DFW Instrument, LLC is benefiting from a case of lucky timing with its Universal Vacuum Tester. The tester, which performs maintenance tasks and testing for aircraft safety outflow valves through variable vacuum pressure, is now in high-demand due to a recent EASA airworthiness directive (AD). Issued for ATR42-400 and 500 aircraft, the directive amends time limits and maintenance checks.
According to Josh Abelson, DFW Instrument CEO, ADs on procedures rather than parts are fairly rare. Once this AD was issued, DFW Instrument suddenly began getting orders for the vacuum tester. “It’s a really unique situation in our minds,” says Abelson. “We caught the people that needed it immediately, and their window was closing, so they jumped on it.”
To test safety outflow valves in aircraft, decompression needs to be simulated to ensure the valves are working. If the tests are not performed correctly, the onboard oxygen of an aircraft can be contaminated. The industry standard has generally been to perform these tests on an air data tester or computer static box, which takes roughly an hour and a half. According to DFW Instrument, the Universal Vacuum Tester can complete the test in a mere 15-20 mins.
“From a technology standpoint, it’s just light years ahead of its competitors,” says Abelson. “It reduces the time to complete a required task by, in some cases, hours.”
The tester itself was initially developed in 2011 as a one-off product in direct response to a customer need. DFW Instrument was calibrating a competitor’s test set for Bombardier, which Abelson says was being used for a purpose it was not truly intended for. According to James Zollo, DFW Instrument’s general manager and chief inspector, the equipment kept failing. “We shared with them that this equipment wasn’t really designed for that application and that we could build them something to do the job correctly and more precisely,” says Zollo.
Once DFW Instrument learned that other customers were having similar challenges, the company began marketing the test set. Within the past year, the tester has received approvals from Bombardier, Gulfstream and ATR—the latter of which has resulted in DFW Instrument’s largest order to date in December 2017 thanks to the recent EASA AD.
Over the last six months, new customers of the test equipment have included drone and helicopter markets along with the company’s currently established aircraft OEM customers. Abelson says the DFW Instrument is currently in discussions with 5-6 airlines and more orders are anticipated. “We expect it to really take off dramatically,” he says.