Line maintenance specialist STS Aviation Group has acquired its first hangar and will build another one next year, both to do modifications like ADSB-Out, Wi-Fi installations and other “can’t wait” work, according to Group CEO PJ Anson.
Anson says STS has probably been the largest U.S. installer of Wi-Fi connections, doing these jobs on the ramp with line techs, or sending Go Teams to airline or other hangars when hangars are required for antenna radome installation. The Group has done these jobs for airlines that do not want to wait for heavy checks. With specialists on the job, the MRO can do a Wi-Fi mod consistently in 2.5 days, much briefer than airline shops, which require five to seven days.
That led to the decision to start a modification-only center. “We saw an opportunity in a niche market,” Anson notes.
He also sees opportunities in other urgent and short turn-time mods, like installation of GPS, ADSB-Out, and some service bulletins and airworthiness directives. In addition, the new modification center will do IFE upgrades, cabin retro-fits, in-seat power installations, lighting upgrades and winglet modifications.
“We are the first group to dedicate an entire facility just to modification work,” Anson stresses. STS will stay out of heavy checks, partly because many of its customers do these checks and it does not want to compete with them.
The first new hangar is a 114,500-square-foot widebody facility in Melbourne, Florida, originally built for bankrupt Russian carrier Transaero. It has been used by Aeromod International, which ceased operations in July. STS purchased the hangar and about a half million dollars’ worth of the equipment it contained, much of this equipment in need of maintenance.
Next to the Aeromod hangar is another hangar that has just begun construction. It will be a 90,000-square-foot widebody hangar when STS completes construction and opens it for business, which Anson expects about this time in 2018.
Anson acknowledges that staffing up for more work and capacity is the biggest challenge STS and other MROs have. But his Group has a recruiting division with 50 recruiters constantly seeking mechanics in the U.S. and around the world. Anson argues that gives STS a competitive advantage in growing the business. “It’s pretty hard to compete with that.”
And STS has been growing rapidly, usually with revenue up 15-18% a year. 2017 has been a year of acquisitions, however, with the purchase of 13 line stations and their staff from HAECO Americas. This year STS is concentrating on assimilating the new stations, and next year it will return to pushing internal growth.