"The Jabiru's Nest." (Part Two) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, May 20, 2012

"The Jabiru's Nest" (Part Two).

 

by Owen Zupp

CLICK HERE for 'The Jabiru's Nest. (Part One)

 

Many Hands.


The global reach of Jabiru is one of the many impressive aspects of this company, but equally notable is the logistics and co-ordination of the Bundaberg operation. Rather than a sole company handling all aspects of production, Jabiru oversees and manages a series of smaller locally based contractors who specialise in their own particular Jabiru component. Alongside the lines of fuselages and wings and wooden crates of engines with ‘Jabiru’ stencilled on the side are shelves of vacuum sealed packs of wheel kits, cables, nuts, bolts and the myriad of other components that make an aeroplane. All produced locally, they represent a team effort for the district and an exercise in organisation as Jabiru ties together its various partners.

 

In its own right Jabiru employs 25 personnel.  Around 30 people are employed by Camit who produce the engines, while two businesses, AMI and Leisure Build, assemble the aircraft and employing 20 staff. Fibreglass parts originate from over 30 small businesses and others provide numerous other components such as upholstery and livery.   For a Queensland regional centre, Jabiru accounts for the creation of over 100 jobs and sizeable amount of income for the local economy. As a result, they enjoy a strong relationship with the local community.

 

Quality Control.

 Throughout the Jabiru facility, each component has a small plastic bag hanging from it. On closer examination, the bag contains the ‘biography’ of that particular component and forms an integral link in the demanding Jabiru Quality Control process. The documentation contains all of the relevant details relating to the who, how and when of production. For the wings it will also contain information relating to the angles, measure and aerofoil.

 

Throughout the Jabiru facility, each component has a small plastic bag hanging from it. On closer examination, the bag contains the ‘biography’ of that particular component and forms an integral link in the demanding Jabiru Quality Control process. The documentation contains all of the relevant details relating to the who, how and when of production. For the wings it will also contain information relating to the angles, measure and aerofoil.

 

For those composite parts, the documentation relates to the date, time and temperatures involved in its creation amongst other things. Along with the documents there is also a small sample of resin from the same batch that can be used for quality control testing. The entire history of the process of each part is retained for reference at a later date should it be required. Such a rigorous ‘QC’ process stems from the fact that Jabiru was fundamentally a pioneer in the composite manufacturing of certified aircraft in Australia. While these stringent procedures are mandatory for certified aircraft, they are not required for the kit aircraft of home builders. To Jabiru’s credit, they do not discriminate and apply the same quality control and audit procedures to ALL components of both kits and certified aircraft.

 

 

                             

 

 

Where To?

At the end of one of Jabiru’s production buildings is an annexed section where the company casts its gaze towards tomorrow. It is a small ‘research and development’ area, which reinforces that Jabiru is building solidly to the future. This is an important aspect of any aircraft ownership; the ongoing support of the product well into the future. Here moulds are ‘tweaked’ and refurbished and existing fairings are refined to a new design. There is an air amongst the employees, some of whom have been there since day one, that they are always trying to make things even better. There is a project Jabiru for export striving to meet the weight requirements of a foreign Authority while not compromising on any other aspect of the aeroplane.

 

Alongside the Jabiru airframes, the Jabiru engines are used in a number of aircraft built by other manufacturers. Many light aircraft and experimental types around the world have a Jabiru engine under the cowling. To assist with engine installation into Jabiru kits and these other aircraft types, Jabiru has developed, “Firewall Forward Kits”; or “Firewall Rear Kits” for pusher types. This range is continually being developed to suit an even greater range of aircraft.

 

From ‘outside of the box’, there is even a significantly Jabiru design tucked away in the corner. A single-seat model with folding wings that seeks to offer an economical equivalent to the trailer-sailor in a bid to circumvent the increasing problem and cost of hangarage. The owner would keep it in the garage and tow it to the airfield to go flying. While it is a project in its infancy, its significance lies equally in what it says of the company’s mindset; looking ahead.

 

Back to the Nest.

 

A periodic gathering of Jabiru owners titled, “Back to the Nest” sees the birds fly in from far and wide. At one Wide Bay Airshow that I attended, a long line of Jabirus was parked side by side, forming an impressive array of these native Australian aircraft. They were of varying ages, designs and origins, but all shared a common thread; affordable flying for pleasure.

 

In achieving this, Jabiru has not only produced a line of fine aeroplanes but nurtured an industry that is pivotal in its local economy. Its employees and contractors seem to possess a genuine interest and pride not only in the product, but the process. With such an attitude it is not hard to understand why Jabirus are flying right across the world, supported by a rural Queensland company. Furthermore, with such constant attention to detail and improvement, one can see why Jabiru should continue to do so for many years to come.

 

                          

The Jabiru's Nest. (Part One) An Aviation Blog by Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, May 14, 2012

The Jabiru’s Nest (Part One)

 

By Owen Zupp

 

The allure of a new aircraft on the ramp is undeniable. Yet beyond the highly glossed finish and the impressive array of avionics, each aircraft represents the complex co-ordination of personnel and production processes. A closer look at Jabiru’s Bundaberg facility illustrates just what is required to make the bird fly.

In the Beginning.

When Jabiru set out more than 20 years ago to develop and enhance affordable flying throughout the world, they logically started with a lone prototype. Initially seeking to develop a highly efficient, composite designed, light aircraft, they selected a lightweight Italian engine as the powerplant. As luck would have it, just after their first aircraft was type-certificated in Australia, the Italian engine manufacturer ceased production. As a consequence, Jabiru set about entering the lightweight engine market as well.

 

From these bold steps, Jabiru has gone on to boast around 2,000 flying airframes and more than three times as many engines spread over 30 countries. In achieving this, the Bundaberg facility has the capacity to produce 20 airframes and 90 engines per month. The range of aircraft includes both two and four seat versions while the engines are available with 4, 6, or 8 cylinders. The aircraft can come ready-to-fly as type-certificated, factory built aircraft or as amateur built or experimental kits for the more industrious would-be flyers.

 

The aircraft can have a tailored flight panel featuring traditional analogue instruments, or the ever-growing presence of Electronic Flight Instrument Systems (EFIS) in the cockpit. Additionally a range of Microair avionics are available, from transceivers to transponders, all of which are manufactured in Bundaberg. Jabiru is not a small concern, but an integral member of their local economy and a genuine export industry for Australia. From an external standpoint, this appears to have been achieved with minimal fuss, but on visiting the Jabiru factory it becomes immediately apparent that this is no ‘cottage industry’, this is a slick production facility.

 

 

                           

 

Home Grown.

The Jabiru complex is understated. A series of long hangar-style buildings are only given away by a small Jabiru sign near the office entrance, but from the moment you enter the door this operation has an air of professionalism. While the walls are decorated with awards and certificates of approval from across the globe, it is the people at Jabiru that offer the best credentials. Everyone encountered is not only enthusiastic and proud of their operation, but genuinely knowledgeable of aspects that obviously extend beyond their job description. This is no more apparent than in the manner of Business Manager, Sue Woods. The daughter of Jabiru founder, Rodney Stiff, Sue has literally grown up around the company and kindly offered to show me through the extensive facility.

 

Like any production process since Henry Ford, the first room encountered showed the very basic beginnings of lifting the Jabiru from the drawing board to the skies. On a series of long benches a worker very carefully measures and cuts the woven fabric of glass yarns that will ultimately become the composite airframe of the aeroplane. After a week, the entire ‘airframe’ can be folded and fitted into two 50 litre storage containers at this stage. From here, the containers are moved to the next stage of the process where they transition from fabric to a formed structure through the combination of moulds and resin.

 

Watching the craftsman rolling the resin and forming the components is something to witness. What is seemingly a case of rolling mini paint-rollers to and fro is actually a finely balanced exercise. Not only does the coating of resin have to be even and free of bubbles and lumps, but fundamentally; resin equals weight. A heavy handed application will result in the airframe being overweight, so the smooth rolling must result in just the right combination of strength and weight, which is the age-old quandary of airframe design.

 

Once set and freed from the moulds, the components are hardened and carefully sanded and finished to resemble an aeroplane for the first time. Notably, the seats are already in the aeroplane, in fact they are structurally integral to the airframe. It takes around 6-8 weeks, or 430 man-hours, for Jabiru to produce a flying aeroplane. In the hands of a home builder, the timeframe may be a little longer. However, in the spirit of innovation, Jabiru offers assistance in the form of an onsite, ‘Builders Education Program’. This allows the owner-builder to work alongside the experts at Bundaberg while still meeting the requirement for the owner to fabricate and assemble more than 51% of the aeroplane. Under this scheme, liability remains with the builders but they will have the opportunity to complete the aeroplane in 6 weeks.

 

Across the way in one of Jabiru’s other buildings, the fuselages are lined up and the wings are carefully stacked on shelves. These components are now ready for the next stage of the production process or to be crated for shipping to the far flung corners of the globe. Of the 37 dealerships around the world, some facilities in America and South African also possess approval for aircraft assembly. In South Africa, the little Jabiru has grown to now be more popular than the small Cessna singles..........

                  Check back soon for the conclusion to the "Jabiru's Nest".

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