Why Do Customers Benefit from the Standardization of Independent Modifications Approved by a Supplemental Type Certificate?
May 06, 2022
Modifications certified by a supplemental type certificate (STC) have numerous advantages. Considering the fact that an aircraft can be used for commercial air transport for almost decades, it is vital for an operator to ensure that new safety regulations are met, the aircraft is kept up to the latest technology, and the aircraft meets the customer expectations flawlessly. Any aircraft modification needs to be approved, and the approval is always done by a respective aviation authority of the state of aircraft registration. The operator can choose between two main ways: Purchase an approved Service Bulletin by the airframe manufacturer or purchase a modification developed by an independent supplier, which is usually approved by the authority.
Reasons to Have an Additional Standardization for Supplemental Type Certificate Projects
Even though an aircraft modification can be considered safe due to the highest authority requirements for certification, substantiation and approval, the customer has to select a supplier. While this choice leads to a competitive market, fast innovation, and ideal customized solutions – it also leads to the complaint “You never know what you get” within the modification process. A modification project, especially for major, non-basic modifications, is a complex challenge that needs to fulfil the certification demands and the customer expectation regarding schedules, budget, documentation, after-sales service, lease-back-conditions, etc. By now, every Design Organisation or Design Approval Holder has its very own processes and methods to develop, support, and integrate a modification safely to an aircraft. And this is, of course, what also defines competition!
The Necessity of Standardization in the Aircraft Retrofit Market
As there is no definite standard that covers the above-mentioned commercial customer demands in the aircraft retrofit market, there is a perception that independent modifications are more commercial risk than airframe manufacturer service bulletins – where there is a single supplier with known project standards. And that is precisely the point where the customer – operators or owners of aircraft – benefit from an additional standard. By evaluating the general customers’ pain points in aircraft modification projects, transferring them into demands, and defining suitable requirements to match the needs.
An additional standard ensures quality goals in independent modification projects which are transparent and measurable – and something to rely on. Additional standardization of independent modifications enables the market to stay competitive – fulfilling the standard with individual company measures – while reducing the commercial risk for operators and owners as the surrounding requirements are well defined and agreed upon.
The Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance and Standardization
In 2020 the Independent Aircraft Modifier Alliance (IAMA), a non-profit association dedicated to ensure high-quality, independent modifications, started to develop a customer-centric standard for aircraft modification. The first release of the standard was done in March 2020, covering major demands, e.g., interface supplier management and ongoing after-sales services. Since then, the 3rd release was published covering demands to ease the commercial transfer of a modification in case of lease transfers, organize suitable “de-modification and ensure the clarity of the request for proposal to reduce project risk.”
The members of IAMA commit to our standards and integrate the requirements into their individual company routines. Moreover, since early 2022, most of our IAMA members got audited against the requirements by an experienced auditing company so a customer can trust the individual companies’ abilities to fulfil the standard.
How Can You Obtain the IAMA Standard?
Any commercial or business aviation operator or aircraft owner can request free access to the IAMA Standard and freely work with it, e.g. adding its requirements to their request for proposal. To ensure a free, independent retrofit market, the association allows design approval holders and modification suppliers of commercial and business aviation to enter into a membership that grants access to the IAMA Standard and related educational material and allows them to get audited.
We know that standardization is sometimes seen as an additional burden and non-valuable administrative effort. However, when it is realized according to customers’ demands, it is a major part of ensuring a competitive environment of the highest quality. At IAMA, we guarantee standards that satisfy the customer needs and together with our members, we shape the future of supplemental type certificates in the aviation world.
Author: Nicole Noack, independent consultant and former managing director of IAMA.