For an operator looking to modify their aircraft, there could be a need for design, development, testing, approval and production before the change can be installed. Depending on the complexity of the modification this could be a lengthy and expensive process, so it would be frustrating to find that someone else had already carried out the hard work and found a solution to the same problem. Unfortunately, and especially for smaller items, it is extremely difficult to track down these alternative sources.
Fokker Services (now part of GKN Aerospace’s Fokker business unit after the 2015 takeover) had this in mind when, in October 2013, it launched its ModStore online trading platform, initially offering 9,000 certified aircraft modifications. Some of these came from partners in the company’s support programmes, others it had developed as part of the same programmes.
These were FLYFokker, a through life support programme for the company’s own aircraft range (Fokker F-27/28 and Fokker 50/60/70/100), and ABACUS, one of the very first component support programmes, having been set up in 1993. The launch also came at a time when the company was restructuring under pressure from a declining market as older Fokker types were being retired. The response was to diversify, adding Airbus, ATR and Boeing aircraft to FLYFokker and the Bombardier Dash 8/Q Series and CRJ 700/900/1000 to ABACUS.
Since that time, says Hélène de Wolf, Manager Modstore, it has grown to include more than 24,000 modifications, with FAA and EASA STCs, for commercial and business aircraft, and more than 6,500 modifications for helicopters. These are applicable to 175 types from 27 manufacturers. Just over 700 companies have registered, both as buyers and sellers, but some have several people signed up and there are some individual registrations, bringing total membership to around 1,060. In the last year, the number of registered members has grown by 34% and the number of registered companies by 40%. There are currently around 3,000 visitors per month.
Sellers can join for an initial annual fee of $2,245 and $2,995 thereafter, which provides access to the www.modstore.aero website. Alongside a company logo, they can showcase an unlimited number of modifications, designs and minor changes, each with information, pictures and videos. These can be changed, updated or removed as the market demands.
For buyers, once they have registered, a search facility using aircraft type, ATA chapter and/or keywords enables them to find all the providers with suitable solutions. They can then make contact directly. There is no commission fee paid to Fokker, says de Wolf, who also stresses that the company has no access to any correspondence via the website. It is a seller and buyer like any other member.
She adds that, in addition to finding existing modifications, ModStore can assist in finding a provider for a new requirement. By checking capabilities, it is possible to find a company that might be interested to look into new opportunities or developments. Sellers also use the website as a search engine to reach out to other STC providers to work together to help out a customer. More generally, feedback suggests that sellers often find the clients they get are not the ones they would normally be in contact with, perhaps for geographical reasons. They are provided with quarterly reports of customer visits to their site.
One company that has found success with ModStore is Avio-Diepen. The Dutch parts supplier has an exclusive distribution agreement with US-based Talon Aerospace, which offers a range of external LED lighting products. Frank Beyersbergen, Vice President of Program Development at Avio-Diepen, says he has received several enquiries and made sales for Gulfstream Aerospace business aircraft equipment. He notes that these have come from small operators who may not have access to the larger online inventory websites or may prefer to deal with another smaller operation. He says ModStore is needed in the market but recognition has to grow to generate more traffic. The subscription fees can be spread across several companies by Avio-Diepen but might be a deterrent for smaller companies. However, he has noticed that bigger companies are beginning to sign up, so this is
a positive sign. >>
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