TransDigm: Telair Acquisition & OEM Aftermarket Pressure

Former Chief Customer Officer at Telair, Transdigm

Why is this interview interesting?

  • Core Telair business pre-TransDigm acquisition and relationship with OEM
  • The different contracts between OEM, supplier, distributors, and airlines
  • How and when the serial and spare part price is set between OEM and suppliers
  • How the OEM could take back ownership of the aftermarket with Satair (Airbus) and Aviall (Boeing)
  • Potential pressures on TransDigm's model
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Executive Bio

Bernhard Bertrams

Former Chief Customer Officer at Telair, Transdigm

Bernhard has 29 years experience in the aerospace industry. He is the Former Chief Customer Officer at Telair, a cargo-handling system supplier that Transdigm acquired for $750m in 2015. Bernhard worked with Transdigm through the due diligence phase and for 2 years post-acquisition. Prior to Telair, Bernhard spent 10 years at Airbus as Program Manager and at various other suppliers such as Diehl and Akka Technologies. Read more

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Interview Transcript

Can you provide some context to your role at Telair and the business you were managing, in 2015?

In talking about my job at Telair, I think I also need to give a little bit of background as to who Telair is and what their focus is. My role was as a CCO, the Chief Customer Officer. It is not the commercial officer. That role is all related to customer relations. It’s not only drinking beer and going out for a nice dinner; it’s about establishing a business relationship from the first cold acquisition, as we say, until the end of contract negotiations. So all the legal and commercial aspects as well as customer service, even after the delivery of the goods. This was all under my responsibility.

How was the business of Telair split between commercial versus military and original equipment versus aftermarket?

Telair is mainly focused on so-called OEMs. It supplies military and commercial; however, the majority is commercial business. Commercial means all commercial flights and that includes aviation, general aviation and everything. Telair’s portfolio is cargo-loading systems. Everyone has seen airplanes such as Pipers and Cessnas in the sky – unfortunately, not now, because of the virus – but you usually see them. They don’t have a cargo-loading system at all; it doesn’t make sense.

But any aircraft which is of a size to load more than 10 or 15 passengers and upwards, usually has a cargo bay. The cargo bay, most likely, has two different areas. One is the general usage of the cargo bay, which is quite often at the lower deck of the aircraft. In some configurations, it is in the aft or in a special configuration at the front of the cabin. Usually, there is a little differentiation we have to do, because manually loading means that there is a loading person, taking the cargo, whatever it is, whether it is a box or a suitcase, and put it in the cargo bay, by hand. Telair is not involved in this at all. It doesn’t make sense. There is not really any requirement, from a system perspective, because there is no system.

So for this one, it needs to be covered, air-controlled and, probably, pressure-controlled, fire-controlled, for smoke and toxicity and this is most important. But more importantly, and what we are really talking about is the bigger aircraft. Taking for example, a very big aircraft such as the 747 or the biggest one you can imagine, that has recently been delivered, a 747 to UPS. The 747 is one of the biggest airplanes we have and they have two main-deck – upper deck and lower deck – and main cargo-loading systems. To load these quickly, you’re using standardized containers, which are called ULDs. They have a standardized platform and clear dimensions. These ULDs are loaded with the freight, whatever the freight is. It can be liquid, food, medicine or luggage, whatever it is that has to be carried from A to B.

Most people around the world know what Amazon is and that means loading and shipping crates, over the globe, is really becoming demanding. Back to our point here, Telair is a company designing, really having the idea, and manufacturing and selling and aftermarketing the complete cargo-loading system.

Earlier you asked who the customer was. Is it military, civil or commercial? Usually, we don’t have helicopters with cargo-loading systems. There are a few helicopters around which have some kind of cargo loading, but Telair is not active here. The majority of Telair’s portfolio is really Airbus. Airbus also has the unique opportunity, being the supplier for the 747 system at Boeing. But for all other Boeing airplanes, they have a contract with another company, a competitor, also providing similar systems.

There’s no secret, this is public – Telair owns all cargo-loading systems for all Airbus models, with one exception, the A380. That means that, from scratch, they had an idea, with a blank sheet of paper and had a concept. Such a cargo-loading system has, mainly, three components. Of course, there are hundreds of different components, but three main ones. It is a rail system. You have to guide the ULDs from the entry area to the position where they are supposed to be. The second is the transportation from the entrance area to the point where it is. Think about how big a 747 is; you don’t want to push it by hand. The third one is to latch and to fix and to secure it in the position where it is supposed to be. These three components are the main components of the entire system.

As you can imagine, you also need a control unit; you push a button and you have a joystick where you drive the containers from the front to the end and then it’s on. For clarification, Telair’s portfolio is on the airplane. It’s not on the ground. There’s a unique little design, in a subsidiary company, a daughter company, which is a Swedish company. They have a belt system which brings the luggage from the ground, into the aircraft. But this is also a bit unique. Looking at the biggest portion of Telair, everything that’s flying equipment needs special certification and, therefore, is very complicated and, as such, is expensive.

The last part that I mentioned, which I’m sure we will talk about later in more detail, is the so-called aftermarket. Telair designs, together with the OEM – the original equipment manufacturer of an aircraft – and they give you the requirements and specifications. There are so many loads that you can bring into this frame and so many loads you can bring into that frame. Then you design it together. You deliver it to the OEM who installs it and delivers it, together with the aircraft. Whenever the aircraft needs a spare part, usually you call the OEM, or you can call the supplier directly or you’re calling a distributor.

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TransDigm: Telair Acquisition & OEM Aftermarket Pressure(June 25, 2020)

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