Nov. 01--A decision by the Federal Aviation Administration to relax rules governing in-flight use of mobile electronic devices is likely to benefit several Triad aerospace companies in terms of production and jobs.
Michael Huerta, the FAA's administrator, announced the new rules Thursday.
The FAA based its decision on input from experts that included representatives from the airlines, aviation manufacturers, passengers, pilots, flight attendants and the mobile technology industry.
Although Huerta said the rules are effective immediately, it could take airlines several months to demonstrate that their aircraft can accommodate the changes.
The bulk of the work being done by North State Aviation LLC at Smith Reynolds Airport involves up-fitting United Airlines aircraft to accommodate passenger demand for wireless and other electronic services.
For example, the company said Oct. 3 it had landed a second major contract with United, this one involving the installation of a satellite-based system in 160 of the airline's Boeing 737-700, 800 and 900 series aircraft. The contract begins in mid-November and is scheduled to run through early 2015.
The first United contract, which began in January, involved installing Live TV in first-class and coach seating. That installation also enabled passengers to have better access to wireless connectivity and more use of their mobile devices.
" The public's desire to have access to their mobile devices, along with advances in technology, is driving the airline industry to enhance the customer experience," said Tom Chappell, North State's vice president of business development.
North State said gaining the second contract will enable it to create at least 60 jobs by March 31. At that point, it would have about 300 employees -- just shy of the workforce of 308 it pledged to create within four years when it was made eligible for $300,000 in performance-based state incentives in January 2011. It had 31 employees at that time.
Other Triad companies may also benefit from the rules change.
Timco Aviation Services, with operations in Greensboro and Wallburg, provides aircraft overhaul services as well as maintenance and repair. It announced Oct. 24 it was being sold to Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co. Ltd. for $388.8 million. Timco has about 2,800 employees, with more than 1,500 in the Triad.
B/E Aerospace Inc.'s largest operation in Winston-Salem includes its commercial aircraft division, engineering, supply chain and marketing divisions. It has a combined local workforce of about 1,100.
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