Aftermarket parts suppliers help extend the lives of legacy aircraft when parts supplies dry up

By John Keller
Posted by John Keller

THE MIL & AERO BLOG, 1 Aug. 2012. Modern commercial, military, and general-aviation aircraft have to stay in the air a long time -- particularly these days when operators want to get the most out of their investments.

Problems with legacy aircraft come up, however, when the supply of critical spare parts dries up. Parts manufacturers quit supporting their older product lines after a while, which can leave aircraft operators in a pinch.

That's where aftermarket suppliers for aircraft spare parts and subsystems come in. One of the largest and longest in business is Ontic Engineering and Manufacturing Inc., which has headquarters in Chatsworth, Calif., and has operations in Houston, as well as in Cheltenham and Slough, England.

Ontic's business model is straightforward: when original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) decide either to go out of business or quit producing legacy parts, Ontic can step in to take over inventory and manufacturing to extend product availability.

"We acquire the intellectual property rights from the OEM, they go out of the business, and we go into the business," explains Ontic President Peg Billson. "If the OEM no longer wants to provide the resources to support the product line, under their authority we can license the entire product line."

Ontic specializes in five major aviation product lines: electronics such as system controllers, radar systems, and cockpit interface units; engine components and accessories; electromechanical components such as motors and pumps; oxygen and environmental-control systems; and large structures such as landing gear assemblies.

The company either stocks OEM-manufactured parts, or takes over manufacturing the parts, if necessary. Most parts that Ontic supplies are for aircraft that are out of production, but does supply parts for aircraft still on the assembly line, such as the Boeing 777 widebody jetliner and the Airbus A320 single-aisle jetliner.

Ontic maintains the OEM as a partner, with assurances that Ontic will not compete with its OEM partners on supplying and manufacturing specific aviation components and subsystems. "When an OEM decides to partner with us, they know we won't complete with them on new platforms," Billson says. "We don't do new-product development."

Among the aircraft that Ontic supports, in addition to the 777 and A320, are the Eurofighter Typhoon, Hawk jet trainer, E-2C Hawkeye maritime patrol aircraft, F-15 jet fighter, AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, CH-53 Sea Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, as well as the 737, 757, and MD-80 passenger jets.

Ontic derives 50 percent of its revenue from supporting military aircraft, 35 percent from supporting commercial air transport aircraft, and 15 percent from supporting business jets and other general-aviation aircraft.

Electronics support accounts for 30 percent of Ontic revenue, Billson says. The company, for example, provides the fuel-measurement computers for the 777 and A320 passenger jets, as well as radar systems for 737s and MD-80s.

For more information contact Ontic online at .

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The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

June 2015
Volume 26, Issue 6

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