By Iris Savage I © AIRHAWKE

David Vanderzwaag, CEO of the design engineering company AIRHAWKE, is in the business of making the impossible possible. From its Montreal headquarters, AIRHAWKE specializes in design engineering that facilitates conversions, completions, or aircraft modifications, often evolving engineering concepts to support unprecedented airframe transformations. “We recently worked with a customer to fit a humidification system that we were told was impossible. That is the kind of challenge we thrive on, and we successfully integrated the complex technology, originally designed for airliners, onto an ultra-long-range aircraft. The owner was so happy he’s repeated the project on his second aircraft,” beams Vanderzwaag. 

It is clear that AIRHAWKE has an experienced and inspiring leader who, through acquiring Berletex Aero Design just over eighteen months ago, is looking to redefine the definition of design engineering for aviation.  

Now operating under the AIRHAWKE banner, the core capabilities of the original expert team, along with talented new hires, are being maximized to offer customers a greater depth of services. “We continue to place design engineering at our core, but we have an extremely capable workforce and are adding structural analysis and supplemental type certification as options for our customers. Dealing with one resource for the definition, substantiation, and approval is cost-efficient, time-saving, and attractive to our clients, and leaves them to focus on physical manufacturing and installation.”

This original approach is not the only innovation that the tenacious Vanderzwaag is introducing. New market segments, technology, and workforce strategies are all on the checklist. 

“Traditionally, our business has focused on the VVIP segment, working on a range of airframes from ultra-long-range jets to the largest wide-body executive aircraft. However, we see great opportunity to expand into the special missions and cargo areas.” AIRHAWKE is already working on several undisclosed government platforms. 

A strong advocate of embracing technology, Vanderzwaag is pioneering the use of augmented reality for aviation design engineering. “We’re leveraging A/R to facilitate direct interaction with 3D content as we replace traditional 2D installation drawings with model-based definitions.” By adapting software compatible with the Microsoft HoloLens holographic headset, an aircraft technician can view virtual engineered components in context on a green airframe, giving a real perspective of how the product interfaces with the physical structure.  

“The benefits are numerous. It improves communication, enhances efficiency, and increases output. It reduces the amount of time our team is away from the office. Most significantly, it limits fitting errors, so lowering the amount of waste generated during modification.

Vanderzwaag is also augmenting his business with the concept of a distributed global workforce. “To prevent our team from enduring long stretches away from home, we are creating a network of customer-facing engineers near our preferred customers. This means we can be on-site immediately to support projects and allows us to pull from a greater talent pool internationally.” Smartsheet software gives all team members complete, real-time visibility via a digital dashboard on every hour that goes into each program.  “This creates strong relationships built on trust and familiarity, which improves efficiencies.

Looking to the future, Vanderzwaag is forming partnerships with designers, MRO companies, completion centres and OEMs directly to realize new concepts and designs across various aircraft types. “We’ve already worked on Bombardier Challenger and Global families, Boeing and Airbus narrow and widebodies, and Dassault and Gulfstream models. Our next project looks externally to the regional jet market, which has garnered more interest as many airlines park their smaller airframes. Our next project sees the installation of never-before-seen monuments that will truly enhance the customer experience. We welcome all projects, but it is always motivating to be the first to design a new concept; it’s what we set out to do,” concludes Vanderzwaag.  

With a powerful combination of singular talent and impressive experience, AIRHAWKE delivers a collective mindset characterized by creativity, execution and excellence, and a leader prepared to push boundaries. It seems impossible has been eliminated from the AIRHAWKE vocabulary.