Vince Restivo joined Mente in January 2017 and is in charge of our new Completions Management unit. His role involves assisting owners and operators in the definition, inspection, quality assurance and delivery of both new and refurbished business jet aircraft.
With over thirty years’ experience in the industry – a few at Hawker Beechcraft, 25 at Gulfstream and then some time spent doing his own consulting – Vince knows completions inside and out.
So why did it make sense for Mente to set up this new unit?
“Most aircraft operators get involved in a refurbishment or new aircraft completion every few years at best. There’s really no practical way for the flight department operations and maintenance crews to perform their daily task – providing world-class safe travel to their owner/operator – and stay current in this fast-changing world of refurbishment and completions systems and technology,” Vince explains. “At Mente, it’s our world; we live it day-in, day-out, so we’re consistently there to experience and learn from the way the industry turns.”
What’s the difference between working on pre-owned jets and new jets?
“People are holding onto their aircraft for longer, so refurbishment is a large part of Mente’s business, whether it’s out of necessity or just a desire for change on the customer’s part. However, there are still new aircraft being delivered, and in a way there’s more work involved with them, because the team has to go into more depth in terms of the design, fabrication, build and install.”
What’s the most difficult thing about completions projects?
“The totality of it, the enormity of it – making sure you pay the proper level of attention to all areas – is the most challenging part,” says Vince. “There are certain things we look for all the time, because they tend to present opportunities for improvement. Paint is one of them – we look at everything from dust to sags to fisheyes.”
“It’s upholstery too,” Vince continues. “We’ll spend hours looking at seats just to make sure the stitching is right – is it running straight? The number of stitches per inch – is that consistent? Are there any tucks and pulls that shouldn’t be there? Is there any non-conformity in the leather itself?”
It’s not just about how things look, either. “We’re inspecting cabinets and the backs of cabinets before they even leave the cabinet shop to make sure the fit and finish is proper and that the wire is secured appropriately. We look at all the things that we know from years of experience can cause issues after they’ve been in service for a while, due to vibrations, for example.
“Cabin systems and entertainment is another thing. You have to check everything. There’s probably a function the owner may rarely use, but the first time he goes to try it, it needs to work.”
Is the amount of choice you have intimidating?
“The number of options within any given area of the aircraft is driven by the varying needs of aircraft owners. Yes, the number of options can be intimidating, but when you understand the differences between options, and how they serve a specific or different need, it becomes much easier to keep them straight in your mind.
“For instance, there are numerous telecommunications systems available that, at their core, provide the same function…they let you make and receive phone calls while virtually anywhere in the world. But, some have a dedicated handset while others allow the passenger to use their cell phone to make calls. Some aircraft owners embrace technology and like the idea that their cell phone is still the only device they need, while others just want to pick up the familiar phone handset and make a call.”
How long does a completions project take?
Jobs can take anywhere between two weeks and two years. Recently, Vince says Mente helped a client take final delivery of a white tail aircraft, meaning the manufacture was complete but we still had to make sure everything was functional and the quality was there during the acceptance process. However, Mente is also moving into the VVIP space, and these aircraft typically take 18-24 months to reach completion. New Biz Jet completion projects fall somewhere between these two, usually taking between five and ten months.
It’s a mature market, so what gives Mente the competitive edge?
“We really are a force multiplier, and that’s not just in the physical sense. We’re also an experience multiplier, a knowledge multiplier and a communications multiplier,” Vince argues. “Mente’s not a brokerage firm. Mente is a full-service private aviation consulting firm that provides brokerage services. It’s a distinct Mente advantage to say we’re here throughout the complete aircraft lifecycle experience. If a client wants to transact a new aircraft we can help them save the most amount of money and do it the best way possible.”