VLJ maker takes tactical turn to ride out market downturn

  • 08-Dec-2008 04:43 EST
AAIA Vice President of Engineering Pierre Harter stands next to a test setup used as part of the company's composite static load factor reduction program. That technology allows AAIA engineers to assess accurately the effects of moisture and temperature on various composite materials and to evaluate different repair processes. (Patrick Ponticel)

AAI Acquisition Inc. plans to fully rejuvenate its very light jet (VLJ) program, which currently is in semi-hibernation, when economic conditions improve. For the interim, the start-up hopes to generate revenue by supplying to companies within and outside the aerospace industry the composites manufacturing expertise it has matured during gestation of the A700 VLJ program.

"Over the past decade, this company has developed unique capabilities in its work designing and building new aircraft," said Tom Bisges, AAIA Chief Operating Officer. "Now we are expanding our business portfolio to include engineering design, test, and certification services, as well as composite product manufacturing and traditional machining.”

Bisges said engineering development efforts on the A700 will continue, but at a reduced level, while AAIA seeks strategic relationships to bring the A700 to market as the overall economy recovers.

In addition to developing the A700, AAIA previously had designed and certified the A500 piston twin, another all-composite aircraft. In developing both aircraft, the company says, it has become highly experienced in composite product design and construction using modern CAD modeling and semi-automated manufacturing techniques.

Bisges pointed specifically to a low-cost, out-of-autoclave composite manufacturing technology that has been approved by the FAA. Key to AAIA's design, prototyping, and certification successes are proprietary, rapid-tooling solutions that enable expedited design validation. Bisges said these are some of AAIA's capabilities that outside clients are likely to find particularly valuable.

"The value of [our intellectual property] is hugely significant in that it has potential to reduce program timescales, avoid a costly trial-and-error approach for new entrants to the composites field, and most importantly, offer FAA-accepted processes and data,” said Pierre Harter, AAIA Vice President of Engineering. "When coupled with our rapid-prototyping capability that allows us to move from digital design to tooling to test article, AAIA offers a unique capability that can be applied to aerospace, automotive, and other industries,” including companies involved in making wind turbines, medical devices, and yachts.

"We have just recently launched our new business line, offering not only composite technology, manufacturing, and certification services but also other engineering disciplines such as avionics, electrical, structural test, and flight test,” said Steve Patrick, Vice President of Flight Test and Program Management for AAIA. “The initial response to our portfolio has been encouraging and spans a range of companies, both large and small, including some overseas interest.”

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