PARIS: Interview with Ontic president Gareth Hall

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Ontic is returning to Paris to highlight its support for out-of-production second- and third-generation avionics and electronics. This fledgling arm of Ontic's business has undergone a transformation over the past three years, with revenues climbing from 3% to 30% of the company total during that period.

The wholly owned subsidiary of BBA Aviation specialises in licensing or acquiring OEMs' non-core mature product lines to provide the engineering, manufacturing, maintenance and sales of these products. Ontic operates two US facilities, in Houston and Chatsworth, California, one in the UK - in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire - and a recently opened base in Singapore.

Ontic's recently appointed president and managing director, Gareth Hall, says manufacturing activities are fully sanctioned by the OEM that originally designed and/or made the component. "We obtain intellectual property rights from the OEM for mature, legacy product lines that they have decided they do not want to provide ongoing support for even though there is still very much a market and customer need for that support," says Hall.

Ontic supports a host of aircraft, including Boeing 737 Classic, 757, 747 and Airbus A350 airliners; the Hawker 125 business jet series and the 58-year old Boeing B-52 bomber.

The business is done on a straight acquisition or a royalty basis, says Hall: "We like to invest in low-volume, high-complexity products with long lead times," he says. "We make a discrete decision around what components we make ourselves and what we buy in. In Chatsworth, for example, the ratio is around 50:50 but in Cheltenham, we assemble everything," says Hall. He is keen to point out, however, that the value and quality of the products is not lost by outsourcing, "because Ontic has a hands-on approach with its suppliers and a throrough inspection regime".

The defence sector accounts for 50% of Ontic's business, commercial air transport around 35% and business and general aviation 15%. "We serve several large product lines across all of those markets: engine components and accessories, electro-mechanical actuators, motors, pumps and the like," says Hall. Ontic also provides environmental control units, heat exchangers, landing gear and flight control surfaces, and electronics for a host of types.

While all sectors of Ontic's business are thriving, it is the niche market of electronics and avionics support that are central to the company's growth strategy.

"We had very little presence in this market two years ago and now avionics and electronics support accounts for 30% of our annual turnover," says Hall. "We expect it to represent 50% of our turnover within three years due to the increasingly high level of electronic content in aircraft platforms," he adds.

To confirm its commitment to this niche business, Ontic last month signed an agreement with Curtiss-Wright Controls Integrated Sensing to support the company's pilot controls and transmitter/indicator product lines, to include production, aftermarket manufacturing and MRO services. These products include landing gear levers that have integral light plates and electronics, tiller modules, pilot LED checklists, flight control surface indicators, rudder trim switches and push-to-talk switches, all found on a variety of commercial, business and military aircraft. Ontic is incorporating these products into its Chatsworth and Cheltenham facilities.

"The Paris air show gives us an opportunity to showcase Ontic and to help the industry understand the unique value proposition that we have to offer on both sides of the pond and beyond," says Hall.