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A Loop to keep companies flying

Specializing in hard-to-find parts, business fills a vital need for aircraft owners and operators

Posted: July 6, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 6, 2011 1:30 a.m.

Bert Braché, owner of Loop Aerospace, and Gilberto Padilla look over schematics in a sheet-metal plant, one of the many aircraft parts manufacturing facilities Brache’s company works with.

 

After 35 years in the aerospace industry, Bert Braché identified a niche market to help produce replacement parts for airplane owners/operators.

Federal-aviation regulations require anyone who owns or operates an aircraft to maintain it with original parts, Braché said.

“But if none exists, they have the option to make their own parts,” he said.

But parts are often hard to come by, and 90 percent of the owners/operators don’t have engineering departments or a place to make the parts, Braché said.

Seeing an opportunity to provide a service, Braché launched an online business in 2007, matching up needed parts with all the different people and places that can make the parts in the world.

In 2009, Braché formally named his Santa Clarita company Loop Aerospace. He also opened a shop near the Van Nuys airport to meet the need of local aircraft owners and operators.

Manufacturing process
Owner/operators can upload part information to Loop Aerospace’s website. The company also offers 3-D scanning of parts to get exact measurements.

Loop then examines all customer data to ensure manufacturers can see the scan and understand the specs and that the material the part needs to be manufactured with is identified.

Once the request has been reviewed, Loop sends the request to a network of manufacturers who have registered with Loop as being available to develop the parts. And quotes come back in for the customer to select from.

Once a prototype and part design is approved, the parts are produced immediately.

Currently, the company focuses on parts that are not considered to be related to “safety of flight.”  The company expects to be handling more complex parts within three years.

“Loop Aerospace maintains control over the design and quality of the production of parts from start to finish,” Braché said.

Grounded
When specific aircraft are no longer in production, after a while, builders or manufacturers stop producing the parts — making it more difficult to find replacement parts.

Some owners/operators are forced to buy new airplanes, however, because they can no longer get parts.

Loop Aerospace works with private owners to commercial-airline operators, stepping in to fill the gap when parts are not immediately available, there’s a temporary shortage or the parts are no longer produced.

When a part is unavailable, planes get grounded, Braché said.

“We also have our own engineering department if a part needs to be made right away,” Braché said.

In 1995, a charter operator had to ground a jet for maintenance. During the inspection process, it was discovered that two
parts, struts, connected to the main landing gear were bad.

“If they had not been able to get immediate replacement parts, they would have been grounded for six months,” Braché said.

“They would have gone bankrupt if they had not gotten up and flying again within 30 days,” he said.

FAA approval
Loop Aerospace makes specific parts for specific planes based on the need of the owner/operator, Braché said. Parts can’t be ordered or produced for resale per the FAA.

“We also identify the parts we have made,” Braché said. “Anyone can go back to our website to trace who manufactured the part based on the lot number and learn how many in that lot were manufactured.”

Braché said he has also been attending FAA seminars and recording flight operators’ questions and the FAA’s answers, to place on his website under the “Frequently Asked Questions” section, for the benefit of people in the industry.

Connecting companies
One Valencia company was asked to reverse engineer 1,500 parts for seats, but the company could only handle 48 parts at the time, he said.

“Loop Aerospace has the capacity to spread the work around amongst manufacturers by connecting an airliner with companies that have an opening in their scheduling,” Braché said.

Loop Aerospace of Santa Clarita can be reached at (661) 675-3434 or at www.loopaerospace.com. It also opened a second location at 16122 Leadwell Street in Van Nuys this month.

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