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Maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) shops are an essential part of the aviation industry, but how does any given shop ensure its services and name resonates with operators?
It was a humble beginning for West Kelowna, British Columbia-based Alpine Aerotech, which opened its doors in 1990 with just three employees. What started out as an aircraft structure support shop for local operators in the Kelowna area quickly grew far beyond what was originally imagined. Within its first four years of operation alone, the company massively expanded its service capabilities list and added a new department dedicated to manufacturing.
Thirty years later, Alpine Aerotech now has a team of 150 employees across its three facilities in West Kelowna and Abbotsford, with a list of capabilities that checks off almost every type of helicopter service.
“It’s a great success story, one that I’m very proud to be part of,” said Aerotech president Jeff Denomme. “The growth and the success are really based on partnerships with customers [and] the OEMs, a truly dedicated staff, and understanding industry requirements.
“It’s gone from a shop with structures capability, to now paint, avionics, part sales, heavy maintenance, components, and specialized repairs . . . a true one-stop-shop.”
Aerotech has come a long way since its modest beginning in the early ’90s, and is now one of the largest MRO providers in the industry.
In capable hands
A major area of focus for Aerotech in recent years has been performing legacy aircraft upgrades and enhancements, which Denomme said is an important part of an operator’s fleet succession plan.
“We’re seeing more and more customers being proactive for the longevity of their aircraft,” he added. “Many operators are looking for options to extend and upgrade legacy aircraft.”
This type of work can include performance enhancements, avionics upgrades, safety enhancement upgrades, and complete refurbishments — all drawing on the expertise from the company’s numerous departments.
The technicians in each department have specialized skills — each one receiving the specific OEM training they need, Denomme said. While Aerotech’s technicians are capable of performing on-site services/repairs at a customer’s facility, the majority of the work is done in-house at either of the company’s MRO facilities to keep up with the demand.
The Abbotsford facility became part of the Aerotech family in 2013, when the company acquired an existing MRO shop in the area — which is now fully integrated into the business and operates under the Aerotech name. “Adding that facility is a great part of our success story,” said Denomme. “We have a large capacity with the two MRO facilities in Kelowna and Abbotsford, [as well as] a manufacturing facility here in West Kelowna.”
In addition to having both the capacity and a large team of skilled technicians to fulfill customer needs, the company’s broad inventory provides customers real-time access to parts in stock (new, overhauled, and repaired) to shorten lead times and minimize downtime of aircraft.
“Forecasting maintenance and parts requirements for operators is a service we provide to ensure that downtime is minimized and turn-around time is low,” said Denomme.
A broad scope
Aerotech has been a Bell service centre since 2000, and recently became a recognized maintenance centre for Leonardo Helicopters. The company also performs heavy maintenance on Airbus aircraft.
Denomme said thousands of aircraft have gone through the company’s facilities over the last three decades. Today, roughly 50 per cent of Aerotech’s work comes from the Canadian market, with the rest coming from a global customer base.
“Our list of capabilities, OEM approvals, and global credentials are all part of our best-in-class service,” he added. “Our global credentials are a requirement for providing our international customers with options and support, which also helps with the seasonality in our business.”
Denomme said given Aerotech’s many years of operation, the company is able to use past and current data to provide accurate and competitive quoting. Aerotech has a dedicated planning department to ensure project scope and deadlines are adhered to.
It’s one of the ways Aerotech goes above and beyond for its customers, and something the company celebrates in addition to its 30-year mark — with skilled staff who have played a major role in each of Aerotech’s achievements.
“The employees and management are certainly a huge part of the success here,” said Denomme. “It’s all reflected in our mission statement that experience has no substitute.”
All about the service
One approach that Aerotech has stayed true to since the beginning is its commitment to supporting and listening to its customers. Over the years, the company has developed over 50 supplemental type certificates (STCs) ranging from specialized repairs to mission-specific equipment derived from customer requirements.
Intended to completely revitalize unserviceable parts, Aerotech’s portfolio of specialized repairs incorporates unique design features to supplement limited OEM-defined repair procedures. Mission-specific equipment like the company’s Bell 505 Bearpaw increases safety, while its comprehensive list of panel protection products shields aircraft from expensive repairs.
“Those STCs are all customer driven, and all have a sense of efficiency, safety, reliability, and cost savings behind them,” said Denomme.
The strong relationship the company has built with its customers is truly demonstrated through the down-to-earth approach that Denomme and the Aerotech management team have instilled in their staff. When a customer needs support, it’s never farther than a phone call away.
“We’re a very personable company,” said Denomme. “You can pick up the phone and talk to anybody that has experience in the industry. We’re very proud of that. And we want to provide that level of service that customers would expect.”
From the initial work scope discussion to getting the aircraft operational, Aerotech takes care of the service recommendations, tailored requests, completions, and even the shipment of the aircraft.
“We’re very adept at handling the logistics side of shipping aircraft around the world. . . . It’s seamless for [the customer] if they want to send their aircraft here from across the world.”
And according to Denomme, Aerotech’s business approach and standards won’t change any time soon.
“We’re continually looking for opportunities, but we still want to provide the same level of service we’ve been providing for the past 30 years,” he said. “We really are spending a lot of time with our customers and understanding their requirements, and looking forward and being proactive with them to ensure that we support them throughout the year and for many years to come.
“I’m very proud to be here, and it’s very encouraging to see how our employee base is proud to be part of a great company, and a great industry.”