Airborne Technologies, the design and integration partner for the Viking Air Guardian 400 special mission aircraft, has received EASA certification as a Design, Production and Maintenance Organisation.
Airborne Technologies had already been an approved Design and Production Organisation, but in mid-April announced it now holds an EASA Maintenance Organisation approval. This certification authorises the company to maintain and repair aviation components which are already in service.
The company now has the necessary EASA approvals for carbon fibre composite parts, wiring looms, electronic assemblies, electromechanical components and metal works and assemblies. The in-house flight-testing department with EASA licenced test pilots completes the performance spectrum of Airborne Technologies.
As a certified design organisation, ABT can produce client required or own design modifications. In case of minor change classification, ABT can certify these modifications themselves. As a production organisation the company can produce aircraft components and issue quality certificates for them. As a maintenance organisation it can service, repair, modify, maintain and upgrade components already in service.
A common misbelief is that only aircraft manufacturers are allowed to make radical changes to their designs. ABT is now certified to modify airframes from nose-to-tail without any dependency on manufacturers. The benefits to clients are immense when it comes to meeting budgets and schedules, and not having to depend on OEM interest, which can be considerable when dealing with large organisations, ABT said.
Governmental aircraft and helicopters are generally not subject to civilian aviation certifications. Governmental clients are increasingly considering civil certification as a seal of quality. This applies especially to platforms with basic certification to EASA standards and labelled with original EASA type certification.
Dr Luthando Prinsloo, ABT’s Africa business development director, notes that in Africa, EASA certification conveys similar quality and safety messages, and is also applicable to operators selecting the options of ABT data packs instead of EASA certification. ABT data packs conform to EASA standards and strongly support in-country civil aviation registrations of changes and STCs (Supplementary Type Certificates).
Special client requirements, increasingly complex sensor systems and the diversity of individual orders, are putting more and more focus on the services of modern system integrators. Aircraft manufacturers are increasingly relying on cooperation with smaller, highly specialised companies such as ABT, whose core competencies and agility fill an important niche, Prinsloo said.
ABT’s SCAR pod illustrates its niche capabilities as no airframe modifications are required to carry these pods. Aircraft only require underwing hard points, which many aircraft have. If required, hard points can be installed, where aircraft basic design allows. Complete sensor suites can be accommodated in SCAR pods; ranging from electro-optical cameras, radar, ViDAR, to electronic warfare equipment, ELINT/SIGINT/COMINT sensors etc. The pod system additionally brings modularity and flexibility to deployment and utilising assets, as aircraft role changes can be facilitated within an hour. In this manner aircraft operators are not stuck with committed modified airframes – intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) equipment can quickly be moved to another platform, or a platform can be redeployed/sold.
Wolfgang Grumeth, CEO of Airborne Technologies summarises the capability: “With the comprehensive certifications and the in-house capabilities starting with the production of carbon fibre components via electrical and electromechanical components up to flight testing, there is practically no special need in the field of modification for special mission aircraft that the engineers and designers of Airborne Technologies cannot fulfil. The client receives competent solutions adapted to current market developments from a single source”.
One of Airborne Technologies’ customers is Canada’s Viking Air, which chose the company as their design and integration partner for their Guardian 400 (Twin Otter) special mission aircraft world tour. The aircraft, in its ISR configuration, was on display at Lanseria airport in late 2019/early 2020, from where it visited various African countries. In addition to integrating all ISR systems through its Airborne LINX mission management system, ABT also supplied its in-house developed and manufactured carbon fibre Self Contained Aerial Reconnaissance (SCAR) pod and a dual screen carbon fibre tactical workstation. The Guardian 400 is on offer to African militaries, police forces, fisheries and customs agencies, and to maritime rescue centres.