The article below appears in the February 2012 edition of NZ Manufacturer magazine. Here is the link to the magazine.
Flight Structures Ltd soars into manufacturing
A new aviation manufacturing facility is setting up shop at the Hamilton Airport. The company, Flight Structures Manufacturing, is a joint venture between Flight Structures Ltd and Clevedon Aeroplane Company Ltd. The companies look to expand their scope of services to meet the current demands and future demands of aviation manufacturing.
Jon Kerr of Flight Structures Ltd, said it is an undertaking he had been thinking about for many years now. “As we have grown,” he said. “It just seemed the logical next step. It’s a great way to expand the business and allows us to not only offer our customers a turnkey solution but also allows us to utilise the rich resources of aviation expertise we have all around us. Together we are definitely a little bit greater than the sum of our parts.”
Flight Structures Manufacturing will provide design, certification, manufacturing and installation for special role modification aircraft and helicopters. According to Mr Kerr, because these like-minded companies surround it, it will be able to pull from ready available resources. These resources include Alpha Aviation, which produces the Alpha 2000 Series training aircraft and the Clevedon Aeroplane Company. The Clevedon Aeroplane Company specialises in the manufacture of aviation products and installation of aircraft modifications and repairs.
Jon and business partner Richard Andrews founded Flight Structures Ltd in 2003 as an engineering consultancy service. They provide professional design and certification services to the aeronautical industry and have become the largest aeronautical design and certification consultancy in New Zealand.
Starting with a staff of only three, Flight Structures currently employs over 17 people with a variety of experience and skills. “With Flight Structure Manufacturing we will not only be able to utilise our current staff more effectively but will also have the opportunity to bring in others, creating a knowledge base that can’t be beaten,” Mr Kerr said. “We will be able to offer huge value to our present and future customers.”
The new facility will boast the first commercial installation of the American made C.R. Onsrud brand CNC Router in New Zealand. A full technological solution, the C.R. Onsrud machine will be used to manufacture Flight Structures designs of aircraft prototype parts. “Parts designed in the morning can be transferred directly to the machine and manufactured onsite in the afternoon” said Mr Kerr.
“This will save our customers time and money,” said Gary Peace co-owner of Flight Structure Manufacturing and Company Director of Clevedon Aeroplane. “We will be able to supply 24 hour technical support when it’s needed.”
“Jon and I have worked together for years. When he approached me with the idea of this venture and the C.R. Onsrud machine – it just seemed too good to pass up,” said Mr Peace. “The C.R. Onsrud machine will give us that flexibility to do the work ourselves and not have to wait on others.”
As the first of its type in Australasia, the C.R. Onsrud machine is being distributed by MPB Engineering PTY Ltd out of Australia. “The majority of our work had been with sawmill and timber industries but now as the new agent for the C.R. Onsrud machines in this area, we are able to offer services to even more industries including aviation,” said Braydon Cocks, Account Manager for MPB Engineering PTY Ltd. “Our engineers have been working with all types of CNC Routers for a long time but we have been truly impressed with the C.R. Onsrud machine.”
MPB Engineering is a second-generation family company, which has been in business since 1974. The core element of the business is the design, manufacture, service and sales of woodworking equipment and now aviation. With a full staff of engineers, the company prides itself on custom made machines that are designed to a very high standard.
“We are really looking forward to working with Jon and his team,” said Mr Cocks. “Jon was serious about quality when he went looking for a CNC Router. He’s the type of customer that is a perfect fit for us. Our focus is completely on the quality of our products. Everything has to be just right.”
According to Mr Cocks, the decision to go with the C.R. Onsrud products was an easy one because it is a company that shares the same values as MPB Engineering. The C.R. Onsrud Company, based out of North Carolina, USA, is family owned and specialises in top-notch CNC machinery designed for the aerospace, woodworking, plastics and composites industries. All machines are designed and manufactured at the North Carolina facility.
The company has been in business since 1915. The founder, Charles Onsrud, patented the “Inverted Router” in 1976. The idea made a huge impact on the woodworking industry by increasing safety and usability. Since then, the Onsrud name has been known for quality and value. They have been building computer-controlled routers like the one purchased by Flight Structure Manufacturing since the late 1950s.
“The router will offer Flight Structures Manufacturing a terrific amount of flexibility,” said Mr Cocks. “There is a huge range of usage on this type of router – from big to very small pieces.“
“This type of router has been in many parts of the world for awhile now but this is the first time we’ve had one in New Zealand and coming down here to train everyone seemed a great excuse to see a beautiful country,” Mr Onsrud laughed.
Mr Onsrud went on to explain that besides a knowledgeable agent, C.R. Onsrud also is able to provide online diagnostics through any device that is set up to talk to the CNC router. “Service means everything to us. If we can’t diagnose an issue through our online service, then our partnership with MPB Engineering is going to ensure that Jon and his team’s machine keeps running.”
“It’s great that we are all in this together,” commented Mr Kerr as he looked around at the group being trained. “It’s a good example of local companies collaborating for a common goal.”
Flight Structure Manufacturing is located on Steele Road by the Hamilton Airport.