that the cost of the new seats would justify savings in 15-22 months depending on the aircraft and fuel use.”
Last February, Brice achieved a Gold status quality rating by The Boeing Company for its aircraft seating products. The Gold rating is a measure of quality based on defect avoidance and speed-to-delivery and is the highest quality rating Boeing issues to manufacturers and suppliers of aircraft parts and components that customers can select to complete their new aircraft orders.
In March the company successfully completed 16G HIC testing on its FeatherWeight line. The FAA mandates that in order to meet the certification requirements of 14 CFR parts 25.562 and 29.562 aircraft seats must protect occupants from serious head injury. The FeatherWeight line successfully demonstrated this with configurations that include the three-seat exit row configuration on an A320 aircraft – an accomplishment that makes Brice the first OEM to offer an exit row seat product for A320 that meets this heightened criterion line of low weight and high comfort. The company is also introducing an expanded FeatherWeight line that will include business class seats for standard and widebody aircraft.
Also in the area of seating, TIMCO has developed a quick release seat track fitting, for which it is in the process of receiving a patent. “It eliminates having to torque with a wrench,” Carter explains. “You clamp it and it locks and it can be released with a pin. It’s been very well received. From a mechanic’s standpoint, it’s not as difficult to put the seat in the aircraft or take it out – it just pops out, which means significant time savings.”
“We also produce lightweight galley and lavatory modules that are 20 percent lighter,” explains co-CEO Ron Utecht. “That’s very important in terms of fuel consumption.” Made of honeycomb core composites, these offer the same durability as the heavier units and can be retrofitted.
OVERHAUL AND MAINTENANCE
For further efficiencies in the tear down of an aircraft, TIMCO has come out with Mobile Majic, a handheld device that standardizes the various points of inspection. “When you do a tear down, you do an inspection list of what had been found, like a crack in this part, etc.,” Carter explains. “This enables a standardized description; where before there was no standardized way to search the database, because each inspector has own terminology.”
Currently TIMCO performs MRO services for United, Fed Ex, UPS, Delta, US Air, Continental and Southwest, Air Canada, Al Italia, Boeing 757 and 767, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard. “We’re currently bidding with Northrop Grumman on Airforce DC10 contracts,” Utecht says, adding, “One of our major assets is a major composite shop with two autoclaves, which can do any kind of composite manufacturing or repair, large engineering, major integration modifications. You can buy new TV monitors, sound systems, galleys, lavoratories and bring it to us and we can do the entire integration, engineering and installation.”
In line with bringing efficiencies to its customers’ operations, TIMCO also streamlines its own organization through various measures, such as using smaller quantities of chemicals to alleviate waste. “We’re also a large consumer of shop air, so getting the most efficient air compressors is a big concern,” Utecht stresses. “The time of day we use power is also important; we always fire up our autoclaves during off-peak hours.”
TIMCO, Utecht adds, is proud of its cycle time, or the amount of time the plane remains on the ground. “Cycle time is important for air carriers – it comes down to asset utilization. The best cycle time average is 20 days; it can go as low as four to six or as high as 40. We’ve achieved 18 to 20 days.”
For installation of winglets on Boeing 757s and 767s – a winglet, attached to the wing tip, improves fuel efficiency and reduces jag for the aircraft – the company is now down to 15 ½ days for the 767, the best in the industry, Utecht says. For winglet jobs, TIMCO partners with APB, Aviation Partners Boeing, a joint venture of Aviation Partners, Inc. and The Boeing Company to equip Boeing airplanes with Blended Winglet™ technology.
TIMCO is leading the way in other technologies as well and has developed a wing box solution that entails replacing the wing box’s major components rather than installing a new system. The wing box, Utecht notes, is suspected of causing the mid-May accident of an Indonesian military transport aircraft, a C-130 Hercules, which crashed and burst into flames in East Java, killing 98 people on board and on the ground.
“Our Lake City facility is working on center wing box repair solution; we’re changing out the wing box for the U.S. Coast Guard and replacing 94 percent of the major components,” Utecht explains. “Our solution is half the cost – the alternative is a whole new box that could cost $11 million. We think we can do repairs at $5 million.”
In April, TIMCO entered into a joint venture agreement with Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. focused on developing comprehensive airframe maintenance, repair and overhaul services to commercial air transport operators in India and the neighboring region. The partners plan state-of-the-art MRO facilities at HAL’s Bangalore airport and manufacturing complex. The JV’s efforts will be focused on providing scheduled C-checks and heavy maintenance services for operators of narrowbody Airbus and Boeing commercial aircraft. The companies have fully ratified their JV re relationship and are assessing ground breaking schedule alternatives with a focus on the shifting growth outlook for the Indian and regional fleets.
And last year the company formed an agreement with Coopesa in Costa Rica, which performs heavy aircraft maintenance. “We’re looking to provide full service maintenance for customers seeking lower costs,” explains Carter. “We’ll bring over our QA and QC systems and help them (Coopesa) attain credibility to support our North American operators.”
Amidst all of this activity, Utecht stresses that a fundamental TIMCO advantage “is our people; their proven experience, work ethic, honesty, integrity and ability to work as a team to produce all of our products and services with high quality and on time at a competitive cost. That is our key to success.”