FARNBOROUGH: Interiors specialist PPA expands production

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Construction of a new factory dedicated to the manufacturing of composites and glass fibre structures precedes the return to the show of PPA Group as an exhibitor, after several years’ absence.

PPA, based at Deeside, North Wales, specialises in the manufacture and refurbishment of exterior and interior parts – notably furnishings – for executive jets.

The company originated within Airbus’s UK operation in nearby Chester, where current PPA Group managing director Pete Gunson was involved in producing interior trim. When he learned Airbus was planning to sub-contract the work, Gunson and business partner Adrian Morris successfully applied in 1997 to win the work. Morris is now PPA’s finance director.

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Creation and refurbishment of Interior components for executive jets range from an important part of PPA group's workload

PPA

As well as producing trims and assemblies, PPA also manufactures, maintains and overhauls a range of transparencies – including windscreens and cabin windows for executive jets and commercial aircraft. It also produces lenses for wing-tip lights on types such as the Hawker 800.

The company is also an approved supplier to OEMs such as Airbus and BAE Systems, as well as the Hawker and Beechcraft brands now incorporated into Textron Aviation.

The company’s new factory, opened in March, specialises in glass fibre wet lay-up and repair, composite repair and resin infusion manufacturing. “We’re trying to diversify into composites and composite repairs,” notes Gunson. To this end, the firm is involved in a project with Manchester University under which the academic institution is seconding personnel to help develop innovations in composite repair, as well as the design and manufacturing of components in the material.

The firm’s new facility is fulfilling increasing orders for items such as fairing panels, ducting, tray assemblies and interior components

As well as producing components for new-build aircraft, PPA is also heavily involved in repair work. “In a year, we handle around 60 aircraft,” Gunson says. The company specialises in the repair of high-impact areas – such as entrance doorways – that are prone to damage. Among clients in this field is NetJets, the fractional ownership specialist. Damaged interiors are stripped out of its fleet and shipped to PPA for repair and refurbishment.

TAG Aviation at Farnborough enjoys a similar service, with aircraft based at the airfield having their interiors stripped and dispatched to North Wales.

As well as the Beechcraft and Hawker types, PPA also handles Bombardier’s Challenger and Global Express models and the Cessna Citation range.

Larger types the company works with include the BAe 146/Avro RJ range, while previous refurbishment projects have featured aircraft interiors as large as those for the Airbus A340-600.

On the military side, PPA has handled types as varied as the SA341 Gazelle light helicopter and the UK Royal Air Force’s Sentinel R1 ISR – a heavily modified variant of the Bombardier Global Express.

Among more esoteric types, PPA also supports the aircraft of the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which includes the Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane and Avro Lancaster.

One of the more exacting projects in which PPA has been been involved was the production of the windscreen and portholes for the Bloodhound SSC. The team behind the supersonic vehicle aims to break the world land speed record within the next two years.

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The unique vehicle will employ a Eurojet EJ200 jet engine – normally found on the Eurofighter Typhoon – which is expected to take the vehicle to speeds of 1,000mph (1,600km/h).

The custom-made transparency for the Bloodhound was manufactured by heating a block of acrylic material and stretching it over the canopy mould. The process was then repeated, and the resulting pair of 12mm-thick acrylic panels glued together. Given the shallow angle at which driver Wg Cdr Andy Green will look through the windscreen, the transparency will have an effective thickness of 50mm, and needs to be optically perfect.

Involvement with this project is a major factor in PPA’s decision to take exhibition space again at Farnborough, where the company will be part of the Bloodhound SSC stand.

PPA is also responsible for the production and fitting of high performance radomes to protect antenna surfaces from the elements and conceal equipment from public view.

Vacuum-formed parts, such as interior wall panels and seat components, round out the company’s portfolio.