Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

A familiar name has returned to aviation with the formation of General Dynamics Aviation Services (GDAS) as an offshoot of Gulfstream's aircraft maintenance business.

GDAS has been formed following the February acquisition of four regional maintenance centres from Signature Flight Support. The four centres in Dallas, Las Vegas, Minneapolis and West Palm Beach have been combined with the former Gulfstream site at Westfield, Massachusetts, to form a network offering maintenance services for other manufacturers' business jets. The initial focus is on Bombardier Challengers, Dassault Falcons and Raytheon Hawkers.

Gulfstream entered the "other people's aircraft" maintenance and refurbishment market in 1998 before its take-over by GD, through the acquisition of K-C Aviation. The creation of GDAS as a separate entity within GD's Aerospace group signals the parent company's intention to grow its aviation services business, says executive vice-president Bill Boisture.

As Gulfstream's own Aviation Services arm has over 70% of the market for maintenance of Gulfstream business jets, the opportunity for growth is in maintaining other makes of business jet, says GDAS president Larry Flynn. The company has around 10% of the US market for maintenance of Challengers, Falcons and Hawkers.

The two operations were separated "to grow the services business while maintaining the focus of Gulfstream", says Flynn. GDAS will adopt service features from Gulfstream's maintenance arm, including three-shift, round-the-clock coverage to reduce aircraft downtime. It is hoped the GD name will make it easier to secure service authorisations from competing manufacturers.

GDAS, particularly, is targeting fractional ownership programmes: "Fractional fleets have no home base and need more than one place to go to for maintenance. And we work over the weekend," says Flynn, noting that Las Vegas and Palm Beach are among the most popular destinations for fractional owners.

Certification of an enhanced vision system (EVS) on the Gulfstream V business jet is now scheduled for July or August. Work had been delayed by the lack of a test aircraft, but installation of the production EVS on a GV will begin in mid-April. Gulfstream completed proof-of-concept testing with the Kollsman- developed EVS in September, with over 100 approaches in various weather conditions. The test aircraft was then delivered to a customer and certification testing had to wait for the availability of aircraft 501, the GV that will be used to flight-test aerodynamic refinements for the GV-SP. It is due to fly in June or July, with 30-40 more approaches required for certification of the EVS, Gulfstream says. The company says the EVS improves safety when landing in low visibility. A forward-looking infrared sensor and head-up display will also reduce the risk of runway incursions and controlled flight into terrain, Gulfstream believes. Several customers have already ordered the EVS, which will be certificated later on the GIV-SP and GV-SP.

Source: Flight International