The Duncan Download Blog: Business Aviation Advice & Observations

Duncan Aviation President & CEO: How Technology Has Impacted Business

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Fri, Dec 19, 2014 @ 10:54 AM

Contributed by Aaron Hilkemann, President & CEO

Technology has created some of the most significant changes in our business over the last 25 years.


Today, Duncan Aviation team members access parts catalogs and manuals online from wireless computers throughout our hangars. Work instructions are completed and signed off by team members simply by scanning their badges. Customers can approve squawks online from anywhere in the world by accessing their secure myDuncan account. They can also obtain repair alternatives and view photos of squawks found without being onsite during the inspection. In addition to reducing paperwork, these technologies have enabled our workflow to be more efficient as customers approve items in a timelier manner and have access to a running total of additional approved costs.

Technology has also impacted repair procedures and allowed for better identification of cracks and corrosion through the use of digital boroscopes and NDT equipment. Improvements to equipment such as tugs, power carts and lifts have enabled team members to operate more reliable equipment that is also easier and safer to use. Improved fall protection, new LED lighting and more efficient heating systems have also helped to create a safer and more comfortable hangar environment for team members and customers.

Through the use of technology, we use safer and more environmentally friendly products throughout all of our shops, including not only cleaners and solvents, but an entire new system of chrome-free paint products used by our paint shop technicians. By using these more environmentally friendly paint products, we have been able to decrease risk to our workforce while increasing the number and size of aircraft painted in any one location while meet all EPA-induced environmental standards.

Technology improvements in engine, avionics and cabin management have improved the performance and, in most cases, decreased the operating costs to maintain the equipment. Consequently, the labor and parts supplied by MROs in these areas have decreased, along with fewer unscheduled maintenance events for operators.

Lastly, the emergence of the large and ultra large business jets has ‘shrunk’ our previously built hangars, causing the MRO industry to build new and much larger hangars. The planes considered ‘big iron’ 25 years ago are now considered mid-size aircraft. These large and ultra-large business aircraft have expanded the worldwide fleet and have created the perfect business tool for the new worldwide economy that has emerged. The other development that has put a demand on hangar space for MROs is the addition of winglets on aircraft of all sizes. Winglets, while making the aircraft more efficient, make stacking the MRO hangar more complicated.

Future developments that will impact the MRO industry include regulation and the continued growth and emergence of the worldwide fleet. 

New regulations and interpretations of existing regulations have significantly impacted our business during the past 25 years. Many repairs for corrosion in the past were quickly resolved and signed off using 337s. Today, even many smaller inspections generate corrosion repairs that must be accompanied by engineering drawings that significantly increase the cost and timeliness of the repairs.

While the FAA continues to focus on streamlining regulation, EASA appears to be focusing on writing new and more complex regulations. The result of both actions by the FAA and EASA will continue to increase costs to MROs that will be passed on to operators. The FAA's focus on establishing delegated authority for MROs has resulted in increased MRO staffing to support the delegated authority and this is expected to continue.  EASA's certification charges continue to be significant along with the additional costs to prepare the documentation required to obtain the certifications. While safety remains an important issue for operators and MROs, it appears the operating costs to maintain and certify new equipment and repairs are growing exponentially in relation to the improved safety of these new regulations and certification requirements. 

The emergence of significant deliveries of aircraft worldwide during the past 25 years has created the need for MRO service providers throughout the world. The MRO industry will continue to build new facilities to service these aircraft and it will continue to be challenged to identify skilled workers to serve these markets outside of the U.S. While many international operators will continue to return to the U.S. for service, there will be a need for skilled workers to maintain these aircraft on a daily basis throughout the world. The MRO industry will need to continue to be innovative to help these operators operate and maintain their aircraft throughout the world.

Our industry remains in a strong position to facilitate business growth and expansion throughout the world. Based on the significant deliveries during the past 25 years, it is hard not to be optimistic about the next 25 years of business aviation.

Tags: Announcements

Duncan Aviation Shares Time Lapse Video of Learjet 35 Monument

Posted by Danielle Kavan on Wed, Dec 17, 2014 @ 09:36 AM

Head down the main entrance drive of Duncan Aviation’s Lincoln, Nebraska, facility and you’ll see a Learjet 35 set atop a 20-foot stand, slightly tilted, as if frozen in time during takeoff.


The company jet flew for nearly 13,000 hours and boasted more than 10,000 landings at the time of its retirement in 2009. Though Duncan Aviation team members sold the aircraft’s engines and all salvageable parts, they kept the shell of the aircraft intact for years before it made its shift to sculpture along the main entrance drive of Duncan Aviation’s Lincoln, Nebraska, facility.

During the past five months, team members wrote messages inside the retired company jet, creating a unique time capsule that captured the experiences of anyone who piloted, flew in, worked on, purchased and delivered parts for, cleaned, fueled and towed this piece of Duncan Aviation history.

Though the Learjet was added to the campus late this year, plans for the monument began nearly four years ago. With a lot research, planning and modification of the aircraft, a piece of Duncan Aviation’s early days now sits across from the newly opened 175,000-square-foot maintenance hangars.

To view the time capsule’s interior, newly painted exterior and progression from hangar storage to three-prong stand, view the following time lapse video.

Tags: Announcements, Learjet

Duncan Aviation’s CEO is Elected Vice Chairman of GAMA

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Fri, Dec 05, 2014 @ 12:33 PM


Aaron Hilkemann, Duncan Aviation’s CEO was recently elected as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) for 2015. He has been a member of GAMA for three years and has served as the Chairman of the Airworthiness & Maintenance Policy Committee for the last twelve months. 

GAMA has one primary purpose: to advocate for the “welfare, safety, interests and activities of general aviation.” They strive to help the public have a better understanding of general aviation and how it plays an important role in the economic growth of our communities.

Member-companies represent over 80 of the world’s leading manufacturers, general aviation airplanes and rotorcraft, engines, avionics, components, and related services.

According to the GAMA website, the Airworthiness & Maintenance Policy Committee (AMP) represents the interests of General Aviation manufacturers and maintenance organizations on regulatory and policy issues that affect the continuing airworthiness and maintenance of general aviation products. The AMP works collaboratively with regulatory agencies and other associations that represent the broader maintenance and repair station industry. 

Aaron has served as the Past Chairman of the AMAC (Associate Member Advisory Council) of NBAA and has also served on the Board of Directors of the NBAA.

As President and CEO, Aaron Hilkemann provides strategic leadership and direction to Duncan Aviation to ensure future development and growth for the enterprise. He leads a 14-member Senior Management Team responsible for the tactical and daily operation of all Duncan Aviation's locations.

Tags: Announcements

Duncan Aviation Hosts First-Ever Industry Benchmark Forum

Posted by Danielle Kavan on Tue, Dec 02, 2014 @ 11:41 AM


Contributions By: Bombardier Learjet, Dassault Falcon Jet, Duncan Aviation, Elliott Aviation, Gulfstream Aerospace, Jet Aviation, Standard Aero, West Star Aviation

When it comes to aircraft paint, the products and processes are constantly changing and improving. To keep up with trends, industry representatives recently collaborated, sharing ideas and solutions at the first-ever Industry Benchmark Forum: Aircraft Paint. That expertise is now available in a customer-focused document at

Paint industry representatives from Bombardier Learjet, Dassault Falcon Jet, Duncan Aviation, Gulfstream, Elliott Aviation and Standard Aero gathered to discuss the current state of the aircraft paint industry, the processes and products currently being utilized to minimize and mitigate corrosion’s negative impact on aircraft, as well as tour Duncan Aviation’s paint facilities.

In an effort to collectively raise the industry benchmark, reduce corrosion and improve painter safety, a group of industry aircraft paint experts gathered to share tips and tricks of the trade.

The group also considered current and future work processes and paint products in an attempt to collaborate and find paint systems that are best for customers’ aircraft, as well as paint technicians and team members.

“We also addressed the shift to chrome-free paint. Some of us having been using these products for years while others plan to reduce the amount of chromate products they use,” says Doug Bohac, Paint Shop Manager for Duncan Aviation. “We all realize the shift to chrome-free will happen in the next few years in Europe and the United States will likely follow suit.”

Chrome-free paint product expert Tom Chubb of AkzoNobel gave a presentation on the research and rigorous testing process of products currently available and those that might hit the market in the next few years.

All the attendees agreed the forum was mutually beneficial for the paint managers, shops and customers.

The group will meet again in April at another location to continue to build on this collective knowledge.

Download your copy of the Aircraft Paint Customer Guide now. 

Tags: Paint Refurbishment

Duncan Aviation Gives Thanks

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 @ 11:54 AM



Business Aviation is about more than a wing, fuselage and tail. It is about the friendship, trust and partnership we build and cherish.

Duncan Aviation is thankful for our many friends in the aviation world. We appreciate you and wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

What are you thankful for? 

Tags: Announcements

Duncan Aviation Designer Shares Her Business Aircraft Design Expertise

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 @ 10:53 AM


Lori Browning is an experienced designer that knows a thing or two about business aircraft. Since 2010, she has been designing business aircraft modifications, completions and refurbishments at Duncan Aviation’s Battle Creek, Michigan, location.

Her knowledge of the aesthetics of the interior and exterior of an aircraft is well-known. So much so, she is often sought out her professional expertise on a number of projects and articles. Most recently for What's Cooking: Galley Possibilities, an article on by Mal Gormley. A great read about how new and traditional thinking, along with careful planning can transform a vital element of business aircraft.

Here are other articles that Lori has contributed.

Creating a Business Traveler's Cabin

A customer came to Duncan Aviation with his Global Express and requested an interior refurbishment to create a place to work, rest and reboot.

Current Aircraft Designs Feature Function & Form: Interior Trends

We look at some of the recent aircraft design trends that our aircraft designers have seen and discuss the importance of productivity as well as design.

Dynamic 3D Paint Schemes with Duncan Design

Customers now have the option to work with 3D renderings while collaborating with Duncan Aviation on the design of their aircraft’s exterior paint scheme.

Exploring "Green" Materials for Aircraft Interiors

Textile companies are creating new “green” fabric lines. The properties that make them green also make them suitable for aviation burn regulations.

12 Eco-Friendly Materials for Aircraft Interiors

A look into carpets, veneers, and other materials used in aircraft interiors to find the most sustainable products available.

Tags: Interior Refurbishment

Duncan Aviation Knows Business Aircraft Engines

Posted by Kate Dolan on Wed, Nov 12, 2014 @ 06:00 AM

There are 15 technicians at our Lincoln, Nebraska and Battle Creek, Michigan facilities who have worked on turbine engines at Duncan Aviation for more than 20 years. They have touched hundreds of Honeywell, Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Rolls Royce and Williams’ engines.

They have worked untold hours exchanging engine parts, performing non-destructive testing and MPIs and repairing or overhauling engines. They have the technical know-how, tooling, training and industry contacts to offer nearly comprehensive services for your turbine engines.


All of those years and all of the engines add up to an impressive amount of experience.

  • Jim Smith, 38 years
  • Dan Soderstrom, 28 years
  • Stan Schwarkopf, 36 years
  • Jeff Schwebke, 26 years
  • Greg Palensky, 26 years
  • Chris Peet, 26 years
  • Troy Pedersen, 25 years
  • Lance Boatwright, 25 years
  • Scott Hamilton, 25 years
  • Dennis Gully, 24 years
  • Mark Earnest, 24 years
  • Terry Fransen, 24 years
  • Lanny Renshaw, 24 years
  • Rod Porter, 22 years
  • Scott Pengra, 20 years

Because of this experience, our customers trust us with their engines.

Sharon Klose, engine service and sales manager, has been selling aircraft engines for 25 years. She sums up Duncan Aviation’s capabilities by saying, “I’m working for a company I fully respect, with team members I consider the best in the business, and selling products I know and trust.”  

We support the following engine models:

  • TFE731
  • JT15D
  • CF34
  • P&W 300, 500 & 600
  • PT6

And our service authorizations cover:

  • Honeywell TFE731 Major Service Center
  • Honeywell CFE738 Line Service Center
  • Honeywell HTF7000 (AS907) Flight Line Service Center
  • Rolls-Royce 3007A/C Line Maintenance
  • William FJ44 Line Maintenance
  • General Electric CF34-1/3 Line Maintenance Service Center Authorizations
  • Pratt & Whitney/Canada Line Maintenance Service Center Authorizations
  • Honeywell APU Service Center Certifications

We can troubleshoot, replace line replacement units (LRUs), do performance runs and change engines. With our state-of-the-art equipment, we can also troubleshoot and change auxiliary power units (APUs).

“We are not just another aviation company,” says Joe Tulowitzki, engine sales and service manager. “As a family owned business, we still conduct business based on family core values.”


Sharon Klose, Airframe/Engine Services & Sales

570-523-1676 (Office)

570-815-3992 (Cell)




Joe Tulowitzki, Airframe/Engine Services & Sales

540-349-3142 (Office)

540-272-2656 (Cell)

Tags: Engine Maintenance

One in Four Duncan Aviation Team Members is a Military Veteran

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Tue, Nov 11, 2014 @ 10:36 AM


Duncan Aviation honors its 546 Veteran Employees.

That’s 546 team members with thousands of years of military experience—and counting.

During this Veterans Day, we pause to remember the sacrifices our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have made in serving our nation where and when they were needed.

From one generation to the next, young men and women have willingly joined the ranks of America's Armed Forces. Aware of their obligations as citizens of the greatest nation on earth, they answered its call; they served the United States with courage and commitment.

Duncan Aviation wants to say thank you to all veterans who have sacrificed much in the defense of this country. We proudly support our veteran employees and are honored by their sacrifice and are proud to work side by side with these brave men and women. We cannot thank them and their families enough for the sacrifices they have made for our nation.

Duncan Aviation openly supports our Reserve and Guard members, who continue to sacrifice for our country.

We honor each of you, America’s veterans, who served so faithfully and honorably. Through your sacrifices you have secured for millions of others the blessings of freedom, democracy and the unmatched opportunities that we enjoy in the United States today.

May each of you have a safe Veterans Day. God bless each of you and your families, God bless our armed services and God bless the United States of America.

Putting Your Military Skills to Good Use



We strongly encourage military personnel to apply for career opportunities.

Duncan Aviation is an equal opportunity workplace and an affirmative action employer.

Tags: Announcements, Careers & Recruiting

Aircraft Avionics & Instruments: Finding Fault With “No Fault Found”

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Fri, Nov 07, 2014 @ 12:48 PM


Randy Bauer troubleshoots a gyro.

No one in the aviation industry likes to see an instrument or piece of avionics equipment labeled as No Fault Found (NFF).

Equipment is labeled NFF when the squawk it is sent in for cannot be duplicated in the repair bench environment. Additionally, many problems with avionics equipment and instruments are intermittent; the equipment doesn’t fail outright, it just periodically stops performing as needed. That makes diagnosis even more difficult.  

So what do you do when your unit is returned with the ambiguous label NFF? Well you can buy a new unit (potentially expensive) or send it to another shop for a second opinion (could get NFF again).

10-25 percent of the components that Duncan Aviation’s avionics / instrument shop receives are labeled NFF at a different shop.

So just how does Duncan Aviation tackle these diagnostic dilemmas?

Experience Saves Money

There are hundreds of years’ worth of experience among the technicians working on gyros, weather radar, antennas, autopilot equipment, and navigation/communications systems sent to Duncan Aviation.

It is because of this experience Duncan Aviation is known for its ability to resolve NFF problems. Because Duncan Aviation technicians are assigned to dedicated stations and work all day, every day, on the same types of components and instruments, they become familiar with even the most uncommon problems and failures.

Randy Bauer has worked at Duncan Aviation for 25 years. As a Gyro Team Leader, Randy explains that a faulty gyro could cause wing rock. However, determining what’s wrong in a gyro isn’t that easy. “In the vertical gyro, wing rock may be caused by defective gimbal bearings, low liquid level, or free drift rates. And in rare instances, the directional gyro could cause the same wing rock discrepancy if it has defective gimbal bearings or if the free drift rates don’t conform to specifications.”

Instrument Master Technician Ed McCranie has been with Duncan Aviation for 37 years. He specializes in repair and overhaul of attitude indicators. Some of these indicators have a new replacement cost of up to $40,000, so repair is preferred. The motors used to drive the attitude and command displays in some attitude director indicator models have intermittent failures. If the motor fails just once every 300 cycles, that would prevent it from being acceptable for continued service. These parts are carefully inspected to minimize the chance of in-flight failures.  

Environmental Testing

Duncan Aviation’s Avionics and Instrument Shop uses chambers that simulate the temperature extremes equipment experiences in flight. For instance, a weather radar antenna in an aircraft’s nose cone may experience 100-degree temperature swings from ground to altitude. To duplicate and diagnose problems, Duncan’s chamber can re-create those extremes (-40C to +70C).

In addition, the shop houses an altitude chamber to simulate the changes in altitude and pressure that equipment undergoes during flight. And a vibration simulation re-creates the shaking and shuddering of an aircraft under various flight conditions.

State-of-the-Art Diagnostic Equipment

Duncan Aviation also invests in the most current tooling and repair manuals. When Team Leader Nic Evans works on autopilot instruments, he uses a Duncan-developed automated test set called Date-1B. Instead of spending eight hours standing and monitoring the diagnostic test on a faulty autopilot, he hooks the unit to a computer for testing. While the tests are running, he’s free to work on other units.

Developed in-house by Duncan Aviation’s Research & Development experts, the test set performs diagnostics and produces an analysis that technicians use to pinpoint the problem. A major benefit of this automation is that it allows technicians to repeat lengthy tests many times in an attempt to duplicate intermittent problems that would normally take days to find, making this not only more cost effective but creating a higher probability that the fault will be identified.

Narrow the Field

Duncan Aviation has four avionics/instrument tech reps who provide support for the shop by speaking directly to customers to help troubleshoot problems.

When a part or unit arrives with a tag that simply says, ‘broken’ or ‘doesn’t work’,” it is very difficult for a technician to discern what is wrong. Tech reps will call the customer directly and talk through the problems he or she has been experiencing to help pinpoint the source of the malfunction.

Sometimes after talking with the customer, it is discovered the unit may not be the source of the problem. Troubleshooting with the customer is an important step that helps ensure the customer do not waste money sending in the wrong boxes.

Up to the Challenge

Locating the true nature of problems with avionics and instrument equipment is not always easy. The technicians at Duncan Aviation go to great lengths using experience, knowledge, environmental and diagnostic testing equipment and sheer determination to find solutions to components problems and save customers time, money and frustration.

Duncan Intelligence

Duncan Aviation produces a free, technical newsletter for business aircraft owners and operators. The Duncan Intelligence is written in-house by Duncan Aviation's technical representatives. Each edition includes technical tips and advice on topics and trends in business aviation. It is a free, monthly e-mail subscription for aviation enthusiasts around the world.

Read the latest Duncan Intelligence here.

Now sign up to receive the Duncan Intelligence in your in-box and never miss an issue. 

Tags: Avionics Installation

Don’t Blame Your Aircraft's Battery

Posted by Diane Heiserman on Tue, Nov 04, 2014 @ 12:00 PM


 An aircraft’s battery is one of the highest-maintenance components on board. Not many other items are due every three months or 100 hours. And for organizations with heavy flight schedules, such as charter services or air ambulances, batteries could require the aircraft to be down nearly every month.

Yet this workhorse of a unit is continually ignored, left idle and unused for long stretches of time, pushed hard with low levels and occasionally allowed to deep discharge. Through it all, it is expected to function without fail.

And it is cursed when, during that one critical flight when the company’s president is on board, the battery will not crank and the aircraft and passengers are stranded.

Although the first reaction may be to fault the battery, according to Brian Teeters, aircraft battery technician for Duncan Aviation, most premature battery failures can be contributed to one thing…human error.

Purchase the Correct Battery

A well-maintained battery will provide three to five years of dedicated service, maybe even more. And that premature failure is not a defect or fault on the part of the battery, but rather on the operator for not purchasing the correct battery required for their flying schedule. 

The best battery purchase for a charter company, air ambulance or any other company that flies short, frequent one- and two-hour flights many times a day or week is not be the same battery that will provide years of faithful service to a flight department with a less demanding schedule.  

Environmental conditions are also a factor. Brian says extreme cold and hot climates, such as the northern territories of Canada or along the equator will impact the longevity and effectiveness of battery life.

Brian warns, however, that just having the correct battery for your flight operation will not prevent premature failure. Batteries still require regular maintenance and care.

Properly Care for the Battery

When asked for one piece of advice regarding batteries, he was quick to point out “most problems could be avoided if the last one out of the cockpit would simply shut off the lights.

“The number one reason aircraft batteries fail at start-up is because they were allowed to deep discharge overnight when the master switch was left on.”

An overnight deep discharge is especially devastating for lead acid batteries. When a small charge is left to pull from these batteries, even for just a few days, the cells are destroyed. There is no alternative but to replace them.

“Make sure all the switches are off before putting the aircraft to bed. It takes only a few seconds to shut it down, but many pilots miss that step,” Brian says.

To some, an aircraft battery is a simple purchase. However, based on the number of batteries that come to Duncan Aviation for maintenance and repair, it is a purchase that should be taken seriously.

Brian and the rest of the Duncan Aviation battery team see up to 150 batteries every week.

This two-room shop has every test set, battery charger and capacity gauge available to perform capacity checks, testing and maintenance for every aircraft battery in service on the various business aircraft in use today. About 75 percent of the batteries that arrive at the shop are checked, charged and returned to customers in fewer than five days, with many others in fewer than two.

He knows more about aircraft batteries than most. And he wishes operators would give batteries more credit.

Think about it. The batteries are the first component to engage an aircraft’s electrical system and the last line of defense before everything shuts down in an emergency.

You want them to work.

You need them to work.

Before making this important purchase, discuss your needs and operation requirements with a provider who has extensive technical experience and knowledge servicing aircraft batteries. Might I suggest this smart guy

Brian’s advice for getting the most out of your aircraft battery:

  • If operating with lead-acid batteries, having the electrolytes at a proper level is necessary. Too often this gets checked only once a year.
  • Make sure the master switch is in the off position before shutting down the aircraft and walking away.
  • When on the ground, disconnect the aircraft batteries and use ground batteries.
  • Use ground power assist at start-up.
  • Perform periodic voltage and visual inspections. There should be no excessive voltage difference between cells, electrolyte build-up or bulging cells.
  • Don’t ignore the 100-hour inspection requirement.


Tags: Parts & Accessories


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