Kevin Hoffman discusses how the company’s Integrated Team approach provides value for owners and operators of large-cabin business aircraft wishing to modernize and upgrade their aircraft to the passenger cabin standard and flight deck options currently available on new aircraft models at a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft. Topics covered include:
Kevin Hoffman has over thirty years of experience in business aviation, ranging from aircraft design to executive roles with OEMs and in a number of companies he founded. One of Kevin’s strengths is forming and managing high performance teams. He is a builder, whose passion is creating teams and managing complex projects. Kevin is a pragmatic, results orientated leader. One of his biggest strengths is his ability to see through superfluous, complex information and cut to the points that matter to obtain results. He gets to the heart of the matter by boiling down complex programs to simple and easy to understand fundamentals that meet the company and program objectives.
Kevin’s academic background includes degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Aeronautical Engineering from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and a degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Alabama. He continued studies in management at the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business and attended seminars on Negotiations at Harvard University. Kevin provided lectures in Aircraft Design at Stanford University and the University of Kansas as well as instructed a course in Aircraft Design at Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal.
In 1985, Kevin started his career in business aviation when he joined the Engineering Flight Test department at Gulfstream Aerospace where he honed his skills in flight test and certification. This entailed preparing test plans, writing and issuing flight test reports as well as participating and conducting flight tests. Following the certification of the GIV, he joined the Product Development group where he was exposed to CAD/CAM while working on conceptual aircraft designs, aerodynamic analyses and computational fluid design analysis on 3D models. In 1990, he accepted a position at Bombardier Aerospace where he was in charge of the Conceptual Aircraft Design and Aircraft Design Tool Development for the Advanced Design Group. Kevin also coordinated and directed the Conceptual and Preliminary Design phases of the Next Model Executive Jet (Global Express). This included configuration design, aircraft design and sizing, program planning, maintaining program schedules and budgets and coordinating and leading teams through the Conceptual and Preliminary Design phases. In 1994, Kevin joined the Sales and Marketing Group as the Director of Global Express Technical Sales. This entailed providing technical presentations and traveling the world to meet with clients and discuss the technical attributes of the Global Express. In 1997, he transitioned to Product Management as the Global Express Product Director until he founded Aerospace Concepts in 1998. Kevin has not only presided over Aerospace Concepts as President and CEO but he also founded the Aerospace Group in 2004 where he was a Partner and served as CEO. In 2009, Kevin founded Project Phoenix Ltd. and was appointed Chairman.
In 2011, Kevin was nominated and awarded the prestigious Aerospace Engineer and Mechanics Distinguished Fellow status from the University of Alabama. That same year, Kevin founded the Lilly Hoffman Heart Foundation to help the families of children who suffer from Congenital Heart Defects. He currently serves as Chairman of this Foundation. In 2018, Kevin joined Aloft AeroArchitects as the Vice President of the Program Management Office and lead the team to successfully deliver on their commitments to design, build and certify the Auxiliary Fuel Tanks for the Boeing BBJ Max 8 in addition to VVIP completions and numerous Maintenance projects.
JANUS offers a highly experienced Integrated Team approach for owners and operators of large-cabin business aircraft. JANUS is a unique, value-add service for Large Cabin aircraft owners wishing to modernize and upgrade their aircraft to the passenger cabin standard and flight deck options currently available on new aircraft models at a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft. JANUS™ Aerospace removes the uncertainty of making a complex decision by providing you with the information and knowledge to make the best decision. We are a team of industry experts that share a passion for nurturing long-term relationships and making the experience of acquiring and configuring an aircraft simple and efficient. JANUS Aerospace is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia with offices in Chicago – Hong Kong – Montreal – Paris – Washington and Zurich.
Tony Kioussis (00:33):
Welcome to another Asset Insight Podcast, covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. I am Tony Kioussis, president of Asset Insight, and your host.
Tony Kioussis (00:43):
Janus Aerospace offers a highly experienced, integrated team approach for owners and operators of large cabin business aircraft wishing to modernize and upgrade their aircraft to the passenger cabin standard and flight deck options currently available on new aircraft models, at a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft.
Tony Kioussis (01:02):
Joining me today to discuss aircraft modernizations and upgrades is Kevin Hoffman, president and CEO of Janus Aerospace. Let’s go into who is a likely candidate for an aircraft upgrade or modernization program.
Kevin Hoffman (01:17):
A likely candidate for an aircraft upgrade and modernization program is someone who is either an existing owner and would like to upgrade his aircraft to the latest and greatest options, or someone that would like to upgrade to a larger airplane by stepping up, let’s say, from a Challenger 605 to a Global 6000. These are typically the types of owners and operators that are good candidates to upgrade and modernize their aircraft, because they understand the value left in the aircraft, as opposed to purchasing a new one. It’s the age-old question: Do I operate the aircraft I have, or is it time to purchase a new one?
Tony Kioussis (01:52):
What does a comprehensive modernization program entail? What are its elements?
Kevin Hoffman (01:58):
A comprehensive modernization program would entail a number of elements, but let’s begin with a discussion of some definitions. The first one is what is a refurbishment? Refurbishing an interior is the easiest and simplest project. It could mean a soft goods refurbishment: basically carpets, leathers, headliners, sidewalls, dado panels. It’s the lowest cost and the easiest project to complete. Many times, an owner looking to sell his aircraft will spend money on refreshing the interior to make it more attractive, to sell quicker.
Kevin Hoffman (02:28):
The next level would be refurbishing the woods or the hard surfaces. It could be as simple as buffing out scratches to re-veneering the wood. This is more complex and more time-consuming and costly.
Kevin Hoffman (02:40):
And then the third is comprehensive upgrade modernization to the interior. For lack of a better definition, it’s basically a makeover. It includes the LOPA, which is a Layout Passenger Arrangement or floor plan change, upgrading Cabin Management System, the CMS, updating cabin communications, maintenance, paint, new options and service bulletins, or STCs. This will require design, engineering, and recertification effort of the interior. It’s basically designing and engineering a new interior for the aircraft, just like they did at the OEM when it was delivered new.
Kevin Hoffman (03:18):
With respect to the maintenance, a comprehensive upgrade or modernization program will typically include all the maintenance that is due, and the reason why most upgrades take place during the 10-year inspection. Landing gear overhaul, exterior paint. It may include selecting service bulletins or STCs that were not available at the time the aircraft was manufactured and delivered.
Kevin Hoffman (03:40):
So as you can see, an upgrade or modernization to an in-service aircraft is much more than a simple refurbishment and requires an integrated team of experts to successfully make it happen.
Tony Kioussis (03:51):
Managing large and complex projects, the project management process, how is that done?
Kevin Hoffman (03:58):
Well, the program management process to manage large projects is complex. Yet at the same time, it’s pretty simple if you apply the fundamentals of program management. We’ve worked on a number of large projects over the years, and it becomes apparent that the more projects we complete, what the secret to a successful project is. It basically boils down to a few key factors. The first one is having the right members in the team. The second, having the right members on the team working within their respective expertise. And the third is strong communication amongst the team members.
Kevin Hoffman (04:32):
In any case, the secret of a successful project is in the communication. We handle that with an Integrated Product Team or an IPT, similar to the way the manufacturers like Boeing, Bombardier, Gulf Stream design and build aircraft. The IPT concept is a program management process whereby all members of the IPT see the same vision and understand the goals and objectives of the project.
Kevin Hoffman (04:53):
The second part is communication among the members of the IPT team, and that’s where it’s critical that the IPT meetings are held frequently. Many meetings are held online, because the team members are in different locations from the aircraft. However, we still require face-to-face meetings off the service and completion center to follow up frequently and get the work done.
Kevin Hoffman (05:10):
An IPT team basically starts with the customer and the IPT program manager, the engineering project manager responsible for all of the technical aspects of the project, sales director, designers, quality supply chain representatives. The MRO or completion center will have a maintenance manager or production manager. The IPT starts with a kickoff meeting, all the way through to the certification and delivery of the aircraft. No longer a specialist brought in for specific functions, but they are part of the same team and very well aware of what’s going on with the entire program at any given point.
Kevin Hoffman (05:43):
Program management will use a number of tools to assist in managing the program and the monitoring of the process. We use different types of software, like MS projects, which is tried and true, but there’s also other ones that are coming out. We measure KPIs, Key Performance Indicators. It helps us take a snapshot, see the progress of the project with respect to schedule, budget, and work remaining. Typically, on large complex projects, we develop a very finely-detailed schedule with the tasks of the schedule, which there are line items in the schedule. And those line items are then tracked and attached to action items and given to someone to complete the task. Giving somebody the responsibility to complete the task and follow-up action to complete the line item once it’s done, we call that action-based program management.
Kevin Hoffman (06:26):
So it’s all about communication, visibility, accountability, and finally, about following up. Probably 80% of any project is about following up, and that’s where the job of the program manager comes in: communicating, identifying tasks to be completed, and continually following up. Good program managers are hard to come by, because they understand the technical aspects of the project, plus they possess the soft skills to be able to lead and work well with the team.
Tony Kioussis (06:52):
You talk about the value of the Janus Integrated Product Development Team. Explain how this Janus capability applies to the modernization of aircraft.
Kevin Hoffman (07:02):
So that’s a good question. The value of an integrated product team, in a nutshell, is having an expertise. Each team member, with about 30 years of experience from different disciplines, required to successfully deliver the project. We define success and measure it by meeting or exceeding the time, be it the schedule, the quality that would be the customer expectations, and the cost that would be the budget.
Kevin Hoffman (07:27):
The typical IPT on a big project will include the program manager of the IPT, kind of like the coach of the team. It’ll include the engineering project manager responsible for all the technical aspects of the project. Certification engineer, designer, sales, and the customer account manager. In addition to this, the completion center or production center will have their managers, the production and installation manager, the master planners, quality supply chain manager. Supply chain can mean anybody from the maker of the cabin management system to the company that fabricates the monuments and cabinets.
Kevin Hoffman (08:02):
We have an ODA administrator and certification engineers as a critical part of the IPT and involved at the project at the very beginning. This is something that’s important, and it’s something that’s changing in this era of modernizing aircraft. It’s basically having a representation from certification engineers very early in the process and developing, with conjunction of the IPT members, the certification and safety management plan, in conjunction with the design.
Kevin Hoffman (08:29):
So in the past, designers and engineers come up with a design. Then it enters into the certification process after critical design decisions have been made. It’s not that it’s not too late, but it may have a tendency of causing some delays at the FAA. And the ODA are not involved early on in the project to develop the certification plan and start the discussions with the FAA. From the perspective of maintaining schedules, it’s always better to have the communication between the ODA administrator and the FAA, ACO, Aircraft Certification Office, begin early and continuous. So what we’ve done is get the certification group talking at the very beginning of the project and an integral part of the IPT.
Tony Kioussis (09:09):
If someone is considering a new aircraft, versus a pre-owned asset, what is the optimal age to modernize an aircraft?
Kevin Hoffman (09:18):
It depends on a number of factors. We normally look at aircraft in the seven-to-10-year age range, primarily for two reasons, one being the interior after seven years is pretty much at a point of requiring upgrades. The technology is outdated, especially in terms of communications in the cabin management system, which probably has a half life of a couple of years to begin with.
Kevin Hoffman (09:40):
In addition, major maintenance comes up around the 10-year timeframe with the HC or the 120-month inspection. That’s the time the interior is removed to undergo detailed inspection. Once the interior is removed, that’s the optimal time to really upgrade the interior. Also, as a part of that is the landing gear overhaul, service bulletins, and options that were not available when the aircraft was delivered 10 years earlier.
Kevin Hoffman (10:05):
Although we focus on aircraft seven to 10 years, that’s not to say that as they get older, there’s no program or reason to upgrade it. The modernization to the airframe can be performed on any aircraft, as long as it’s airworthy. The airframe maintenance program is MSG3 on-condition monitoring. So basically, as long as your maintenance is being done and you’re on schedule with inspections, you can keep the aircraft flying for years.
Kevin Hoffman (10:31):
When we designed the Global Express, it was designed for the service life of 80,000 flight hours. At a typical business aircraft operator of 500 hours per year, the airframe would be retired after 160 years. Things that require modernization and upgrade are the avionics, the cabin management, and the interior items, not necessarily the airframe, as long as it’s maintained properly.
Tony Kioussis (10:55):
From an overall market perspective, can you give our listeners an overview of the interior design evolution, say during the last 20 years?
Kevin Hoffman (11:05):
Yes, absolutely. Like other industries, it’s really evolved with the advances in computational technology and capabilities. When I first started working on interiors of aircraft, we basically used floor plans or the LOPA, which is the layout of passenger accommodations, to illustrate to the customer what the interior seating and cabin layout would look like. Basically, we had 2D drawings showing the principal where the seats and monuments would be located. It was difficult to envision what an interior would look like, completed by looking at a 2D black and white drawing.
Kevin Hoffman (11:38):
The next step in the evolution of design came around the mid-’90s, where 3D renderings came on the scene, and we started using 3D renderings of the yet-to-be-built interior at aircraft sales presentations. Basically, the ability to help set expectations and an understanding of what the interior will look like once it is completed. The biggest trick was to get the lighting and the shadows correct. That also took a lot of computer power to achieve. So we could look at the 3D rendering and get a good, close look at what the owner or customer’s expectations were.
Kevin Hoffman (12:13):
Once the 3D model was developed, it provided the opportunity to quickly change the look of the interior by changing colors, fabrics, without developing color boards, a labor-intensive activity. As computer capability has increased, basically many more calculations per second, it got to a point with the 3D renderings where you could not tell the difference between the real aircraft and a picture or a photo. Ideally, that gave us an incredible advantage at the very beginning of a program, because what we can do is look at the photo and visualize what it’s going to look like on the real aircraft. And it gives us the ability to make some choices early, with respect to colors, seat shapes, and monuments.
Kevin Hoffman (12:52):
The next step to evolve was into 3D virtual reality. I think that was really driven by the real estate market and video tours of houses. It’s now common to see virtual tours of aircraft for sale. In addition, we can now use 3D virtual reality models to design advanced technology ideas or concepts, and the evolution of computers and technology is allows us doing virtual reality in the cabin by walking through the interior of the cabin and visualizing what it will look like after it’s built. It enables us to get closer to the vision or the mind’s eye of the owner and to design and build the aircraft the owner envisioned and expected before anything was started.
Kevin Hoffman (13:30):
I think we’ve really evolved over the last 20 years, from a two-dimensional floor plan, all the way up to the three-dimensional virtual reality.
Tony Kioussis (13:38):
I guess the next question would be: Where are we headed with aircraft interiors? What does the new technology roadmap look like?
Kevin Hoffman (13:47):
There’s nine different areas that we can take a look at, look into and get an idea of what the technology roadmap will look like. We base it on two years, five years and 10 years from now, what the technology would look like for the interior of an aircraft.
Kevin Hoffman (14:02):
I would start with the old organic light-emitting diode displays, which are thin, flexible displays that can conform to the curvature of the fuselage headliner. I think we’ll start to see all the displays coming into aircraft probably in the next year or so. And it’s going to be something where there’s a number of benefits derived from them. First, we could reduce the size or the number of windows. The cutouts of the fuselage need to be reinforced to withstand the high pressure differential at altitude. This means a decrease in weight. Basically, line the interior of the fuselage along the headliner with the displays and then integrate them to cameras. Very similar to what the enhanced vision system is, where the camera systems on aircraft today. Large cabin aircraft like Global Express or the Gulf Streams have a camera on top of the tail, another one in the belly, pointing forward to the landing gear, and then one on the nose for the enhanced vision system.
Kevin Hoffman (14:57):
I think the second thing is going to be an evolution of seat design. There is going to be a number of new concept seat designs that are coming out, and they’re a lot different than seats have been for the last 30 or 40 years. I think the evolution is going to move the technology into the seat, as well as the comfort the seat will evolve. We’ll be able to move that across different aircraft platforms, with technology being in the seat. This will enable you to use the same seat in a Gulf Stream that you would put on a Boeing or in an airline.
Kevin Hoffman (15:26):
Number three, speed. We’ve got supersonic aircraft coming out and then hypersonic aircraft not far after that. Speed changes things with respect to the design of an interior. When we started looking at the design of an interior for the Global Express in 1990, we investigated the comfort factors. Comfort factors are a function of a number of variables. It’s dependent on range, speed, time, cabin volume, number of occupants, noise and acoustics, humidity, cabin altitude. All these factors come into play, and airplane designers look at that and say, “Okay, we seek a comfort factor of a certain value, and it’s dependent upon all these things.”
Kevin Hoffman (16:06):
So for example, when we say speed, it is weighted heavier, a value to increase the comfort factor the faster you go. Supersonic airplanes might have a range of 4,000 miles, but it’s going supersonic, so it’s getting there in three to four hours, as opposed to conventional subsonic aircraft that may take nine or 10 hours to do the same type of distance. That changes the comfort factor.
Kevin Hoffman (16:30):
The fourth one, I would think, it was decreasing cabin altitude. It’s also a part of comfort factors, but also something that causes fatigue over long-distance trips. Circadian rhythms has an effect on sleep and travels over long distance, causing jet lag. Bombardier recently came out with a lighting system called the Soleil Lighting System, and basically, it works the lighting in the cabin to improve the comfort of the occupants.
Kevin Hoffman (16:56):
Number five would be air recirculation and filtering. Boeing 787 has its own air pumps and does not bleed the air off the engines. I think that will be another thing that dramatically changes in the future of aircraft cabins. The ECS, or the Environmental Control System, will be more advanced, and filtration, although they’re pretty good now, will be improved.
Kevin Hoffman (17:17):
The next one, number six, would be noise and acoustics. In the materials that they evolve as regulations change in the internal, noise and acoustics is also a fatigue factor and another part of the comfort factors. As materials evolve and we learn new techniques, we can basically look at areas within the cabin that we’re really cut the noise down. And the noise signature is something that we already work with. So right now, the aircraft noise surveys are used to determine where the hotspots are, and then we design the acoustic materials in those hotspots to decrease the noise signature.
Kevin Hoffman (17:51):
Thermal signature is also another area, in conjunction with air circulation, that can basically have good circulation within the cabin. It’s not as hot or cold zones when decreases in weight, because new materials and the acoustic blankets and thermal blankets and things like that have a tendency to decreasing weight.
Kevin Hoffman (18:09):
Another area that will see changes are in new materials that are environmentally friendly, such as sustainable fuels and materials that lower weight and hence lower the carbon footprint.
Kevin Hoffman (18:19):
Another area is the area of communication between the airplane, satellites, and ground stations. Technology will move onto the airplane, which is kind of what it’s already done, but will evolve to a point where the aircraft, satellites, and ground stations will communicate efficiently.
Kevin Hoffman (18:35):
We have hybrid systems today, which is synthetic vision systems and enhanced vision systems. The enhanced vision system is an infrared camera on board the aircraft, and the synthetic vision is a database of all the airports and obstacles around the airport.
Kevin Hoffman (18:50):
I think communications will be another area where the technology in the cabin was going to be increased because of the increase in the data transmission rates. Right now, they’re not as good as you can get in your home or office, and it’s still rather expensive. So I think that’ll come down as the speed of transmission will increase and more satellites go into the orbit.
Tony Kioussis (19:11):
I’m aware of the strong expertise you’ve created through the company’s integrated product development team. Is there something more that you would want people to know about Janus Aerospace?
Kevin Hoffman (19:22):
We’re currently working four projects which are somewhat unique. The first one is a Capstone Project at the University of Alabama with the STEM MBA students. The project vision is to design an advanced technology interior for a business aircraft, utilizing modern technology, software, and techniques. Merge students with diverse skills and backgrounds to collaborate with leading professionals to fulfill project deliverables. We work the Capstone Project using the same methods we do with the IPT in industry. We have three teams of five students each, from engineering, interior design, and the business school. Students from engineering, interior design, accounting, and finance are all part of the team. We provide a guest lecture once a month, and I will oversee program meetings once a week to ensure we’re meeting our deliverables. The project will include areas such as cost accounting, budgeting, and measuring the project performance costs and program management, using the latest and greatest technology, software, and project management tools.
Kevin Hoffman (20:25):
Our second project is being offered through Marie-Lise Baron. Marie has developed the International Design Institute of Luxury and Private Jets and is the first and unique formation in the world founded to offer captivating online education to aspiring private jet designers, to serve the global aeronautics industry, and to be specialized in the luxurious world of private jet design services. It’s a first-of-the-kind, teaching students who desire to be interior airplane designers, and it goes through a number of areas, including the creative portion of it. Obviously, there’s the 3D area virtual reality, and the technical side being more of an industrial engineering kind of thing. And it’s the interface between the designers and the engineering certification people, as well. I think it’s really unique thing she’s putting together, and our team at Janus will be helping her and providing input for her classes.
Kevin Hoffman (21:21):
And our third thing is we’re working to develop, through supplemental-type certificates, what we call the Suitcase Sling working with Amy and Les Weaver, an operator of Global Express. Les realized there was a need to assist flight crews in getting baggage into the Global Express or Gulf Stream-type aircraft, because of the distance between the bottom of the baggage door and the ground. On the new Global 7500, it’s about 96 inches, which means eight feet, and that’s quite a distance to load baggage externally.
Kevin Hoffman (21:49):
I think we’re able to bring things to market quicker with our ODA and certification design and engineering. We have the capability to be able to look at a project, see the value in it, and what will be required to get it designed, engineered, and certified. It’s another unique thing we’re offering at Janus Aerospace.
Tony Kioussis (22:11):
This has been another Asset Insight podcast covering the aircraft ownership life cycle. Please visit our ever-growing podcast library at Assetinsightpodcast.com and select from any number of topics discussed with business aviation industry experts. This is Tony Kioussis, and as always, thank you for listening.
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