STS Will Pick Up Many HAECO Line Locations, Continue Expanding
“We were all shocked by it,” says Mark Smith, group president of STS Aviation, of HAECO Americas’ announcement that it would exit line maintenance at all but one of its US locations by the end of 2016. Even if shocked and enduring a hurricane near its Florida headquarters, STS was moving quickly to look for opportunities in the HAECO drawdown. The privately-held company has grown from $15m to $250m in annual revenue in 17 years by being very nimble.
STS now serves many of the same clients as HAECO, only at different locations, 15 in all, with one of these outside the U.S. in the Bahamas. Smith says he will evaluate almost all of HAECO’s 17 US locations for STS services, but probably not Anchorage due to its small size. STS will likely interview HAECO staff at these locations and may hire them if they meet STS selection criteria.
In choosing airports to serve, STS would like some required overnight services. It typically does not charge retainers, so it looks for volume, fleets and the number of airlines it can serve. STS can offer what Smith calls an “all you can eat” service, including meet, greet, write-ups and overnight clearance of Minimum Equipment List faults for a fee, but must respect union restrictions on what an airline can outsource.
Smith said at least nine HAECO locations very likely meet STS service criteria. “If we were to take them all, we would be coast to coast in the U.S.,” he observes. That would enable the firm to offer a US airline line services over most of its network, and say, “if you need us anywhere else, we would be happy to go there.” STS software gives each customer a monthly report on all work orders, invoices and supporting documents for each station, a unique capability, Smith added.
The company now has 250 techs spread unevenly over its 15 stations. Three stations have large teams dedicated to specific projects. For example, STS has 80 techs in Detroit installing GoGo’s latest 2Ku broadband connectivity, a modification STS has now done on 2,000 aircraft.
One STS business very relevant to staffing up quickly to fill in HAECO gaps is its staffing agency. STS is one of the largest recruiting firms for airline and MRO mechanics and keeps 1,500 techs working currently. “As a recruiting organization, we can recruit, screen, hire and qualify much faster,” Smith stressed. STS’s own techs average just short of 20 years’ experience.
The HAECO opportunity occurred when the firm already was growing in several directions. STS has recently acquired a business to sell OEM parts, it buys and tears down engines and has bought an aviation-hose firm. Smith says STS is looking at two more acquisitions and rates the chances of going ahead with them at 80 percent and 50 percent, respectively.
Geographically, STS expects EASA certification by the end of October and is looking at opportunities to support GoGo and provide engineering services in Europe in 2017. Further, Smith said, “it is not out of the question,” that STS will seek line maintenance opportunities in Europe in the future.