Aviation-Custom Research Project Examples

Aftermarket Aircraft/MRO Assemblies, Components (Including PMA Parts) Business Growth Roadmap Plan-US and Global Markets

Project Scope: A supplier of precision assemblies and components (for airframe, engines, aircraft systems) wanted to expand its commercial aerospace business in profitable new product areas. One interest was tier 2 and 3 aftermarket assemblies and components. This was timely as airlines were seeking to reduce maintenance costs on older aircraft fleet segments, and were considering qualified non-OEM assemblies, components, and PMA products.

Key channels included in-house airline repair facilities, independent aftermarket/MRO shops, specialty and larger aircraft distributors. Notably channel practices varied by global region. While this opportunity was definitely attractive at a high level, this company’s key challenge lay in identifying which product groups offered above-average margin and revenue growth potential, had low competitive intensity, and where candidate acquisition targets were available.

ExecutionSpecific attractiveness criteria guided identification and selection of initial product group candidates. In-house and select secondary research was assembled, but most valuable direction was provided via extensive direct research interviews conducted by STS among its network of contacts in US, global airline maintenance, product manufacturers, independent aftermarket MRO shops, distributors, and other segments.
 
This direct research was conducted unbranded by STS (not revealing client) via in-depth telephone interviews and in-person at major global and US commercial aviation trade events.

 

A large number of initial product groups were initially profiled, scored and ranked, with the list then narrowed to five final targets for in-depth analysis and research on acquisition candidates. This again involved extensive due diligence research and direct interviews to secure critical insights and information, rather than relying on published data.           .

Result: As a result of this independent and original research covering multiple channels and diverse global regions, this company now had valuable, incremental information and analysis beyond what it could have assembled internally, was able to accelerate its timetable in identifying and assessing new growth directions, and could now make highly informed decisions on acquisition candidates and ultimate channel strategies for future diversification and expansion. 

Flight Deck Retrofit (Part 23 Class III aircraft) Opportunity Research- Pilots and Owners

Project Scope: A manufacturer of commercial avionics and integrated cockpits wanted to grow its business in Part 23 Class III aircraft retrofits where it did not have a significant position. Many of these aircraft had older gauges and separate avionics and owners seemed interested in some level of future integrated upgrade.

Although a competitive area for upgrades, this company felt it had unique solutions and integration capabilities which should enable it to carve out a substantial market share. The company however needed comprehensive feedback directly from pilots and owners of of various mission aircraft (personal leisure, corporate charter, cargo, schedule, personal, medevac, rescue) to validate capabilities of interest in an integrated cockpit retrofit.

Execution: This research initially involved assembling a database (tail numbers, registration-contact information) on over 800 pilots-owners US and Canada.     

Custom research probed interest (and underlying reasons) for: Synthetic and Enhanced Vision, TCAS, TAWS, Moving Maps, Electronic Charts, Quick Access Reorders, Heads Up Displays, Weather Radar, HITS, ADS-B, LPV and RNP SAAAR approaches, and other capabilities. 

Also, questions were asked regarding type of aircraft operation, aircraft engine installed, airfields used (ILS vs. non-ILS), autopilot and FMS primarily used, prior pilot experience with glass cockpits, problems with current systems, experience with integrated flight decks, modes used, actual retrofit plans and timing, and expected cockpit retrofit pricing.

 

Rather than seeking one or two word answers, researchers encouraged pilots and owners to elaborate open ended with particular emphasis on underlying reasons for preferring various capabilities vs. their current cockpit configuration.

Three experienced researchers completed 75 in-depth surveys each lasting 45-90 minutes and transcripts prepared with detailed tabulation. Client progress reviews were held at the 25%, 50%, and 75% levels for feedback as the research analysis took shape.                        

 

The final presentation summarized key findings (including statistical reliability) with specific recommendations on most attractive features by mission segment, price ranges, and relevant sales strategies with pilot-owner contact data for actual sales follow up.

Resultthe company was now able to clearly define which capabilities were most important for different mission sets with supporting evidence on why pilots feel as they do and make the decisions they make. 

 

This provided guidance and motivation for internal engineering and design teams in setting technical priorities, tasking and technology investment. It also helped guide marketing and sales strategy direction for individual customer groups, and the research verbatims captured during interviews proved useful for company print, web advertising, and media strategy.

 

In turn, this company was able to establish a significant, strategic position in a highly-competitive market segment.

New Ice Management System For Corporate, Passenger Aircraft, Rotary- New Product Business Potential Assessment

Project Scope: A provider of flight critical, electro-mechanical solutions for business jets, rotary, and air transport aircraft was investigating a business-expansion opportunity for a new in-flight ice management control system.

 

Changes in aircraft construction (more composites, less metallics), redesign of jet engines (more fuel efficient, lower emissions), and emergence of new safety regulations (FAA, EASA) were driving a need for better solutions. SWaP (Size, Weight, and Power) factors were key air framer considerations in evaluating new system candidates.                                   

Execution: This company was confident its solution delivered advantages vs.  competitors but needed a customized assessment to assess: current and emerging technologies, airframer evaluation and selection criteria, competitive landscape (market shares, pricing, strengths, weaknesses), aircraft incumbencies, profit margin-EBIT estimates, supply chain, airframer actual interest in its solution, retrofit and forward fit opportunities, market size and scale, revenue projections, market-entry strategy, anticipated competitor response, and general risk assessment.     This was an independent, totally fresh review of the opportunity and relied heaviiy on direct feedback from key decision makers at multiple levels.         
           
This included system managers at major airframers (Airbus, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Bombardier, Embraer, Hawker Beechcraft, Sikorsky, others) as well as regulatory, testing, technical laboratory personnel at NASA Glenn Research Center, US Army Aviation Testing, FAA, and other organizations.

The final analysis included a  detailed competitive analysis, and custom spreadsheets of new and retrofit addressable aircraft opportunities 20 years forward.           

Independent statistical analysis utilized in-house reference sources (major jet transport and business and rotary airframer projections, engine manufacturer forecasts, general aviation forecasts, trade association projections) and other select research sources. 

This assembled extensive competitive insight through direct conversations during relevant aviation trade events.                     

Result: This company now had a current, detailed and well-supported understanding of the scope of this opportunity. This enabled it to significantly increase its confidence in the future attractiveness of this new direction, and gain critical management support for investment. 

With this, the internal client team was able to successfully pass muster through top corporate management reviews, answering to key business case questions including: Is this market real? Can We Win? Is it worth it? Solutions we should we offer? Viable market entry point(s)?, and Reasonable revenue and profit margin?    

Passenger To Cargo Freighter Conversion-Global Opportunity Assessment-Asia-Pacific, Mid East, Africa, Europe, North and South America             

Project Scope: A manufacturer of metallic components and  structures for commercial aircraft wanted to diversify into passenger to freighter conversions as part of a broader move into independent MRO (Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul) services for commercial airframes.

Armed with various STCs and unique solutions (high value I/P) they were considering all major airframes (small narrow-body, medium, large wide-body) as part of an eventual business model.

Key questions: Changing needs of cargo airlines? Aircraft models to target? Size, growth, profitability of different aircraft segments? Impact of Asian, South American-based MRO? Key differentiators driving margin and growth? Impact of dedicated freighters from major aircraft OEMs? Factors critical to achieving market dominance (20% or higher share)? Adjacent MRO services to offer? Recommended growth strategies?  

ExecutionThis custom assessment addressed 15 different airframe segments as most likely freighter conversion candidates, and ten major MRO segments.

This involved in-depth profiles of 14 US and foreign third-party conversion operations and MRO providers, an analysis of primary factors driving airlines to outsource MRO, and recommendations on prospective partners and acquisition targets.

This relied heavily on interviews with key decision-makers at commercial airlines, cargo carriers, leasing companies, and other aviation airframe experts to secure insights of critical value to this opportunity.   

It further relied on resident knowledge of the aircraft MRO domain and including analysis of published MRO data to clearly describe the current market state, unmet needs, changing requirements, emerging options, key selection factors, and global competitor advantages and disadvantages.

Result: With this, the company now was able to make fact based, well reasoned decisions that it was earlier unable to do before, which helped to greatly accelerate its strategic planning process.

This custom project drew down a highly complicated and multifaceted market landscape into relevant and understandable areas of opportunity which today are the foundations of a highly successful and sustaining business.

Composite vs. Metallic Aerostructures For Large Passenger Aircraft- Global Market Opportunity Research

Project Scope: A global supplier of metallic aerostructures needed to better understand airline industry views on use of composites vs. metallics for various aircraft structures. A new passenger aircraft under development would be constructed primarily with composite material. The company particularly wanted detailed feedback from airline maintenance and third party MRO shops on their views of composites vs. metallics.  

This also required an independent life-cycle maintenance cost comparison of a new airframe compared to an existing 767 airframe built with traditional non-composite aerostructure materials.

Execution:  This analysis involved direct research with 25 maintenance and operations heads at leading airlines worldwide, probing views on advantages and disadvantages of composite material from a number of angles.

 

This feedback also formed the basis for an original analysis (based on airline expert guidance), comparing this new airframe to the average useful life of a 767 aircraft.

Over 25 key measures were included in this comparison related to aircraft dynamics, weight, flight operations, comfort, and other operating and cost issues.

ResultAs a result of this original detailed analysis, based on statistical analysis and in-depth insights from leading world airlines, the company now had a clear appreciation of the nature and potential impact of this change at a critical early stage.

In particular, this enabled the company to develop some key counter arguments, modify its sales and marketing emphasis, and redirect its internal R&D focus.

Avionics Systems-Key Competitor Analysis-Business Jets

Project Scope: A leading avionics electronics company was concerned about one emerging competitor poised to take market share with several new integrated avionics offerings designed to be direct substitutes for this company's solutions.

Accordingly, it needed detailed market insight from Part 23 Class 3, 4 and Part 25 pilots owners on specific subjects of interest. The goal was to have experienced pilots compare the competitor's offering with the company's solutions, and understand the likelihood of switching based on particular features across different aircraft models and ownership profiles (private, corporate, fractional).        

Execution:  This sampling was representative of the target market and also allowed for open-ended responses from pilots. 
 
This addressed ease of use, user interfaces, display quality (reflectivity, viewing angles), reliability, service and support, and other general subjects. Questions also addressed: comm/nav/radio capabilities, terrain/obstacle display features, CAS (Crew Alert System) capability, and related functions including interest in heads-up guidance systems, enhanced vision systems, and synthetic vision systems

 A detailed summary on each pilot profile (background and flying experience, aircraft of record) was also part of this research design.

ResultBased on this custom competitive assessment, the company was now able to identify specific areas of potential weakness and better understand key layers of this competitive threat.
           
This helped the company gain a more accurate pulse of its current market situation and constructively resolve multiple internal viewpoints in various company groups.

It now could better direct its internal R&D focus and marketing and sales emphasis to protect and grow its business based on a thorough understanding of this competitive threat.        

Global Aviation Information Management-New Product Assessment

Project Scope: A provider of avionics systems for air transport, regional and business jets was seeking to diversify its business beyond the aircraft platform and investigate opportunities to integrate with mobile and ground infrastructure operations. Seeing "off airplane" connectivity as an emerging "white space" opportunity from changes in air traffic control, airport communications, and the broader surface infrastructure space, this company was eager to identify logical Intersections to develop unique solutions in the changing information management and aviation sectors.

Key questions: Types of information valuable to different segments and underlying reasons? Major users and customer sets?  Potential technology partners? Opportunity for integrated service revenues? Timetable for implementation?  Suppliers now participating and expanding in this changing space?        

Execution:  To gain insight, this research engaged with key decision-makers in various domains (airlines, airports, ground vehicle support, traffic management, safety).

Each viewed a web link visual showing connectivity across this multilayer landscape. They provided comments about their current practices, problems, changing needs, and how greater connectivity in certain applications might provide tangible value. Ground, airborne, and space (satellite) integration were included.
 
40 in-depth interviews were conducted with a cross-section of key management personnel at leading airlines (air transport and regional), business jet owners, federal and regional FAA operations, other global regulatory authorities, and individual airport management.               

ResultThis early stage research generated a number of valuable ideas on potential opportunities in this developing area relevant to the company's capabilities. 

Final presentations included independent recommendations on three new business directions where this company would likely have greatest leverage and business potential. 

         

Overall, this new opportunity research assessment gave the company an original and timely appreciation of this developing market, actionable recommendations for future market strategies, and directly helped to build a strong foundation for new business growth and diversification.

Flight Management System Upgrade For Commercial Aircraft-Direct Research Assessment

Project Scope: A supplier of avionics systems for large passenger aircraft had earlier introduced flight management system solutions directed toward older aircraft for modular upgrades.

Original sales projections had not been achieved. This company needed to better understand why, if there still was an opportunity, and what could be done differently to be successful.

The company had some suspicions based on sales input but needed independent, reliable insight to clearly understand and address the situation.

Execution:  Direct research was conducted with a cross-section key airlines (both purchasers of the company's solution, and non-purchasers.

This probed: awareness with this offering, candidate aircraft in airline fleet, perceived positives and negatives, purchase interest, competitive alternatives considered, actual adoption with reasons why, and other feedback and suggestions.

Over 35 key airline decision makers in various functional roles (maintenance, flight ops, engineering) were engaged by trained aviation researchers, and encouraged to share their insights on these and other topics. 

ResultBased on this highly customized research, the company realized there were several key problems with its solutions, as well as sales/marketing positioning. In turn, the company directly used this independent guidance to restage its market and product strategy. 

As a result, the company was able to successfully recover and achieve 90% of its original sales projection after making recommended changes.

Integrated Aviation Solution- System Capabilities and Feature Preference Research-Large Passenger Aircraft  

Project Scope: A supplier of avionics systems was seeking to diversify its business in the advanced passenger airline systems market.

Internal marketing and engineering had developed a preliminary system concept incorporating GPS, SATCOM, Internet-connectivity, and other airborne and ground-based links for passenger applications and aircraft management. Company management however was resisting further investment until a detailed market assessment was conducted to assess potential acceptance.

Execution:  This custom assessment involved 50+ in-depth research interviews with key airline decision makers. It utilized a detailed visual illustration of the concept showing features and promised benefits to users.
 
Open-ended questions were asked covering different aspects of this concept, and airlines were encouraged to elaborate on underlying reasons for their comments.           

ResultThis original research provided custom insight on potential interest, applications, and features and functionality at multiple levels, and helped directly to guide this company's direction at a critical development stage.

Several key design features were selected and multiple customer target segments were identified as having greatest potential.    

This custom approach provided timely direction for the company's diversification in a new area and set the stage for new business expansion beyond traditional solutions.

New Avionics Opportunity Research-General Aviation, Owner Flown Aircraft

Project Scope: A provider of avionics solutions for Air Transport, Regional, and Business aircraft required an assessment of available market size and competition in the general aviation, owner-flown segment, an area which it had not previously emphasized. This included light singles, heavy-performance singles, and twin engine airframes.

 

Company interest was driven by increasing sophistication of small aircraft avionics.This was creating a larger, higher margin opportunity segment, and the company wanted to better understand  underlying factors and implications for a possible new business roadmap.

ResultAs a result of this client-tailored research, the company was able to accurately define the highest margin and sales opportunity spaces where it should place greatest emphasis. This guidance helped the company to greatly accelerate its internal strategic planning process. 

Execution:  A logical partitioning of this market including six key private aircraft segments was developed, further partitioned into seven solution categories.

 

A detailed future roadmap based on direct interviews with aircraft OEMs, installation and mod houses, and other retrofit experts was developed.

This in combination with growth projections from reliable industry data formed the basis forc the final report including a detailed summary of current and future market size, underlying market drivers and constraints, competitive positions within both products and aircraft segments, relevant conclusions and specific recommendations.

Accelerating Client Growth-Delivering Consistent Value

"I would like to extend warm thanks for the excellent research and analysis you conducted for CMC Electronics. The information and recommendations from the report will assuredly help us in developing market strategies. We much appreciated the high level of thoroughness and professionalism displayed by STS in the conduct of this project, and would most certainly consider your services in the future. Thanks again for the great work." Director, Marketing and Sales, CMC Electronics, an Esterline company

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