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Flying High with TruTrak

AADA TruTrakFounded in 1999, TruTrak Flight Systems is a leader and innovator in the experimental, light sport, and certified aircraft autopilot market. TruTrak introduced the first digital autopilot (and the now standard autopilot) servo for use in light aircraft. TruTrak autopilots are installed in a large variety of experimental aircraft, and are currently approved for installations in over 60 certified aircrafts. TruTrak was founded by Jim Younkin and Chuck Bilbe in 1999; by March 2000 they had produced their first prototypes of the DFC 250 and Digital Basic Servo. Andrew Barker, current President and CEO, was hired as TruTrak’s first employee in September 2000

As Barker gained experience and ownership of the company over time, he understood the feedback from their current clientele, and undertook the task of gaining approval to install their system in certified aircraft. About two years previous, the Experimental Aircraft Association catalyzed a more economical pathway to move experimental parts into the certified world. Barker said seeing this goal come to fruition was his passion. Thanks to Barker’s leadership, TruTrak has seen tremendous growth in the last 6 months, having more than doubled the number of aircraft for which their autopilot system is suitable. Barker also said that it was all possible thanks to the Arkansas World Trade Center and the Arkansas Aerospace and Defense Alliance, helping to connect Barker with the right people. 

TruTrak prides itself in its customer service and support; it drives their positive business reputation. They work to improve and understand the importance of service after sale. Following up with clients to answer questions and check in regularly. TruTrak strives for the long-term relationship with their clients, regardless if they do it directly or not. Barker recounted how a now friend-once-customer has bought six autopilots for aircrafts he’s owned and built over the years. “We see a lot of that,” Barker explained regarding how when they install TruTrak into one craft, “they love the product and keep installing in their other aircrafts!”

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Hot Springs Summit Sum-up

AADA HotSprings Summit SumUpThe 10thAnnual Arkansas Summit went – to sum up – fantastically! This year’s summit, hosted once again at the Hotel Hot Springs, ended with great successes. The summit’s turnout showed high participation from member companies, considerable attendance from outside companies, positive B2B meetings, well-discussed and engaging info sessions, and an abundance of newfound networking connections. 

Buyer companies Lockheed Martina, Dassault Falcon, and Galley Support Innovations were present and hopefully made successful connections in expanding their supplier base, and establishing new contacts. Overall, through successful session discussion, members can more readily picture the upcoming opportunities for growth in Aerospace and the Defense sector within Arkansas, as well as the Mid-America region. 

This year’s summit confirmed a lot of people’s expectations and desires to connect and talk with other members; to learn and grow from experienced people within the same industry sector; connect and actively create new business opportunities. People are feeling positive about events, and expected growth in the coming years. One of the most anticipated sessions was given from Arkansas Economic Development Commission President, Mike Preston. His presentation laid out the continuing vision for Arkansas, and Gov. Hutchinson’s efforts that are being put forth to grow and expand aerospace plans in the state; this largely showing that the state government is committed to actively growing this sector. “I think the aerospace industry welcomed Mr. Preston’s comments to that regard, and feel solid about where the industry is moving. Going forward, with the help of the state, creating a more competitive and business friendly climate to keep up with our neighboring states,” AADA Executive Director Chad Causey commented.

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Building Up on Service

AADA NabholzBeginning in 1949 as a small construction company, Nabholz Construction is now a team packed with hundreds of industry-leading professionals that work together to serve their clients, as well as their communities. Far bigger than most would imagine, Nabholz is comprised of several major operations within its construction empire. Nabholz Construction would be the face Arkansans would recognize as responsible for building hospitals, schools, dormitories, data centers – larger, multi-million-dollar projects. While Nabholz is ready and willing to undertake massive projects (like hospitals), they’re also ready to work on the smaller construction projects their clients need too (including projects from $1K-$1M type budgets).  This type project is performed by their Construction Services Operations. Nabholz has one specialty operation called Nabholz Industrial Services that serves all Industrial Manufacturers nation-wide, installing and relocating machinery.  Their focus on integrity, safety, and service to each and every one of their clients is a key component to their steady growth and success. 

Current President of the Nabholz Industrial Services Operation is Ben Montgomery. After finishing his B.S. in Industrial Engineering from University of Arkansas, Ben found himself in and out of different aspects of the manufacturing and industrial industry before joining Nabholz 18 years ago. Since then, Ben and his team of skilled craftsmen and industry professionals has seen so many projects through from start to finish, that he confidently knows what type of quality service and commitment to keeping active relations with their clients is needed to remain successful, as well as connected, in our ever-changing business economy. While focused on projects within Arkansas, Nabholz Construction also has quite a large business footprint, working on projects from coast-to-coast, and border-to-border.  Nabholz will travel anywhere in the USA to perform work for existing clients.

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Changes in Aerospace Regulations

AADA AerospaceRegulationsProgress only comes through adaptation and evolution regardless of what industry or society we’re a part of. As the aerospace industry continues expanding and connecting around the globe, standards that were sufficient for the industry before have to be reevaluated and updated. Recently, aerospace regulations were modified to the new AS9100:2016 Standard and companies are expected to have updated to this new standard by September of this year. Below are some highlights of these changes.  

These changes are determined by the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG) by a review process which happens every 5 years. The American Aerospace Quality Group have meetings, primarily in LA and Atlanta to receive feedback from stakeholders in the industry. This information is then reviewed, in tandem with other global aerospace quality groups, for the primary issues affecting the industry as a whole, and determining what adjustments can be made to the current standard. The newest revisions enacted to AS9100 focus on encouraging companies to look at their business from a process -based perspective, instead of an elemental one. 

Risk management became one of the key revisions within AS9100 – Promoting top management to ensure there’s a risk based approach to how they run their company and how they take new projects on. There has been further emphasis on accountability from top management to make sure that they understand the different KPI (Key Process Indicators) for their processes.  This standard shifted focus to assign accountability at the top level and to determine what types of effective actions are being taken when goals are not being met. 

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Addressing the Skilled Labor Deficit in Arkansas

AADA SkilledLaborDeficitArkansas is firmly in the top 20 US States with the lowest unemployment rate at just 3.7%. That’s a good thing. It’s good for the economy, for communities, and families. But when you’re an aviation or defense company wanting to hire skilled labor, employees can be hard to find. This has been an issue on the mind of the aviation industry in Arkansas for some time now. 

There are a number of resources in place that are aimed directly at training people with the specific skills needed in the aerospace industry – and they’re right here in Arkansas. 

The Arkansas Dept. of Career Education and Workforce Development(www.arcareereducation.org/home) is one of these resources.  The board is composed of CEO’s from a variety of industries including AADA’s President Gina Radke as Vice Chair, who was interviewed for this article. The value of the programing and resources offered is high, and include:

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