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GAL Aerospace Group spreads its wings

Dec. 30, 2014, Montreal - Funny business, aviation. When someone asks you to build a shower for their helicopter, you can’t blink uncomprehendingly and say: “Excuse me?” You say, “Sure, how big do you want it?”


December 30, 2014
By The Montreal Gazette

Same with a $60,000 steam generator for the gold-trimmed glass shower on a Persian Gulf sheik’s personal Boeing 747. You know, for an inflight aromatherapy steam bath. Or a bidet, for the lavatory next to the carpeted bedroom outfitted with a kingsize bed.

Gal Aerospace Group has done all of the above for customers in the last few years, and more besides.

It expanded in April by acquiring AeroQuest Inc. of Lawrenceville, Ga.

So with that acquisition, Gal Aerospace became in one fell swoop a supplier to two of the world’s biggest new aircraft projects, Airbus SA’s A350 and Bombardier’s CSeries, both AeroQuest clients.

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“Airbus will soon start delivering 10 A350s a month, so for us, that’s 10 countertops per airplane,” said Massé — or 100 of AeroQuest’s advanced composite lightweight polyester countertops that can mimic most materials, including marble and quartz, per month for the foreseeable future.

The small company headquartered in Pointe-Claire overlooking Trans-Canada Highway traffic was formed in 2010 by two Ottawa investors, Michael Caletti and Guy Lapierre — the latter has owned an electric-generator business for decades. They bought the assets of CAF Aviation, a bankrupt St-Joseph-de-Beauce firm that made components for business aircraft interiors, mostly for Bombardier Inc.’s completion centre in Montreal.

They expanded into machining parts and chemical-corrosion treatment of those parts, said Glen Lynch, who was hired in 2012 as Gal Aerospace president, becoming a minority shareholder in the private company.

Caletti and Lapierre had no experience in aviation and “they were looking for a CEO to help set a direction for the company, basically capitalize on what they had identified as growth opportunities in aircraft interior,” said Lynch, who was previously CEO of Montreal aircraft firm Starlink Aviation.

The company had another division in an unrelated field, finding and placing personnel for other aerospace firms looking for specialized staff for specific projects.

So the two divisions were split and now stand alone as Gal Aviation in St-Joseph and Gal AeroStaff Ltd. in Montreal.

“The idea was to focus on aircraft interior,” said Lynch, “but to expand from business jets to commercial aircraft, and then look for businesses that have complementary products and mature market penetration.”

The firm specialized in aircraft interior components, said Luc Massé, Gal Aerospace’s vice president and general manager, but had a large presence in commercial aviation — airliners — rather than simply private jets.

One of AeroQuest’s signature products is lavatory-sink countertops, which will be installed in all future A350s and CSeries — a huge potential over decades.

The company also makes an array of other products; machined parts, cabinetry, bars, galleys, bulkheads, window shades, retractable tables — even a 16-foot long conference table for that emir’s B747, complete with marble inlay.

So far, clients have been impressed.

“AeroQuest has been a partner of ours for the past four or five years,” said Aurimar de Brito, supply-chain vice-president for Zodiac Aerospace, a leading global equipment-maker for the aerospace industry.

“The main products we buy from them are the lavatory countertops for the A350 and CSeries.”

De Brito was satisfied with AeroQuest before Gal Aerospace bought them, he said from Huntington Beach, Calif.

“But it’s improved a lot since Glen and Luc arrived in April. They have more of a corporate attitude. Before, it was a (small) private company — lots of struggles. Now, it’s a lot more corporate oriented, if you will. Overall it’s been very successful and we intend to do a lot of work with them.”

The personnel staffing side is more of a challenge, Lynch said.

“We have a general manager who’s been doing this for many years, and he maintains an active database of about 1,000 professionals that fit in the areas we promote. If need be, we also send out job postings to more than 2,000 specialized aerospace websites worldwide.”

“We screen the candidates and send out recommendations to human resources departments — including for permanent employees, not just temps. The people we place are all over the world — Indonesia, Malaysia, Libya, South America, Europe, the U.S. — and Montreal. It can range from a dozen specialists to about 150 people at any one time.”

Service-based revenues

“But it’s service-based revenues, we get a finder’s fee. We try to sell for X number of dollars with the idea to keep a couple of pennies in the process.”

Lynch would not provide financial details, but noted that the other two divisions — Gal Aviation and AeroQuest — which together employ about 110 people, are the companies’ bread and butter.

The contract workers hired by the staffing division, Gal AeroStaff, can reach up to 150 people at any given time.

Gal Aerospace will continue to take advantage of the trend in aerospace toward consolidation — fewer small suppliers delivering larger components and sub-assemblies to the order-givers.

He will grow in roughly equal parts organically and by acquisition, said Lynch, who still chuckles at life’s vicissitudes.

“I left Starlink to head in a completely different direction” — the aircraft refuelling distribution business.

“But these guys approached me to help them out with this project. I kind of took a look at it and decided it was interesting enough. It’s a very good place to camp and spend the latter half of my career building something.”