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New Aircraft Modifiers Association Tackles STC Problems

The Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance aims to tackle common STC problems, harmonize best practices and develop a common voice for its members.

After formally launching at the Aircraft Interiors (AIX) in April 2019, the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance (IAMA) is beginning to take shape, with the formation of several working groups, ahead of the body opening to new members later this year.

Four aircraft-retrofit specialists--EAD Aerospace, Envoy Aerospace, Etihad Airways Engineering and Lufthansa Technik--first announced plans to form IAMA in January. Their initial memorandum of understanding (MOU) was finalized three months later, at AIX in Hamburg.

Supplemental type certifications (STCs), such as new-cabin installations, connectivity installs and avionics upgrades, require significant amounts of paperwork and a great deal of complexity. IAMA aims to tackle common STC problems, harmonize best practices and develop a common voice for its members. The alliance also hopes to promote greater transparency in the STC process and support members working across different regulatory jurisdictions.

“IAMA founders are working hard to create an entity by the end of this year,” says Nicole Noack, Lufthansa Technik executive for strategic partnerships and aircraft modification and IAMA head.

She says the founders have created a four-tier IAMA membership model and four working groups.

The alliance will be open to all modification providers, including airlines, lessors, aircraft manufacturers and other suppliers. Organizations with STC capabilities will be able to apply for full or basic membership. A third tier, advisory membership, will be available to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), including airframe and systems providers. Airlines, banks and lessors will be given free membership.

“The possibility to apply for a membership will open once the official entity is established,” Noack says. “In addition, IAMA has established four working groups on different topics to create a transparent, distinct and independent market for aircraft retrofits.”

The first is the STC Standards working group, which aims to streamline the STC process and endorse approved STCs.

 “Since April, various pains and demands of different stakeholders have been collected,” she says.

For example, airlines and lessors identified issues around subcontracting and aftersales support, once the modification is installed. This feedback will has been fed into IAMA’s first draft “rulebook” of STC standards.

“The working group will, based on continuous market feedback, develop further rules and standards that the IAMA members commit to follow,” Noack says.

The alliance also aims to promote the fact that independent modifiers are held to the same standards as OEMs. Therefore, the “Community and Aligned Information Campaign” working group will promote the value of STCs, help overcome common misperceptions and teach methods to reduce or eliminate risk.

“For now, the working group is preparing an educational session about how to get your modifications approved and flying. This session will consider some of the key cabin modification hurdles and the strategies to address them,” Noack says. This seminar will be presented for the first time at Aircraft Interiors in Los Angeles on Sept. 11.

The “Authority Expert Panel” is IAMA’s third working group, aimed at forming positive relationships with key aviation authorities such as EASA in Europe and the U.S. FAA, as well as gaining their recognition.

Finally, IAMA has formed an “Intellectual Property” working group. “We believe that respecting individual member intellectual property (IP) rights is key for IAMA’s success. The mandate of the intellectual property working group is to reduce inefficiencies in IP handling and to develop future common practices between IAMA members and stakeholders,” Noack says.

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 to final delivery—although the body has no plans to seek its own design-organization approval.

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