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A recent US$9-million expansion at Able Aerospace’s Mesa, Arizona, headquarters is the start of a multi-phase growth and investment plan to boost automation, scope-of-work and turn-time efficiencies for helicopters being repaired or overhauled.
Able officially opened its expansion in September 2019, adding 60,000 square feet (5,574 square meters) to an existing 200,000-square-foot campus within the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. While much of the new tooling and automation is initially dedicated to Able’s fixed-wing business, the investment of space, employees and technology will ultimately provide significant benefits to the company’s rotorcraft customers, as well, said general manager Michael Vercio.
“Although Able is growing on the fixed-wing side, we are still a leading rotor-wing aftermarket service provider and will continue to maintain our strong focus on the rotor market and its operators–as we have from our company’s inception,” said Vercio. “Our expansion and automation will do a lot to serve the rotor-wing sector, including giving us greater resources to keep more exchange units and rotable units on our shelves. That, in turn, increases our ability to provide low-cost solutions to our customer base.”
Go big or go home
In addition to incorporating new technology into its industry-leading aircraft component repair and overhaul (CR&O) process, Able’s expansion is allowing it to diversify into new product and service offerings, including aftermarket support for large-scale rotor-wing and commercial fixed-wing components.
Up to 100 new, skilled aerospace jobs, namely licensed airframe and powerplant mechanics, machinists, and plating and paint specialists, should result within the next several years. The company also expects to hire for engineering, sales and supply chain positions.
Purpose-built for success
From its purpose-built location, Able delivers more than 10,000 FAA-approved component repair, overhaul, parts and aircraft completion solutions for civilian and military, fixed- and rotor-wing operators in more than 60 countries. The Able Maintenance Center–located within the Able campus–delivers airframe repair and completion services, avionics upgrades and full paint services. All in-house work is completed by Able’s team of highly trained mechanics, engineers, and customer service and sales specialists.
Since relocating from Phoenix to Mesa in 2013, Able has added over 200 employees, bringing its current total number of team members to more than 450. It has also expanded its original footprint with new mezzanine space, a new paint facility and the Able Maintenance Center, featuring hangar space directly linked to the runway at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
In 2015, Able was acquired by Textron Aviation Inc., becoming an essential component of the aviation company’s global customer service network.
More efficiencies for more large operators
Able’s growth continues today, driven in part by larger fleets of older aircraft like the Bell 206, which are reaching an age where they need new, critical components to continue operation, said Vercio.
“Our core customers are large fleet operators that benefit from our economy of scale and our ability to contract for and maintain multiple aircraft at one time,” said Vercio. “As fleets get older, this is a key factor enabling us to complete more repairs faster and keep our customers flying.”
Because Able is manufacturer-agnostic, it has service agreements with most of the top helicopter manufacturers, including Bell, Airbus and Leonardo. As a worldwide CR&O provider, this allows Able to deliver the best service to operators of many helicopter types in multiple markets. It is certified to provide these services by the FAA, EASA, the Civil Aviation Administration of China, the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation, and in Thailand, Brazil, Egypt and Chile.
Room to fly
Able cut the ribbon on its expanded headquarters this past September but is not done spreading its wings. In 2019, it introduced $3 million in new-generation machinery, including a Hermle C 52 machining center and a Usach 200 OD grinder. Another couple million dollars worth of tooling and automated manufacturing machinery is due for installation in 2020, said Vercio.
“This is a multi-phase approach. What we’re targeting with the expansion is an increase in our technology and an ability to expand our capacity while improving our turn times on dynamic components.”
Able also anticipates being able to expand its special missions and defense capabilities as it grows its larger-scale aircraft repair.
In the large aircraft sector, Able is a trusted and tested aftermarket support resource for the commercial airline maintenance, repair and overhaul market, where it provides services for both Boeing and Airbus aircraft, including on engine mounts, tracks, carriages and actuation assemblies.
In November 2019, the company entered the landing gear market, selling its first three modified and upgraded landing gear sets for the Boeing 737NG airliner.
“The great thing about our business is that we’re constantly evolving,” said Vercio. “As aircraft platforms move from new and warrantied to older and in need of aftermarket support, Able is here. Our job is to make sure we have the talent and the technology to support those aircraft, and that’s what we’re continually working to do.”