Duncan Aviation Chairman Emeritus J. Robert Duncan (center) and Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Jeff Lake (right) accept the award from Bill Molloy, Vice President of Aftermarket Sales and Commercial Strategy, Bombardier Business Aircraft.
Robert & Todd Duncan Joined Us At NBAA
We're Proud Of Our Team Members
Couldn't do it without them.
Static Display: Luxury Dornier 328
Learn more about it by watching this video.
Luxury Dornier 328 - YouTube
We Talked With Customer
A Lot Of Customers
We Got Down To Business
But We Relaxed And Had Fun
Hundreds of aviation professionals, operators, enthusiasts, and students alike, stopped by our booth. We appreciated meeting every single one and thanked them for coming.
Five Stiches down…Six stiches across…five stiches up…six stiches across. Repeat…seven times for each row; 25 rows…80 hexagons; 160 hexagons per seat; five seats…800 hexagons, all stitched by hand.
Guided by hand through an industrial Pfaff sewing machine, Niki McClish, upholstery crew leader at Duncan Aviation's Battle Creek, Michigan, facility, diligently repeats this pattern over and over. This work could be done by a machine, but working with your hands brings out the best quality product in the end.
There are always great expectations when designing an interior of a business aircraft. Not wanting to deliver the same look typically seen, Duncan Aviation’s Design team researched high-performance automotive seats in different shapes and sizes. After several trials and experiments, the designers and upholsterers created a napkin sample with a high-contrast hexagon pattern stitched in bold red on light-colored Townsend Leather in a shade called Venetian Lace. At the same time, they added ½-inch quilt foam, giving the design a three-dimensional effect. This sample and model photos showing the seats and divan trimmed in a red Garrett leather piping were shown to the owner.
He loved it.
The first step of any aircraft interior seating project is to make the design look great on paper. The next is a testament to the skill of a talented team of upholstery specialists when they bring that seat design to life.
Many options were considered about how to complete this labor-intensive project, including seeking an outside vendor to machine-stitch the pattern. In the end, quality control and time constraints kept the job in-house.
“It was an easy decision really,” says Multimedia Designer Ken Reita. “We knew by doing the work here at Duncan Aviation, we maintained strict control of the quality and could work easily within the time constraints of the project. But honestly, it was the level of workmanship and the skill of the Duncan Aviation upholstery team that sealed the deal.”
Before the first piece of leather was cut, Niki McClish, upholstery crew leader, and her team had to overcome the constraints of the dynamic certification. The certified 16G seats required critical load areas (seat cushion and back) to have a specific type of foam and density. Ken plotted out the seat design using vendor data and Niki’s input. The rigid, geometric shape allowed for a more computer-aided design, helping Ken to create a very realistic model with correct pattern placement when scaled to actual size.
Man Vs. Machine
The hexagon pattern is a pretty straightforward design, but the strict geometric shape required patience and a critical eye to keep the entire seat pattern symmetrical from side to side and top to bottom. Any inconsistencies would be glaring up next to the straight piping that accented each seat.
To guarantee this symmetry, the pattern was laid out on the leather and stitched at the same time as the foam. It was important to do this step by hand because foam allows the leather to shift easily during the sewing process. A machine is not capable of checking its work. If left unattended, the leather can and will move, requiring the entire piece to be re-stitched, wasting valuable time and expensive leather.
This was a hands-on project where the personal touch made a huge impact in the end. Another example is the odd-shaped headrest, which is wider at the top than the bottom. Stretching and wrapping the leather around the foam shape with the company logo centered without wrinkles or gathers takes time and the care of an expert’s hand.
High quality is found in the details, details that are lost if work is done by a machine.
It Takes A Team
No one person can take credit for the quality of workmanship on these luxurious seats. “It took the entire team to make it happen,” says Niki. “Everyone was excited to tackle a different type of project. We had big discussions about our process, communicated well, and stayed focused.”
These seats were a big challenge when compared to the typical aircraft seat. They were labor-intensive, but they also required a high degree of focus to ensure quality and consistency. The starting point came with the seat foam team creating five shapes that were exactly alike. From these shapes, the leather patterns were created and cut from the best parts of the leather. Pattern makers stitched the foam to the leather and cut the patterns. Several team members stitched the pieces together creating inserts and cushions.
Although complicated, the project went smoothly. Other than a few adjustments along the way, they had no major setbacks. Niki is proud of her team. “Everyone took their job seriously and put their best foot forward. We turned out a great product.”
When the final seats were lined up next to each other in the shop, they looked like carbon copies of an original. The careful modeling, precision stitching, and exact construction were worth the extra time and effort it took.
As summer draws to a close, the construction progress is stronger than ever.
On average there are 70-75 steel erectors, electricians, and concrete and mechanical experts working diligently to have Hangar B and Building 1 ready to open in January 2019.
Hangar B service pits have been installed, and the entire hangar floor is now in. The Paint Hangar is on track to open in March 2019, and the structural steel is up and being closed in for Hangar C and Building 3 (opening June 2019). The structural steel is also being erected for Building 2 (opening in the first quarter of 2020).
The fuel farm is now onsite and going through the testing and certification stages. Over the next two months, the focus will be to complete the build out of Building 1, Hangar B, and the Paint Hangar. Major system installations in the near future include the RTO system in the Paint Hangar, air compressor system for the campus, and hangar door installation.
The 14" thick ramp took 35,000 yards of concrete, and 6.5 million pounds of steel.
Every chance he gets, Todd Duncan attends new employee orientations to talk to the latest Duncan Aviation team members. He impresses upon them the importance of maintaining open and honest communication at all levels.
I recently mentioned at new team member orientation that communication throughout Duncan Aviation is crucial. It’s vital to our remaining a company that maintains high safety standards for team members and customers alike and where customer satisfaction is paramount, and it’s also vital to remaining a cohesive company with one culture and a shared mission regardless of location.
When I first joined the Duncan Aviation Accessories, Avionics & Satellites team in the early '90s, the Satellite Avionics shops were not well integrated into the company. They were more a series of standalone shops sporting our logo. Although they shared our business values and ethics, support in terms of consistent pricing, policies, and technical assistance hadn’t been established.
That all changed when Aaron Hilkemann, Duncan Aviation President, made open communication a priority. Today, an integrated Duncan Aviation is something we are very proud of.
No matter if a customer interacts with an Engine Rapid Response team, a Satellite Avionics shop, a Regional Manager on a different continent, or a member of a team in Battle Creek, Michigan; Lincoln, Nebraska; or Provo, Utah; we are all one Duncan Aviation.
But open communication begins at home. One thing my dad, Robert Duncan (Chairman Emeritus), always said is ‘When a company takes care of its employees, those employees take care of the customers’. One of the best ways we can all take care of one another is to communicate.
By embracing open communication, we not only share information, we also give an important voice to team members to identify areas where we can make improvements. Without that, team members may feel powerless and voiceless, leading to frustration, dissatisfaction, and negativity.
Although we’ve always welcomed new ideas, it was a decade ago we took steps to improve how we collect and review those ideas submitted by team members on ways we can be better. Our Lincoln Business Process Manager, Erin Hart, and former Battle Creek Process Improvement Manager Ted Roethlisberger, formed the LEAN (Listen, Engage, Advance/iNnovate) team to build a culture of continuous improvement at Duncan Aviation. Everyone in the company now has access to a database of ideas other team members have submitted and are able to submit their own.
“We believe that the team members who do the work and interact with one another and with customers every single day are best positioned to tell us about challenges with their work processes or work environments and to develop ways to improve efficiencies throughout all areas,” says Erin.
We always want to keep the lines of communication open and available to all team members. Those who are working in shops or on the floor experience problems first hand. Again, rather than let those problems grow, we provide team members another way to be heard and problems to be resolved.
The ideas team members submit aren’t all about problems. Many team members have seen ways to save money or cut out unnecessary steps in a process.
To date nearly 100 team member suggestions have resulted in improved safety, process efficiencies, and cost savings at every Duncan Aviation facility. Another thing we are very proud of.
Today marks Duncan Aviation's Founder’s Day. Wednesday, August 22, is the 96th birthday of our founder, the late Donald Duncan.
This day is made more special as it is also the birthday of his grandson Todd Duncan, Chairman Duncan Aviation. And keeping with the theme of family birthdays, in the not too distance future on September 24th, Chairman Emeritus, J. Robert Duncan will be celebrating his birthday.
And so we celebrate!
Founder’s Day gives us all the opportunity to pause and reflect on Duncan Aviation’s past while also looking forward to a promising future. This would not be possible without the hard work, dedication and attitudes of each of our team members. Thank you to all of your contributions to the success of Duncan Aviation.
We also want to thank our many customers, partners and friends throughout the aviation world. We appreciate your business and friendship.
The aviation world is a pretty big place. Sometimes locating the aircraft part you need is like trying to find the proverbial needle in the haystack, especially if it’s from a World War II fighter jet.
But the fact is, more often than not, Duncan Aviation’s massive inventory of parts, rotables, and exchanges for aircraft has exactly what you are looking for.
Darrold Comber suspected his search would not be an easy one. His needle? A joystick from a Grumman F6F Hellcat Fighter with working buttons. After an online search showed Duncan Aviation listing the part in stock, he picked up the phone and called Lance Tophoj, Duncan Aviation Parts & Rotables Sales Rep.
With several joysticks available, Darrold asked Lance if he would personally pick out the nicest one with working buttons, because he had something special in mind for his father-in-law’s 90th birthday.
Summit Lippincott, Darrold’s father-in-law, has been an aviation enthusiast for most of his life. To him the Hellcat joystick holds significant meaning because his older brother, Benjamin, a World War II Navy Grumman F6F Hellcat fighter pilot, tragically died during a training exercise in 1945 while assigned to the Naval Air Station at Boca Chica, Florida.
Because of his profound respect and admiration for his older brother’s courage and service to the United States, his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren have consistently heard his memories and stories about growing up with his brother.
In honor of Summit’s milestone birthday and in memory of Benjamin, Darrold, created a one-of-a-kind handmade cane that featured a Grumman F6F Hellcat joystick as its handle. Two custom-stamped dog tags were added as the finishing touch.
The team members with Duncan Aviation Parts & Rotables Sales never shy away from a challenge. With access to more than $500 million in parts inventory and worldwide industry contacts, they operate on the premise of “If we don’t have it, we’ll find it!”
The reason we are able to offer this level of service is because of the extensive network of aviation industry contacts we’ve built through the years and the fact that we are available on our customers’ schedules, 24/7/365. Our inventory is competitively priced and checked against the industry marketplace regularly. All this, on top of our multiple OEM relationships and multitude of service agreements, is how our wide base of capabilities keeps customers flying.
Our large and constantly growing rotable and exchange pool is never further than your telephone. And with a primary inventory of more than 485,000 line items, we’ll usually be able to handle your parts needs from stock. We like to say, we specialize in needles.
When he’s not working as an inspector for the parts manufacturing and fabrication departments, Duncan Aviation’s Randy Dill takes to the skies.
He has been part of an FAA mandated program called Reduced Vertical Separation Monitoring since 2003. “RVSM”, as it is known, is a process defined as the reduction of vertical space
between aircraft from 2,000 to 1,000 feet at flight levels from 29,000 feet up to 41,000 feet. RVSM was implemented as a means to increase airspace capacity and fuel efficient flights.
Randy embarks on flights around the United States, relaying height monitoring data to the FAA and providing certification to the autopilot systems of different aircraft. Anything that flies between 29,000 and 41,000 feet has to have their auto pilot re-certified every 2 years or 1,000 hours, whichever comes first.
“I’ve completed around 715 flights all around the country since I started,” Randy said. “Most of the time I’ll get a call from someone working at a Duncan Aviation satellite avionics shop, saying they need a customer’s aircraft to go through the process, so I’ll head up to wherever and figure things out with that customer.” This year Randy has already made stops in Denver, D.C., Nashville, and several other cities.
CSSI is the company who supplies Randy with the technology to conduct these in-flight operations. The equipment and program is run by the FAA. A GPS monitoring unit (E2 GMU) is what Randy uses during flights. He puts antennas on the windows and floors of the plane in- flight and tracks the auto pilot at altitude for half an hour. The floor antenna tracks the jet’s transponder. The data from the machine is sent by Dill to CSSI and FAA. The flight is tracked from several centers, while monitoring the altitude and atmospheric conditions.
An iPad is built into the monitoring unit to display the data, including satellite positioning, air speed, and altitude. Randy doesn’t have a problem fitting it in the overhead compartment, but has to have it inspected each time he goes through security.
“In all the years I’ve been doing this, only 3 flights have failed,” Randy said. “A Learjet 55 had a hard drive crash and the other two had computer issues with data, so we’ve been pretty accurate and fortunate to have those results.”
Aside from his duties with Duncan Aviation, Randy is an instrument rated pilot along with having a unique and exciting job on Nebraska Cornhusker game days, working as a spotter for the public address announcer at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska.
"To get more women in the field (aviation)is to be the woman in that field. Be brave. You can do it. Others will come join you.” Karen Iten, Engineering Designer
Many women work daily in technical roles at Duncan Aviation. These women are airframe mechanics; avionics and engine technicians; interior and paint specialists; design, electrical, computer, and structural engineers; and flight line reps. Even though aviation is traditionally a male-dominated field, there are plenty of career options available for women with rapid growth and excellent salary potential.
Read on about four of these women–an airframe shift supervisor, landing gear master technician, avionics crew leader, and an engineering designer–who have decided to take the road less traveled and make their way and careers in aviation at Duncan Aviation.
Do What You Love
At the age of seven, Jayme Park had her first experience floating in a hot air balloon. But it wasn’t until the young impressionable age of 12, when she rode in a D23 biplane at an airshow, that she knew she wanted a career in aviation. “I was hooked.”
She pursued that dream and for the last 21 years, Jayme has been working for Duncan Aviation in Battle Creek, Michigan. She is the shift supervisor leading teams of airframe, engine, fuel, interior, and accessories technicians. She has enjoyed her tenure and feels very fortunate for her career at Duncan Aviation. “I am lucky. I get to do what I love, for a company that values me for my skills and leadership abilities.”
Be Confident In What You Know
Sarah White has had two aviation careers. The first, courtesy of the United States Air Force, took her around the world working on hydraulics, flight controls, wheels, inflight refueling, and weapons systems aboard Boeing B-52s, F-4 Phantom II fighters, and KC-135 Stratotankers.
After retirement from the military, her second aviation career began when she saw an advertisement for a hydraulics technician in Lincoln, Nebraska, while reading her newspaper and drinking her morning coffee. Twenty-three years later, Sarah is the senior member of the team and a master technician overhauling landing gear for business aircraft such as Challengers.
Being the only woman on a team of men is not without its conflicts, but Sarah says for the most part it has been a positive experience. “Bias happens, but not as often as you would think.” Her advice to anyone doing what she does is to be confident in what you know and then put your head down and do the work. She says it’s customers who are sometimes caught short when she is called in for a consultation. “But as soon as I begin talking intelligently about the squawk and what I am going to do about it, we move past it quickly.” She says it is important to be able to take pressure and criticism on the job, no matter who you are.
Encourage And Support Others
After five years in the U.S. Navy and with an advanced electronics and avionics degree from Colorado Aero Tech, Kelly Allman found her way to Duncan Aviation in 1999 and onto the hangar floor as an avionics installation technician. Her first assistant manager was another woman, who from the very beginning expected the best from Kelly. “She always expected the most out of me and held me and the rest of the team to a very high standard.” Kelly is very appreciative of her expectations, advice, and encouragement because “I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.”
Today, Kelly is a crew leader of a team of nine avionics installation technicians. She expects the best from them. “When you’re touching these aircraft, you have to bring your best. You are touching lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female.”
Just Do It
As the only engineer at Duncan Aviation’s Provo, Utah, location, Karen Itin is kept busy creating schematic drawings for interior structures supporting aircraft cabinets, seats, and antennas. It is this behind-the-scenes aspect of her work that she likes most about her job.
When she first started, technicians would come off the floor looking for the design engineer, and it was obvious they were looking for a man. “You can’t take it personally. Instead, you use it as an opportunity to communicate and show them what you can do.”
Her advice to young women thinking about exploring a career in a field that has been traditionally dominated by men is to “Just do it!” The only limitations are the ones you place on yourself. To get more women in the field is to be the woman in that field. Be brave. You can do it. Others will come join you.”
Spring 2018 Duncan Debrief
You can read more about this and other articles in the 2018 Spring Duncan Debrief.