It is also the oldest and most experienced distributor of batteries for aircraft and helicopters. Its heritage spans almost 50 years and currently the Group’s biggest facility for battery overhaul and servicing is at Heston, close to London Heathrow Airport, and which itself will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2015.
Currently the Heston facility services some 5000 batteries a year with a second-to-none reputation for quick lead-times, quality, safety and the market confidence that comes from a strong heritage and pedigree.
Some 180 customers ranging from international scheduled airlines, charter carriers, large low-cost carriers and regional airlines to European air forces, MRO companies, helicopter owners, business jets and private aircraft owners have their batteries serviced at Heston. The facility also supports UK Ministry of Defence contracts, UK police helicopter operators as well as the air ambulance helicopters and the helicopters used for monitoring/repairing aerial electrical cableways.
“We have a huge capability list built up through our legacy expertise and qualifications added over the years”, said Jon Ravenhall, Managing Director Operations Repair Europe (UK), “and this wide range of customers means we have to offer services that are quite unique within Satair Group – for instance the option for private aircraft owners or bizjet operators to have credit card payment options and the ability to simply ring up to book a battery service.”
When SimplyFly visited Heston it was only a few days after an annual audit by the UK’s Civil Aviation Authority on behalf of the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The facility is classed as an EASA Part 145 Approved Repair Station and by derogation under United States Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) rules is also approved as an FAA Repair Station.
He continued: “Our team of 12 at Heston have a real passion for their work. We feel we offer to our customers not only a complete battery sales and distribution service, though this is clearly important, but when you add in the quality, service levels and high safety standards we provide in the added value of our servicing this results in a compelling proposition and one which has seen us grow our customer base steadily and keep customers for a very long time.”
Quick turn-around times are an important selling point and in the year to date to September 2014 over 90 percent of batteries were returned after servicing (including communication time and approvals) within five days. Over 98 percent of batteries were returned within 10 days.
“In reality we can’t do this job any quicker because we have to adhere rigorously to the manufacturers’ servicing manuals and procedures and this includes time for batteries to ‘rest’ in between charging periods to ensure that they are fully and properly charged.” He said.
“We have been told that our turn-around times are impressive and this is a clear differentiation for our customers which is why we have long-term business with them that we have enjoyed for many years.”
In the same way that customer retention has withstood the test of time, so Satair Group has developed long-term relationships with all of the major worldwide battery manufacturers and in a growing number of instances has exclusive sales and distribution agreements with them.
The relationship with Saft goes back at least 25 years and Satair Group is now the premier distributor for Saft nickel cadmium batteries which are approved for use on over 130 different aircraft types.
Jon said: “We have a very good relationship with Saft and as part of the added value we offer we carry out a number of joint customer visits with them to troubleshoot any technical issues. Another added benefit is that we feedback technical information to Saft, because we believe in an open transfer of data to allow the manufacturer to continually improve the product.”
He added: “Saft never signs a sales and distribution agreement with any company unless they have a comprehensive repair and servicing capability. We in turn offer a total service to our customers and add real value through top-quality servicing and extra, unique, offerings like keeping fully charged batteries in tip-top ready to go condition for customers against a short-notice availability period.
“Also as an approved recycling centre we recycle all of the batteries at the end of their life and in the case of Saft most of the elements go back to the manufacturer – a win-win closed loop for the environment and a further service to our customers.”
In addition to Saft, Satair Group has agreements in place with Marathon Norco Aerospace for its nickel cadmium batteries used in both commercial and military applications, and with Concorde for its lead-acid batteries that are widely used in business jets and general aviation aircraft.
Agreements are also in place with Hawker Enersys for its range of batteries which have applications in both military jet fighters as well as commercial aircraft and are used as back-up support batteries for the Boeing 777. Satair Group also acts as a warranty agent for Hawker Enersys to advise on warranty claims that might arise.
Another element to the total service that is offered by Satair Group is that the Heston facility is authorised by Saft, Marathon Norco Aerospace, Hawker Enersys and Concorde to run tailored training courses for customers. The course instructor provided by Satair Group has over 27 years of direct experience in aircraft battery servicing.
Jon stated: “Nickel cadmium batteries have a long life ahead of them for at least the next 20 years, but technology is changing and we intend to be in the forefront with the new batteries now on the market and under development. We have already started the ball rolling on this and our new offerings will be revealed in due course. So watch this space!”