Flight deck windows are an engineering marvel comprised of glass or acrylic (or a combination of each), antiice and anti-fog electrical systems, layers of laminating materials, and mounting hardware. In addition to providing a clear view of the outside world for the pilots, cockpit windows are integral to the aircraft’s flight worthiness/structure. They are robust enough to withstand bird strikes at 400 miles per hour but will be removed from the aircraft for surface scratches. And they are costly to replace. Having an expected life of just four to six years, cockpit windows incur the third-largest replacement cost of any component in the lifecycle of an airplane.
“Cockpit windows are high-cost items, and operators spend a significant amount of money replacing units with low on-wing cycles/time,” says Tom Brunts, the CEO of Pacific Aero Tech (PAT).
Pacific Aero Tech believes there is a better way.
“ With a primary focus on cockpit windows for over 30 years, our technicians have developed industry-best knowledge and experience on all varieties of aircraft platforms, leading to our status as SMEs for cockpit windows”
Over the last decade, it has developed repairs for cockpit window transparencies that have traditionally been scrapped and replaced with new. A typical repair costs 20 percent to 40 percent less than a “new” replacement, and the company can restore nearly 70% of all windows it repairs to a “like-new” condition.
History of Window Assembly Repair
PAT was founded in 1987 to provide overhaul and repair services focused on the frame assembly for cockpit windows. Since then, some of the world’s largest air carriers, cargo operators and MROs have entrusted PAT with the repair and overhaul of their cockpit window assemblies. “We have been providing best-in-industry repair and overhaul of the metal frame assemblies on cockpit windows for over 30 years,” says Brunts.
The company’s repair and overhaul unit is capable of the complete teardown and rebuild of openable assemblies following the latest CMM specifications. “We stock necessary hardware, seals, components, and replacement transparencies for the bulk of the commercial fleets,” mentions Brunts.
When a window assembly needs to be replaced, it is sent to PAT for inspection and analysis. PAT then submits a quote to the customer to repair the unit, and once the quote is approved, they move forward with the repair. The assembly is completely torn down, the old paint is sandblasted off, components are re-used or replaced as required, and the unit is then rebuilt as good as new. The assemblies are then returned to the customer for reinstallation in the aircraft.
Operating as one of the world’s largest independent MROs focused on the repair, overhaul, and replacement of flight deck windows for commercial and military aircraft, PAT’s aircraft window repair capabilities don’t end with frame assembly overhaul. The company has developed robust capabilities to fully rebuild window transparencies as well.
The Transparency Repair Innovation
In 2011, PAT decided to dive deeper into the issues causing the removal of cockpit windows and began to develop processes to repair the transparency itself. Based on their deep understanding of the industry and knowledge of the product, PAT believed it could create repairs that would provide meaningful service and significant cost savings to operators. “We knew it would be a big job to go from where we were to where we needed to be, but perhaps we didn’t know just how big. But we stuck with it and continued to invest the time, talent, and money to overcome the obstacles and develop the capability and tools,” reflects Brunts. PAT initially targeted the Boeing 737, 757, 767, and 777 fleets. Now, after nearly a decade of rebuilding the transparencies, the company has delivered more than 2,000 rebuilt cockpit windows to operators and MROs around the world. Beyond returning the window to the OEM NEW condition, PAT has even incorporated small tweaks in the repair to address the common failures in the OEM windows.
“We have invested millions of dollars in this endeavor and now have over 25 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved repair specifications that are beyond what is specified in the CMM and which allow us to repair or “save” transparencies for our customers that were historically scrapped,” says Brunts. This saves PAT’s customers thousands of dollars on each rebuilt window and reduces the impact on landfills as windows are rebuilt and “recycled” rather than thrown away.
Avionics Capabilities that Speaks for Themselves
In addition to providing excellent aircraft transparency-related repair, overhaul and replacement services, PAT is also known for its avionics repair capabilities.
Each of its avionics technicians has more than 20 years of experience in aircraft avionics and instrument repair. This deep expertise translates to high-quality repairs and outstanding value for clients. PAT is an approved Repair Facility for ELTA emergency locator transmitters and control boxes. It has been supporting product lines from Gables, Bendix/ King, Rockwell Collins, Honeywell, and Sperry for over two decades.
Exemplary Service from a Nimble and Committed Workforce
Brunts believes that what differentiates PAT from the rest of the industry is its rare level of dedication to customer service. “It is that attitude and dedication that helped us win Aviall’s coveted Supplier Excellence Award for eight years running, and those same principles apply to all our customer interactions,” mentions Brunts. He further comments that PAT’s people truly care about meeting their commitments and delighting customers. They take it personally. “In addition, our small size allows us to respond quickly to customer needs, and our willingness to invest in developing new repair processes provides significant value to our customers,” says Brunts.
For a small company, PAT has a tremendous diversity within its employee ranks, which includes varying professional experiences, life experiences, and even national origin. This diversity brings new ideas and different ways of viewing and solving problems, which is a core strength of the company. “We are unique in the MRO industry in that we specialize in cockpit windows. As a result, our technicians have developed industry-best knowledge and experience on all varieties of aircraft platforms, leading to our status as subject matter experts for cockpit windows,” asserts Brunts. Since the company only makes money by delivering a repair solution to an expensive component, PAT’s goals are perfectly aligned with those of its customers.
Broadening the Scope of their Window Repair Expertise
PAT’s focus to date has been on developing repairs that benefit operators flying the Boeing fleet (737,757,767,777). As the company looks to the future, it plans to leverage and build upon its knowledge of aircraft window technology and expand its capabilities and product offerings to include cockpit window repair for regional jets, high end business jets and eventually Airbus aircraft as well. “We will also pursue our ideas and concepts to improve the product so that we can offer not only a lower cost option to operators but also a better-performing, longer-lasting product,” adds Brunts.