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Bridging the gap

A new location has pulled together the repair network of Ontic and is offering new possibilities. Ian Harbison reports
Ontic is continuing to expand with the acquisition late last year of FirstmarkCorp. BBA Aviation, Ontic’s parent company, first looked at Firstmark back in 2014 as a good ‘bolt-on’ acquisition for Ontic, says Gareth Hall, President of Ontic. The main reasons were a high level of IP rights and a really strong portfolio of legacy products on long life platforms with growing order books. Additional benefits were location – Firstmark is in Creedmore, NC, on the East Coast, neatly between Ontic’s main facilities in Chatsworth, CA, and Cheltenham, UK, and closer to the majority of North American OEMs – and available space – 3,720m² available to expand into at a time when Cheltenham has just 930m² left and Chatsworth 1,860m².
Much of the work is US military and complementary to other parts of the business, but Firstmark owns the Type Certificate for the Twin Commander aircraft. This is slightly outside the company’s normal scope, although it does have a high IP content, rather than being ‘a collection of LRUs from different OEMs’. While there are no plans to put it back into production, there are still around 500 aircraft flying with a very loyal customer base, both private individuals and a number of firefighting agencies, where the high wing makes it an ideal spotter aircraft.
Repair and overhaul have not been a focus of the business for Firstmark in recent years, and this is an area where Ontic sees potential. In addition to its own products, he says it can also support the Ontic facilities, including the repair shop in Singapore. He expects to see additional technicians and capabilities added during 2019.
Meanwhile, Cheltenham supports the Boeing 737 production line with new equipment, such as smoke detection, and the repair of in-service products, as well as 777 fuel gauges. The repair of A320ceo Family fuel gauges continues to be a significant revenue stream.
A major development here was the purchase of a portfolio of legacy avionics from GE Aviation. Announced in November 2016, the $61.5 million acquisition was completed in January 2017. It includes electromechanical, barometric, gyroscopes and electronics products, with 750 LRUs and 68,000 part numbers.
This involved the redesign of 2,800m² of space to replicate the original workshop (see MRO Management, December 2017) and the transfer of 83 staff, with an additional 20 having been added since. This was achieved on time, he says, with minimal customer disruption. 
Interestingly, the shift has also seen some issues with what he calls ‘long term, delinquent products’ being resolved. While there was nothing wrong with the product or GE’s repair standards, he suggests that, being a new product for Ontic, there was perhaps more of a focus through the learning process. It also helps that all the work is on a single site, so, if an issue arises, it is possible to very quickly put together a multidisciplinary team to develop a solution. In addition, there is great experience on hand of working with low volume, highly complex components across different product ranges.
He says the commercial repair business is growing, along with the company in general. Last year, it had a $235 million turnover, with repair and overhaul accounting for 24% of the market. Commercial aviation accounts for 40% of turnover. The workload is divided between electronics/avionics (40%), electro/hydromechanical (28%), engine components (22%), other (7%) and landing gear (33%).
In the latest development, it has signed a new exclusive license agreement with a UK based OEM for engine pressure transmitters, fuel flow transmitters and fluid monitoring chip detectors. These are fitted on engines that include the GE Aviation CF6 and T700 and Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6, powering aircraft that include Airbus A300 and A330; Beechcraft King Air; Boeing 747, 757, 767; Bombardier CRJ900; and Pilatus PC-21 and PC-9.
Under the terms of the agreement, Ontic will now be responsible for all continuing Part 21 new build manufacturing as well as comprehensive Part 145 repairs and spares support for the global customers of this large installed-base. 

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