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Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance Formally Launches

The alliance, first announced in the form of a memorandum of understanding in January, will comprise of four retrofit specialists.

Four aircraft retrofit specialists—EAD Aerospace, Envoy Aerospace, Etihad Airways Engineering and Lufthansa Technik—have officially launched the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance (IAMA), firming up a memorandum of understanding that was first announced in January.

IAMA aims to develop best practices for retrofit certification and promote the fact that independent modifiers are held to the same standards as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) when designing modifications. Examples of typical retrofits include new-cabin installations, connectivity installs and avionics upgrades, which require supplemental type certification (STC).

“There is a growing concern that many customers perceive certifications [STCs] by aircraft manufacturers as higher quality,” Envoy Aerospace partner Mark Haycock said, announcing IAMA’s official launch at the Aircraft Interiors Expo (AIX) in Hamburg. “Approvals are applied evenly to independent companies; we have the same authorizations as OEMs.”

Haycock said independent-modifier quality standards extend “well beyond certification and approval,” adding “through IAMA, we want to eliminate the STC stereotypes.”

IAMA hopes to agree to common standards for the documentation and quality of STCs, to establish an open, secure documentation platform for airline customers and aircraft owners using STCs, and to promote the advantages of STC-approved solutions.

STCs require significant amounts of paperwork and a great deal of complexity, so IAMA will tackle common problems, harmonize best practices and develop a common voice for its members. The body also hopes to promote greater transparency in the STC process and support members working across different regulatory systems.

IAMA’s founders have already held several workshops, aimed at defining the alliance’s mission, structure, terms and rules of joining, membership levels and quality standards. Haycock said this has created “substance” to underpin IAMA’s priorities

Ultimately, IAMA plans to audit its members and endorse their STCs with a quality label, that covers the whole STC process from the initial proposal through to final delivery – although the body has no plans to seek its own design-organization approval.

Etihad Airways Engineering VP Bernhard Randerath said the IAMA quality label should be ready within six months to a year, but first the body needs to gather data from its members.

“As our membership grows, we will have the ability to draw on additional certification know-how,” Haycock said. IAMA is open to all modification providers, including airlines, lessors, aircraft manufacturers and other suppliers.

“It is difficult to say how many [members] we will be by the end of the year,” Lufthansa Technik VP head of design organization Andreas Gherman said, responding to a question from ATW.

“We are looking for companies that are passionate about this subject – that is how we ended up with our four founders – but we do see a large number of other players joining us. More than four [by the end of 2019], to be sure. Maybe eight, maybe 10.”

Lufthansa Technik executive for strategic partnerships and aircraft modification Nicole Noack has been chosen by the other members as head of IAMA.

Speaking to ATW at AIX, Noack said: “IAMA’s mission is to create an open alliance, independent from any one major company. We see different stakeholders in here which come from the whole retrofit market, so we are talking about design companies. We are not especially aiming to have new members rapidly. They need to be a good fit; emerging into the Asian market is one of our targets.”

Noack is aiming to be in a position to move forward ahead of the Airline Passenger Experience (APEX) Expo event, which will be held in Los Angeles in September. Her first goal is to develop an information campaign that identifies pain points in the STC process.

“We are pretty sure that the [IAMA] rule book won’t be ready in three months, but we will have a first draft and a prototype on that,” she told ATW, referring to the rules that will underpin the IAMA quality label. “We want to raise IAMA to a certain quality level that customers really can rely on.”

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