ALOFT AeroArchitects President and CEO John Martin on the company’s rebranding from PATS Aircraft
PATS Aircraft has built up an enviable reputation for engineering excellence down the years, but that doesn’t carry much weight in the VVIP aircraft interior design stakes. Rebranding it as ALOFT AeroArchitects has been a shrewd move to highlight the fact tha t the company now has 16 successful VVIP completions to its name.
Q: PATS Aircraft was such a well-known brand in the industry that it must have taken considerable courage to rebrand the company afresh. How has it gone?
A: We have had a tremendously favourable reaction from the market to rebranding. We have kept the PATS brand for the auxiliary fuel tank business, because that is where it works well. But rebranding the company as ALOFT AeroArchitects highlights where we see a major part of the business going forward, which is in the VVIP completions space.
As PATS, we got started in the completions business because we were getting all these green aircraft delivered to us to have auxiliary fuel tanks installed in the belly, then they’d fly off elsewhere to get other engineers, designers and completions centers to spec out and build the interior for them. We looked at the aircraft leaving our hangar, and we thought, hey, we could do that too. Why not? However, as we performed more and more completions, we noticed that people were still thinking of us as PATS, as an engineering company and a fuel tank company, not as a top-of-the-line completions house. So that had to change.
Q: Can you take us through the way the completions business developed in a bit more detail?
A: Sure. Our founding father is Harvey Patrick, an entrepreneur who began engineering special applications and products for the aviation industry in the early 1970s. For three decades PATS provided a range of aux fuel systems to the retrofit market. Then, in 1998 Harvey was asked if he could design an auxiliary fuel system to be fitted into the belly of Boeing (and Bombardier) business jets to provide these larger business jets with more range. So, we were awarded the sole source contract for providing these auxiliary fuel systems, which we maintain to this day. Boeing also indicated that it did not want to redesign their aircraft assembly systems to install the tanks in place while the aircraft was in production. So they asked Harvey if he could find a hangar and accomplish the installation, if Boeing flew the jets to PATS as they came off the line. Harvey found a hangar nearby in Delaware, so that is how PATS got into the hangar and installation business. We are still installing the auxiliary fuel system on every BBJ today.
In 2002, we developed the idea of expanding PATS Aircraft by bidding for the completions side of these aircraft that were being flown to us. When we work on a green aircraft to install the auxiliary fuel systems, we have to remove the floorboards and the entire interior to put the tanks into the belly, and we had most all of the engineering skills required. All we needed to do was to develop the design and rendering capabilities, and build our relationships with the best monument providers in the business aviation space. We went about this with the same precision that we brought to our engineering work generally, and we found we were able to design, engineer and build some of the very best interiors for VVIPs and Heads of State.
The result is that we have just delivered our 16th Boeing BBJ to a very satisfied customer, the Sultan of Johor. We have built up a very solid reputation as a company that can do a tremendous job for a VVIP or government customer on the completions front.
We have a furniture and interiors group in-house, and we could have carried out all the monument building and cabinetry in-house if that was what we wanted. But the problem with going down that route is that you have to add to your skilled people in-house, and then when the market goes through one of its inevitable down cycles, you struggle to keep everyone busy.
Our approach is to specify exactly what our design calls for, then we leave it to the best furniture builders in the sector to provide the finished articles for us, which we then install and certify in the aircraft. We do an excellent job of project managing the whole completion project, so the owner does not have any concerns or issues about what we do in-house and what we contract out.
Q: What happens when the owner has his or her own designer?
A: In many cases, the owner will indeed have their own designer and if that is the case, we will very happily work with the owner’s chosen designer. We know most of the interior designers in the industry, and we are quite at home working with them as opposed to doing it all ourselves.
One of the really important features of our service here at ALOFT is that, with our FAA-awarded ODA (Organization Designation Authorization), we are able to completely certificate all the work that we do (via STC issuance). We have about 60 engineers on board the ALOFT team, and we also employ some really great project management people. That helps us to stand out above the competition…..thus, fully supporting our new name, ALOFT AeroArchitects!