With the world's first Airbus A350 widebody and three narrowbody green VIP aircraft undergoing completions at its Basel, Switzerland facility, bizliner specialist AMAC Aerospace (Stand H91) saw demand for its completions and maintenance services increase 20 percent last year, said Bernd Schramm, group COO of the Swiss company.
Completions inductions in the last 12 months include a pair of ACJ neos—one already redelivered after 8.5 months, “delighting the customer” while setting a record completion time for AMAC, Schramm said.
The first BBJ Max 9 outfitting is also in progress, and aside from one cancellation soon after the model’s grounding in 2019, “Our customers all have trust in the aircraft,” Schramm reported. “They even ordered new Maxs after the grounding.”
AMAC has now added both the composite ACJ350 and Boeing’s Dreamliner widebodies to its OEM-approved completions capabilities. For interiors on these aircraft, “cooperation with the manufacturer is much more intense because you don't have all the engineering data,” said Schramm of the composite frame transports. “That requires a bit of adaptation of procedures, and more effort than the traditional [aluminum] aircraft, like the B777, A330, or B737.” However, customers are showing a growing interest in these next-generation airframes, he said.
AMAC also redelivered last October its second green Boeing BBJ747-8i completion.
On the maintenance side, Schramm noted the company has become a center of excellence for VIP 747s, and at one point in the last year had four—half the world’s fleet—of VIP 747-8i jumbos—operated as head-of-state aircraft or by family offices—in Basel for maintenance, modification, and/or refurbishment.
The company has also redelivered two refurbished and upgraded BBJs contracted in late 2020 by Abu Dhabi-based Royal Jet, performed “in close collaboration” with JCB Aero, AMAC’s French composite structures subsidiary, and Abu Dhabi’s Slash Design. The updated cabin incorporates top-end materials, as well as new cabin management and high-speed connectivity systems to support the VIP charter operator’s "enhanced customer experience” offering.
Meanwhile, AMAC’s opening last year of Hangar No. 5, which is dedicated to large-cabin business jet maintenance and refurbishment, has sparked a surge in activity for that category of aircraft. The new hangar can accommodate up to seven large-cabin jets simultaneously.
After two years of development, Its JCB subsidiary is also certifying composite floorboards for business and commercial aircraft aftermarket customers, structures used in AMAC’s own completion projects. “We believe there is a shortage” of the flooring parts “and an additional vendor can help,” Schramm said, noting the current long wait times for replacements in the repair and refurb world.
Conversely, AMAC’s bottom line will experience a negative impact, “but not too heavy,” from now-invalidated maintenance contracts with Russian individuals or entities falling under sanctions over the Ukraine war, Schramm said. Further, he pledged that the company “will follow [sanctions rules] with a full understanding of the measures taken by the [Swiss] government and the European Union.”
Looking ahead, strong demand for second-hand VIP aircraft “has not yet reached our facility in terms of big increase in maintenance requirements, refurbishment, or modifications,” Schramm noted, “But it could well be that this will also have a positive impact on the service provider like us.”
However, supply chain issues will play a growing role in upcoming completion schedules, he said. “Decisions about systems and materials will have to be made much earlier in the process of completion because the lead time for material availability is becoming a bigger issue.”
Also on the horizon are a new generation of low earth orbit satellites promising better airborne connectivity for AMAC customers. “The SpaceX [Starlink] system might be an option,” he said. “It is up and running and we’ve had concrete discussions with them. I expect it to be available perhaps within the next two years.”
He also forecasts a jump from 4K to 8K as “the next big development” in onboard monitors.
Meanwhile, the company is glad to be at EBACE this week after the show's two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. “That is definitely something we missed the last year—the personal contact, and having a chance to see people outside of the business—that’s the value of these shows,” Schramm concluded. “We are looking forward to having that again.”