AIRCRAFT MODIFICATION

Aircraft interiors are complex systems comprised of a large number of different types of equipment manufactured by a wide variety of suppliers. A single aircraft interior can have dozens of different suppliers involved in the design, certification, manufacture and installation of the end product. The interior must operate seamlessly, reliably and provide comfort, safety and in-service product desired by the client to meet its service and experience goals. All this complexity is heavily regulated by aviation authorities to provide unrivaled safety for those traveling aboard.

Making changes to an aircraft is a complex and expensive investment. The project will need to allocate and invest significant resources in design, engineering, manufacturing, installation and testing of the cabin interior.

Standards and designs of cabin interiors evolves through time, but often there is a lag in the evolution of regulatory requirements on the interior to keep up with industry innovation. interpretation of existing regulations is often unclear and subject to interpretation by different parties. This requires care in evaluation and understanding of existing regulations.

Aircraft interiors experience significant wear and tear and the Material and product degradation will change the experience of the owner guests and crew over time. Cabin interiors will often require a different retrofit and maintenance cycle that is not always aligned to the required aircraft overhaul and maintenance cycles.

All of these factors impart significant financial and operational risk when undertaking cabin modifications.


PROJECT DEFINITION

The Project Statement of Work (SOW) is one of the founding documents upon which all others refer to and is developed into the baseline for supplier and material sourcing, product specification development, schedule development, budget development and the bill of material development.

A detailed Project SOW is a detailed description of the work required to complete the modification project. It lists the materials, products and equipment to be designed, modified, installed during the modification, including the certification requirements and entry into service activities.

At this stage a list of risks associated with the project should be developed to mitigate, minimize or remove potential risks from the end product. The risks are then regularly reviewed as the project progresses based on the detailed SOW. This ensures that at any time all stakeholders are well-informed of both the projects and their own exposure to risk.

The projects team should ensure representation from all related functions dedicated to the aircraft design, engineering, manufacture, installation and operations. It is important that each member understand their role and the significance of committing to the project through to completion.


SELECTION OF THE
COMPLETION CENTER

Due to the complexity of VIP AIRCRAFT INTERIORS CERTIFICATION AND OPERATION, the interaction BETWEEN parts and systems and relationships OF multiple suppliers AND CONTRACTORS must ALL BE ABLE TO integrate seamlessly DURING THE projectS execution. selecting the right COMPLETION CENTER THEREFORE BECOMES a critical component in a successful vip interior modification project.

There are seven (7) main phases to a well-managed sourcing program.

1. Request for Proposal (RFP) development and release

2. Supplier response development

3. Supplier response consolidation and analysis

4. Supplier evaluations

5. Contract negotiations

6. Final award

7. Supplier approval


Common mistakes are often found throughout the process but start with an under-developed Request For Proposal (RFP). The RFP should pull heavily from the detailed program SOW for specific details of the overall program and the products or services required by each party. Ensuring the product RFPs are as detailed as possible in the product specification is critical to a successful project. This is especially applicable when a safety risk assessment is required due to introduction of new products / services or changes during the aircraft outfitting.

In addition to a detailed description of the project itself, requirements for maintenance, reliability, product weights, spare parts estimates, customer support, training, warranty and other critical items are good practices. It is also  appropriate to ask for recent delivery performance information and current client references.

Providing the Customer requirements upfront to a Completion Center in the RFP will better allow them to respond to meet the project and specific Customer requirements. It is also a “Best Practice” to develop the evaluation criteria for the selection process and communicate them to the Completion Centers. A thoroughly defined RFP will assist the Customer in evaluating the responses as they will be responding to a comprehensive request, as opposed to creating their own definitions. This allows for a more even comparison of the responses for each particular product or service and levels the playing field. Include initial schedules along with certification jurisdictional requirements. These elements will give the Completion Center a comprehensive picture of the projects, so they can properly evaluate internal capacities, capabilities and risk.

What is important for the Client to understand is that a Completion Center will often price “risk” into a project quotation. A more organized and complete RFP shows the supplier that the entire program has been well planned, thought out and is being managed properly. This will usually result in a lower “risk” profile assigned by the Completion Center to the project which will result in an optimized price to the Client. The unknown details of the project may cause the Completion Center to price in risk and also opens the possibility of significant price increases and change orders driven by a disconnected understanding of the project requirements between the Client and the Completion Center.

Identifying for the suppliers, what the key business requirements and criteria will be for evaluation (e.g. cost, innovation, quality assurance of supply, product safety / reliability) and examples of how the assessment will be completed can improve the RFP responses and ease the evaluation of the responses.

An adequate number requests for the RFP distribution is dependent on the aircraft type, and the number of qualified Completion Centers for that model. It is good practice to include a time frame for initial evaluation, submittal of supplier questions, responses to questions, and a response deadline. It is also imperative that the project team provide a reasonable time for a Completion Center to respond to the RFP. For most major projects, 4-6 weeks is an adequate time period for a response. Attempting to get a response in less than 2 weeks will greatly degrade the Completion Centers ability to properly vet the opportunity, capacities, capabilities, risks, etc. This can lead to higher pricing and higher risks in the project.

The Client can elect to make all questions and answers visible to all participants or manage on a direct basis. Depending on the scope of the project, the time frame for this may vary. However, the process should consider the following detailed steps/elements:

1. RFP release.

2. Response evaluation criteria.

3. RFP questions from Completion Centers.

4. Responses to Completion Centers questions.

5. RFP response submittal.

6. Response evaluation.

7. Questions, clarification, interaction with completion centers.

8. Down select (typically 2-3 completion centers).

9. Notify completion centers of initial RFP results.

10. Second round of negotiations and questions, clarifications, etc.

11. Submittal of Completion Centers best and final proposals.

12. Best and final response evaluation.

13. Questions, clarification, interaction with individual suppliers.

14. Site visit to potential Completion Centers.

15. Final evaluation.

16. Contractual discussion and agreement.

17. Final Completion Center selection.


Include a defined and ridged protocol for communication and responses within the RFP instructions. The Client should want to manage integrity and a fair response process. Designate a primary point of contact for the RFP communications and the submittal process. Note that a Completion Center is subject to exclusion of consideration for circumventing this process.


EVALUATING THE COMPLETION CENTERS,
MAJOR SUPPLIERS & SERVICE PROVIDERS

Once the CLIENT has received the responses, USE a balanced process to determine the top candidates for consideration WITH A specific procurement processes to guide them in making the necessary decisions. THE PROJECTS SUCCESS requirements are set based on key elements which WILL include cost, SCHEDULE, innovation, quality assurance AND SAFETY.

Evaluating the Completion Centers, the major suppliers and service providers on a both a quantitative and qualitative basis is crucial. The key indicators will include:

1. How responsive were they to the RFP? Did they acknowledge receipt and open lines of communication

2. Did they have any questions about the RFP? Was there communication and back and forth during the development of their RFP?

3. Were the questions they asked already clearly covered in the RFP documentation? (i.e., did they thoroughly read the RFP)?

4. Was their RFP format consistent with what was requested,

5. Did they answer all the questions and provide all the requested data in the RFP?

6. Did they highlight any additional program or schedule risks which may have been previously missed?


It is important to be aware of responses that seem significantly outside the realm of other proposals. Was the response limited in detail and is the pricing orders of magnitude below the rest of the field? A proposal that seems too good to be true often is. The Completion Center may not have a clear understanding of the full scope of what is required to deliver on a proposal, or they have priced it so aggressively just to win business, regardless of it being at a business loss. The concern here becomes that if the project enters significant problems, delays, etc. will they be prepared to continue to lose money to try and recover a project that is already a loss for them? Or will the project be a low priority for them as it is not financially stable?

In some cases, a new supplier entering the marketplace may have included a budget to buy their way into the project. With these outlier responses, it is reasonable and recommended to be direct and try to understand what is driving this. For a new supplier, product or service, the vendor needs good references to help capture business. The Client may get lucky and have a ‘buy in’ pricing offer with the highest level of importance and effort from the supplier but this should be confirmed through discussions and references before an award is made.

In most cases, the top two-three (2-3) candidates should be selected for a down selection process. For the Completion Center and the major product and service providers in a project it is imperative to perform an on-site evaluation after down-selection process. These business' will have performance monitoring systems in place for operational and supplier performance. Key elements to evaluate to help determine a supplier’s capability to perform are:

1. Capacity planning in development engineering and production

2. Sub-supplier performance including on-time delivery and quality oversight

3. Internal performance to schedule on recent development programs including engineering development, certification, and delivery

4. Overtime usage, and percentage of contract labor

5. Warranty claims (quality)

6. Additional qualitative items to evaluate during the site visit include: Is the facility clean, organized, well-staffed?

7. How easy and quickly can the supplier increase capacity or staffing if workloads require it?

8. How many of their employees are temporary staff versus full time employees?

9. During the site visit is senior management available to meet with?

10. Are they attentive and responsive to any questions?

11. Is the facility clean and well organized and do the employees look happy to be there?

12. What is their recent capacity growth, and does it look sustainable?

13. What is the financial health of the entity?


Successful projects are highly predicated on selecting capable suppliers. Poor selection and resulting poor performance will drive the majority of project issues. Dedicating adequate time and resources to the process will enable the best decision possible.


COORDINATION + INTERACTION
WITH THE CERTIFYING AUTHORITY

Once a project has been defined, the certification applicant will develop a Certification Plan that defines the classification type for the modification, the affected regulatory areas, systems, etc.

Upon acceptance of the Certification Plan, the regulatory authority with jurisdiction will issue a Project Number and disclose whether or not they mandate oversight of the project. From this point forward, the line of communication related to the specific project has been opened pertaining to communication between the certification applicant, and the regulatory authority(s).

Once a project has been defined, the certification applicant will develop a Certification Plan that defines the classification type for the modification, the affected regulatory areas, systems, etc.

The project will require a primary certification basis, such as under FAA or EASA guidance (aka “prime”), followed by local regulatory validation in the jurisdiction of where the aircraft is registered and / or the location of the certificate of operation. The certification plan will identify this and make a formal request for certification validation by subsequent authority. The normal process flow is that the certification plan is submitted to the regulatory authority that is acting as “prime”. The “prime” will review and accept the certification plan. Following acceptance, the “prime” will formally notify any other required regulatory office that a modification project request has been opened for an aircraft registered under their jurisdiction. Once this has taken place, it opens the lines of communication between the applicant, primary regulatory authority, and the local regulatory office.


PROJECT MANAGEMENT
BEST PRACTICES

There are a number of tools available today to assist with organization, tracking, measuring, and reporting the health and status of the program. It is recommended to utilize cloud based or access permitted electronic portals to have real time access to the program status and ensure all applicable parties have access to the data they need for proper and efficient execution of the program. This also helps from a record-keeping perspective as a data warehouse will already be complete for future reference.

The three (3) key aspects of effective project management are:

1. Correct and detailed planning

2. Communication

3. Project status tracking


Developing detailed SOW and schedules and understanding that these are living documents that will adjust over the life of the program and maintaining each of them current is key to proper program management and a project’s success. They are the foundation of the entire project and have been covered at length previously in Detailed Scope of Work Development and Schedule Development and Initial Schedule Estimates.

Communication should be planned, regularly scheduled, have discrete goals and also be flexible to adjust to the program’s ebb and flow. Communication will take a variety of forms during the project including email, telecons, meeting minutes, letters, etc.

Regardless of the form, there needs to be a clearly defined responsible party and communication flow path within and between each partner in the program. A central communication pathway is crucial to proper and successful program management. There is nothing more confusing than a supplier speaking with different contacts within the project team and receiving different sets of conflicting direction. Each party involved in the program (customer, product suppliers, service providers, etc.) should designate a single responsible party for all communication related to the program. The hub of all program communication should lie with the overall program manager. The program manager has primary responsibility in coordinating between all the stakeholders and involved parties. All communications between these parties should be run through the program manager. These parties include, but may not be limited to:

1. Customer (and all internal stakeholders within the Customer)

2. Owner (or lessor as applicable)

3. Airframe OEM (as appropriate)

4. Engineering / certification service provider

5. Product suppliers

6. 3rd party product / interior designers

7. 3rd party MRO / integrator


THE CLIENTS internal stakeholders (as aforementioned) need to be consulted and their concerns need to be addressed via proper representation in the Core Team. Representatives from at least the areas listed below should provide their input depending on the specific program but may not be limited to:

1. Technical Operations (Engineering and Maintenance)

2. Flight Operations (cockpit crew)

3. In Flight Service (technical and cabin crew)

4. Legal & Contracts Finance


Establishing a healthy working relationship and trust within the team is essential. Every project will have challenges and the key is to have a team that is willing to report the risk before it becomes a crisis. One key to building this relationship and trust is regular communication between the program parties.

Regularly scheduled program status meetings and/or conference calls should be a staple of any properly run program. Depending on the complexity and the size of the project, this may be bi-weekly at the onset, progress to weekly on or around the program Preliminary Design Review (PDR) meeting and Critical Design Review (CDR), and daily on or around the initial kit deliveries through the aircraft modification. It very important that the Customer, as the end Customer participate in the regularly scheduled project meetings even if they have hired a 3rd party program management firm to assist in managing the project. The Customer will be viewed as the ‘end Customer’ and most participants will be prompt, organized, and responsive to promote a positive reputation with the Customer.

When the project status or schedule changes dictate, the regular communications should be adjusted accordingly to ensure a reasonable and quick flow of information to all involved parties. It is also important to keep the communication lines limited to those with a direct need to be on the calls or in the meetings. The lead communication designee from each involved party (supplier, Customer, service provider, etc.) should be involved in the program calls when appropriate and they can pull in subject matter experts as necessary from call/meeting to call/meeting.

It is also crucially important to summarize all the discussions, decisions and action items on each of the program status calls and circulate those to all parties that participated. This helps memorialize decisions, agreed schedules or schedule adjustments, etc. that may have occurred during the call/meeting. These regular program review calls / meetings should include a review of the program status, high-level updates from the participants, a review of the action item list with any updates since the last call/meeting, schedule reviews and discussion of any newly identified risks or issues since the last call/meeting.

The whole program and each element of the project will have its own risks. If not managed, a simple issue with an individual supplier can develop into a major problem. Reviewing them regularly will help to identify issues early enough that recovery plans can be properly developed and implemented. Risk assessments should also include elements of operational safety.

Action item lists should track all actions and deliverables due from each party to the program and they should include the following:

1. Detailed description of the required deliverable or item

2. Clear responsibility assigned to the appropriate party

3. Due dates

4. Comment / tracking field so that weekly updates can be tracked against each item and its progress

5. Field to capture a detailed description of the closing action of each action item


The master program tracking tools include development of the following:

1. Project Master Schedule containing the critical path and key milestone events

2. Rolled up major deliverables from key suppliers

3. Regularly scheduled program review meetings with key project members

4. Master action item list

5. Supplier performance metrics

6. Schedule performance metrics

7. Risk management assessment

8. Budget performance to plan


Each primary supplier has a significant role in the process. The following should also be tracked for each supplier and should be maintained to properly report up to the overall project:

1. A primary point of contact assigned to the project

2. Project schedule including critical path and key milestone events for that supplier’s project deliverables

3. Performance to schedule metrics

4. Action item list for internal flow down

5. Supplier performance metrics

6. Risk management assessment.


It must be clear that the overall program manager has the responsibility for monitoring, documenting, and reporting the overall program status. This includes the sub-supplier activities.

In many cases program delays occur because a sub-supplier fails to deliver. Proactively making site visits to the major suppliers throughout the development process can be helpful to avoid delays.


IDENTIFICATION & MANAGEMENT
OF MAJOR PROJECT RISKS

Project risks are going to vary depending on the type of aircraft, the overall SOW, contractual partners, schedule, etc. If the project contains new products that have not been previously certified, that may elevate the overall risk level. Determining program risks begins with analyzing the major elements of the project scope.

The two most common major risks are associated with not selecting the right suppliers / partners for the program and not developing and utilizing a detailed, well developed SOW as the foundation of the program.

PRODUCTS

Have the products been previously certified for installation on the targeted aircraft model(s) and type(s)? If not what type of testing will be required? Dynamic or static structural testing? DO-160, flammability, EMI, Head Injury Criteria, abuse load, etc.? Tests such as dynamic testing of seats or DO-160 testing of newly designed components are often the riskier types of testing which a program can encounter.

SUPPLIERS

Has a thorough process been completed in validating the supplier’s capability and capacity to deliver quality products and services on time?

ENGINEERING & CERTIFICATION

IS the contractor experienced with this level / type of modification program and do they have experience on the specific airframe type(s) associated with the program?. Is there a solid certification plan in place and does the selected firm have extensive experience and a positive relationship with its regulatory authority? What will be the OEM involvement?

MODIFICATION FACILITY

Is the contractor selected to perform the touch labor experienced in cabin modification work? Will this work be stand alone and performed in conjunction with a heavy maintenance visit (HMV)? Who will accomplish the modification part kitting and where will the kits be staged?

SCHEDULE

Major milestones that have a significant downstream effect such as Critical Design Review (aka Design Freeze), Bill of Material (BOM) release dates, Customer Furnished Equipment (CFE) on-dock dates at selected suppliers, certification test dates or project plan submittal milestones.

INTEGRATION

What parts and components will need to integrate together for the final modification installation? Often, the focus on integration is solely at the aircraft installation level but in interior modifications, product integration at the assembly / component level is often not provided the appropriate attention and risk analysis. (e.g. IFE integration into a seat or galley insert integration into a galley unit).

LOGISTICS

How many major partners are involved in the program and where are they physically located? Who will produce which parts and who and where will parts kits be produced, staged and where do they need to be shipped to? Ensure a comprehensive logistics plan is in place.

TRAINING, DOCUMENTATION & OPERATIONS MANUAL

Sufficient time is required for training, trials and documentation process such as incorporation of the new information in to the operation manuals. This is also an area which regulators will be working consistently with the engineering and training departments to evaluate the exposure to risk.

Every aspect of the project will have some level of risk inherent within the scope. The key is to identify each risk area working directly with the responsible party, capture each risk in the project planning, and routinely analyze progress in overcoming the risk areas, and take immediate action when they start progressing towards becoming an issue.

Many suppliers and program managers will utilize methods of measuring risks such as ‘stop light’ categorization: green, yellow, and red. Project schedule buffers and back-up plans are also commonly used to track risk items. A good indicator of risk is to regularly evaluate at the level of schedule penetration into the individual task buffer(s). A combination of task buffers around areas of identified risk as well as an overall project buffer are good methods to help identify the overall health of the project development.

Regular and consistent reporting and communication is a key hallmark of a successful program. Weekly evaluation of the schedule, its changes, delays, early deliveries, etc. is imperative to properly managing the project to a successful outcome.


CERTIFICATION CONSIDERATIONS
& RISK MITIGATION

Depending on the scope and complexity of the modification, there may be several methods available to obtain the certification. These include minor modifications through basic regulatory approved data and Engineering Orders or Service Bulletins, to obtaining a Supplemental Type Certification (STC) for more significant modifications. These can be achieved using an in-house engineering system that has the proper authority from the governing regulatory agency or utilizing a third-party firm that specializes in reconfiguration engineering development and STC activity. In both cases, the firm that is generating the reconfiguration engineering and applying for the STC is commonly referred to as the certification applicant (“applicant”). The risks associated with these methods can vary depending on the complexity of the project, and the level of experience and reputation of the applicant

Typically, the first step in the engineering development process is to create the certification plan. This is a very critical phase as it establishes the approach, method of compliance and builds out the scope of work for the certification requirements of the project.The certification plan is a document that is created to outline the overall project definition from a technical and regulatory standpoint. Within the certification plan it outlines the current certified areas and systems disturbed by the retrofit, establishes means of compliance for the applicable regulations, and defines the method in which the retrofit will be validated in order to obtain an approved STC and apply for entry to service when the project is complete.

Developing a certification compliance matrix is a key part of the certification approach and identifying certification risks. The compliance matrix lists all the applicable regulations which the post modified aircraft must meet. By developing the compliance matrix and identifying the method of compliance for each regulation, areas of concern where proof of compliance has increased risk are highlighted. This process also develops the list of products and systems which are being affected and whether compliance with the regulations will be shown via testing, computation, similarity or other acceptable methods. In some instances, an Alternative Means of Compliance (“AMOC”) may be required. It also starts to highlight areas where the regulations are not clear and concise, especially where new technology or new configurations may be concerned. In those circumstances, often an Issue Paper is developed in cooperation with the regulatory authority. The Issue Paper will define how all parties intend to address a unique or new situation and prove regulatory compliance.

There is significant risk in using contractors or professionals without adequate experience to develop the certification plan. In addition, the contractors relationship with their regulatory authority is a significant factor in their ability to execute the program in a timely manner without undue or burdensome oversight. Generally, experienced engineering firms and professionals can typically produce a certification plan in 2-4 weeks depending on the complexity of the project. If it is taking substantially longer, that is a general indicator that there may be increased risk in a program and/or the contractor has selected the wrong partner for the job.

Every aspect of the modification that is introduced onto the aircraft needs to be substantiated and certified at the component level and the aircraft installation level. There are many elements that can be involved such as structural, mechanical, electrical, decompression, flammability, safety, etc. In many projects, the risks are often more likely to be at the product / component level. Most experienced product manufacturers are aware of limitations their specific products must maintain on each airframe type.

The phrase “exceeds allowables” refers to a specific aspect of the product design that exceeds an allowed maximum criteria established by the airframe manufacturer. These criteria are commonly referred to as “published allowables.” When developing an RFP for products, it is standard to list as a requirement of the supplier to comply with the airframe published allowables. For the latest generation aircraft, the published allowables may have very limited availability without airframe OEM assistance.

For existing certified products that are customized for a specific program, even requiring full component certification activities, there are generally existing defined regulations and examples of already qualified products that can be used to assist with the certification approach.For innovation, most suppliers developing the product have already developed a method of compliance they will use for qualification. Normally, as part of the product concept and development process, means of compliance are thoroughly analyzed and a methodology is developed in conjunction with the design.

It is highly recommended to be very proactive and engage with the suppliers during the RFP selection process regarding their experience, expertise, and plan for certifying the products.

All of these factors impart significant financial and operational risk when undertaking a cabin interior completion, modification or retrofit.

When considering new innovative products, certification approach and risks need to be discussed during the RFP process. The programme should obtain a clear understanding of the intended methods of compliance to be used, the associated risks of those methods, and alternate paths of compliance as options. As part of their internal RFP review and response development, most product companies will have already conducted an unofficial conversation with their regulatory oversight office to get an initial indication of the intended plan for substantiation and certification. It is recommended to have an experienced certification expert on your team when seeking new innovative solutions.

The certification applicant generally has an authorized and licensed/designated member on sight to perform these duties. A significant risk with the prototype installation relates to ensuring material and installation conformity during accomplishment of the modification embodiment. A common mistake made by inexperienced installation facilities is to continue installation work beyond a milestone / gate that requires in-process conformity inspections. This often will result in significant disassembly to access areas for compliance inspection. This can increase the aircraft modification/installation time by multiple weeks if encountered.

To help mitigate delays on the aircraft modification certification process, it is recommended to meet with the modification facility in advance of the aircraft input to thoroughly review the modification conformity process. This includes ensuring a clear understanding of the process and responsibilities related to finding of regulatory compliance. Who will be responsible for compliance coordination, inspections, etc. and where / when will those findings of compliance be completed during the program.

Another area of risk is related to performance and success of any ground testing and flight testing that may be required to complete the compliance process. These requirements should be defined within the certification plan. In most cases these testing procedures require specific equipment. The certification applicant should have a list of these requirements and the project management process should capture and track responsibility for obtaining the required testing equipment within a schedule to support the program.

Communication and coordination are keys to success in regards to the overall certification portion of the program. This begins on day one with the development of the certification plan, coordination with suppliers, understanding of product and systems certification basis, specific local regulatory and Customer requirements, as well as the overall specific airframe requirements.

Even if an Customer outsources all the certification to a highly qualified partner, it is highly recommended that the program manager for the entire project have a general familiarity with the certification process and the above referenced documents and procedures.

It is important for the Programme to understand the responsibilities of the applicant, as well as, have a clear understanding of ownership of the STC or any Intellectual Property (“IP”) that will be developed as part of the program development. Discussing IP ownership, STC submittal / management post certification are key items many Programmes do not properly address upfront in a project, leaving confusion on who owns what and who is responsible for STC management after the STC has been approved. It is recommended to state within the RFP requirements an Customer’s position in regard to IP ownership, especially if the Customer is funding the development costs.


COMMON RISK AREAS
AND DELAYS

There are a number of different factors and variables within a modification program that are common risk areas. These include general reconfiguration development, product qualification and certification, supplier performance, aircraft modification, and overall certification of the reconfiguration..

To assist in evaluating these, we can look at the major elements within a cabin reconfiguration program and highlight some common risk areas.

When it comes to cabin products, whether considering new designs or specific enhancements to existing products, there is generally some level of testing required to certify the product for the intended program

DATA ACCESS

Aircraft design and specification data access needed to develop the reconfiguration engineering, certification and interfaces of the product to the aircraft, including structures, mechanical, electrical, decompression, previous modification, etc. can be a significant challenge. Depending on the aircraft type, and age, this may carry different levels of risk. It is important to have this discussion with the perspective suppliers during the RFP process to ensure there is an understanding of responsibility and a path to acquiring the required aircraft data. This is especially important with modern aircraft as a lot of the data has very limited to no access outside of the aircraft OEM.

SETTING PROGRAM EXPECTATIONS

Make sure there is a clear understanding and documentation of expectation with all the program suppliers and service providers. Do the suppliers clearly understand what the expectations are.

EARLY BUY-IN AND CONSENSUS FROM STAKEHOLDERS

It is common occurrence that a program delay is caused by a lack of understanding by the Customer of the importance of making decisions in a timely manner and sticking to those decisions once they are made. Dedicate the time upfront to work with internal stakeholders to obtain a consensus on the design and scope, as well as the Customer requirements and local regulatory agency. Changing a direction or decision is common but should be kept to a minimum during a program and the effects of those changes should be clearly understood by the Customer management prior to making the decision. Budget and schedule effects can be significant due to changes in direction, reversing a decision weeks or months after it was made or not making decisions within the program established and published deadlines. Identification, inclusivity and communications between key airline stakeholders is essential to the success of the program and avoidance of costly delays.

CURRENCY RISKS

Depending on the program size and global distribution of the selected suppliers, there is a risk that currency value adjustments over the life of the program can cause unexpected financial impacts. Close coordination with the Customer’s finance group and the purchasing team are important to capitalize on potential natural hedges of incoming Customer revenue, as well as currency selection in each of the supplier contracts.

LOGISTICS AND CONTRACTUAL UNDERSTANDING

Complex interior modification programs can involve a significant number of suppliers with some shipping their products to other suppliers for incorporation in next higher level assemblies. Having a comprehensive understanding of the program logistics and a solid logistics plan is imperative. Products may be kitted at different levels and at different locations shipping between product suppliers and to the final installation location. A clear plan on who is responsible for which products and which kits will mitigate shipment delays, damage, missing parts, etc.

In addition to logistics having a clear understanding of contractual responsibilities for the supply of various products is imperative. There are generally three (3) typical categories of product supply responsibility / definitions:

1. Buyer Furnished Equipment (BFE) – Customer is purchasing the equipment and responsible for its delivery to the integrator (or, if applicable) next level assembly provider

2. Seller Furnished Equipment (SFE) – Customer has contract with Modification Center (or MRO) for delivery and installation of those parts.

3. Seller Purchased Equipment (SPE) – Customer has the contract to purchase the equipment directly from the parts supplier and the modification Center is paid a fee to manage the project and integrate the parts and schedule.


It is important that all parties have a clear understanding of which category each product falls into and where final responsibility rests.

BASELINE AIRCRAFT CONFIGURAITON

A clear understanding and communication with all participating parties of the aircraft’s initial baseline configuration inclusive of all previously embodied modifications is critical. It is all too common that lack of concise configuration identification at the beginning of a program results in surprises during modification installation at the end of the program requiring significant rework, expense and schedule delays.

TRAINING AND SERVICE DELIVERY PREPARATION

Communication and coordination with stakeholders responsible for training, crew scheduling, service delivery is necessary to ensure that the design of training SYLLABUS and necessary communications with cabin crew can be accomplished concurrently throughout the main program phases.

MATERIAL FINISHES

Customer specific finishes such as seating, cabinet, joinery and soft material finishes in general typically require flammability substantiation specific to the project. In most cases, this is relatively standard and performed with success routinely. Most finish products are marketed and advertised as compliant to latest flammability requirements. However, for program specific use, many cases require flammability substantiation of that specific product with that unique finish. This is commonly referred to as combination testing, the combination of the product substrate and the finish material that the finish material is applied to.

DYNAMIC AND STRUCTURAL TESTING

Passenger seating is a popular commodity to incorporate Customer specific look and features. In some cases, with existing ‘pre-certified’ seating products, specific features that are offered, or a combination there of, may require product qualification testing. As the base seat design itself has already proven viability through previous certification efforts, incorporating Customer specific features generally doesn’t carry the same level of risk as initial product design testing. However, any time a program requires dynamic testing of seats, there is an increased program risk level to Certification.

Aircraft seating Head Injury Criteria (HIC) in conjunction with various seat installations, pitches and variances in IFE installations may result in additional risk to a program.

The same can be said for cabin monuments such as wardrobe closets, stowage cabinets, galley units, etc. In most cases the variations of these products and the Customer specific features will not require a complete redesign or new design all together.

INSTRUCTIONS FOR CONTINUED AIRWORTHINESS

Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (ICA) are a regulatory requirement for products and systems developed and installed on the aircraft. Often the ICA is left until the end of the program by product suppliers and the certification / engineering service provider(s). Not having ICA ready will delay STC release as they are a regulatory requirement. A common program delay is not having the ICA ready at STC final submittal. ICA development, submittal and release should be an item that is closely tracked by the overall program manager to ensure it does not result in a program delay at the 11th hour. ICA requirements will be dictated by the types of products being installed but may include items such as Component Maintenance Manuals (CMM), Illustrated Parts Catalogues (IPC), Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM) supplements, Wire Diagram Manual (WDM) supplements, Minimum Equipment List (MEL) revisions / supplements, etc

SOFTWARE PROGRAMMING

The development of product software (e.g. customized In Flight Entertainments (IFE) user interface UI)) and software certification can often add significant risk to a project. Depending on the complexity of the program, the software development effort should not be underestimated. Software may also require significant certification testing depending on its interface with other aircraft systems.

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

Anytime a program involves development of a new product design or first of model certification and installation, it becomes high risk. Extensive design efforts, substantiation, cycle testing, abuse load testing, qualification testing, etc. are required. As such it is important to monitor every task from the development cycle, through qualification testing, and production build to help mitigate the risk. Due to the involved qualification testing and high risk an Customer should plan on ample time for product redesigns and repeat testing.

NEW SUPPLIERS

New suppliers to the market, whether for products or services should be considered high risk. While there are many benefits to considering a new supplier on the market, a potential lack of experience in execution of these complex programs makes them more susceptible to challenges that can quickly turn into significant issues. All suppliers require monitoring throughout the program development, testing, and production process. If selecting a new supplier to the market, an Customer should consider increased oversight, management and a number of meetings and visits to their facility to provide a higher level of oversight and program management to mitigate the risk.


PROGRAM RECOVERY

A program team that is effectively working together, regularly meeting, communicating, managing a program action item list, monitoring schedules to completion, and managing program risk areas, will usually have visibility of a problem brewing prior to it becoming critical. Whether it is predicted or a surprise, once the problem arises the first step is to create visibility within the program participants.

A program team that is effectively working together, regularly meeting, communicating, managing a program action item list, monitoring schedules to completion, and managing program risk areas, will usually have visibility of a problem brewing prior to it becoming critical. Whether it is predicted or a surprise, once the problem arises the first step is to create visibility within the program participants.

Quick identification and communication between all affected parties is the first crucial step to identifying and developing recovery plans and mitigating damage and delays. Organize the project team for a meeting specifically to address the issue at hand. Document what is known about the issue. There are a number of program management tools to assist with this. The key is to dissect the issue so that all parties have a clear understanding of what the problem is.

Once the problem is properly defined, the team can identify resolution steps. In most cases there are a number of different factors and potential resolutions. The key is to generate a consensus by the team on a path forward and begin the recovery plan. A supplier or provider trying to recover on their own and hiding the issue from the rest of the team is a recipe for major problems and delays. This is another reason why participation and continued monitoring at the Customer level is important. If an Customer has selected the right partners for their program and developed the management and teamwork approach to operate effectively in the program, then the team will pull together to develop workable solutions. Often other parties can adjust their internal schedules to accommodate delays from others while mitigating overall program delays. However, these resolutions can only occur if all parties are aware of the issue and working cooperatively to find a solution.

For example, a leather supplier (sourced by the Customer) suffers a delay in leather tanning production and the leather will now be delivered three weeks late to the seat supplier for cut and sew. If the seat supplier is notified early enough, they may be able to adjust their production schedule and/or their cut & sew supplier to expedite the work. Furthermore, the MRO installing the seats maybe able to adjust its schedule to accept the seats one week later than originally scheduled. With all the program participants working together as a team, a recovery plan is put in place with all parties participating and making adjustment for a successful outcome.

It is generally a good practice for the overall project program management to assign a person from the team to head the recovery initiative. The program manager needs to continue managing the overall project while also making sure the recovery initiative is resourced and fully supported. The recovery initiative leader then needs to have team members identified that will work together on this initiative until resolved.

The recovery initiative becomes an elevated task within the overall program schedule. Once the recovery team has been identified, the recovery initiative leader should initiate regularly scheduled meetings for the team. Depending on the severity of the issue and the size of the recovery effort, this may include morning briefs to outline the individual tasks for the day, assignments of responsibility, and acknowledgement of objective. Then the team assembles again at the end of the day to evaluate successes, update the progress, raise any issues that may have occurred, etc. This process continues until the issue is resolved. The overall project manager is generally briefed on a regular basis with a simple, we are on track for recovery, or we have additional challenges to overcome type update.



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