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“If they’re not repaired or manufactured correctly, composite components won’t last the full, promised lifecycle,” says Snodgrass. “They will begin to absorb moisture and they will delaminate. My job was helping companies understand not just the engineering that’s involved in working with composites but the art, if you will, of working with composites.”

HOW DAS GREW After a year in business, Snodgrass became convinced there was enough demand for composite repair work that he could be successful running a repair station specializing in composites repair and fabrication. He enlisted Manning, got FAA certification and began building DAS’ reputation. Since then, its operation has grown from one small

building in a non-descript business park in decidedly down- scale Lancaster in far south Dallas County, into a bustling 45-employee company that occupies 25,000 square feet in seven buildings. It works regularly on composite parts used on Boeing, Bombardier, Gulfstream, Hawker Beechcraft and Piaggio aircraft owned and operated by individual owner/ operators, corporations, leasing companies, charter operators, airlines and even the military. DAS also accepts specialty aircraft part repair work largely (or even completely) unrelated to composites. In April DAS moved from that non-descript business park in Lancaster (only a few miles north of Snodgrass’s hometown) to a brand new, custom-built facility in

Cedar Hill, a fast-growing, middle-class Dallas suburb about 10 miles west of Lancaster. At 50,400 square feet, DAS’ new home has more than twice the space in which the company operated in Lancaster. Not only will the additional space allow DAS to increase the amount of work it can accept, Snodgrass says it has also been designed to create a better “flow” as parts arrive and go through the breakdown diagnostic process, and then progress through various stages before being packed for shipping back to the customer. It also houses two autoclaves, two custom paint centers, a complete three-, four- and five-axis high speed CNC machining center, a controlled environment clean room, a large walk-in oven, a full NDT testing lab and a transmissivity test range. Like the Lancaster facility, DAS’ new home is miles from the nearest airport. That’s by design. Some of the most expensive real estate in America is located at airports. By opting for suburban locations, DAS can keep costs down and prices competitive with larger-volume competitors. DAS is also expanding internationally. In support of Brazilian airplane maker Embraer, Airbus Helicopters’ Brazilian subsidiary Helibras, and other elements of Brazil’s fast-growing aviation sector, DAS is also expanding the operations of its DAS Brazil subsidiary. Later this year it will move into a new 25,000-square-foot facility in Sao Jose dos Campos. Additional growth in Brazil is possible, depending on the outcome of negotiations with another Brazilian aviation company. “Almost all aircraft made these days have some composite

parts,” says Snodgrass. “Fiberglass, sheet metal over honeycombed paper, and various kinds of resins — they’re all composite materials. People don’t believe me when I say it, but even the early 707s had a large percentage of composite parts. So there’s plenty of demand for companies that have expertise in composite repair, and even fabrication of parts that can’t be fixed, but would cost an arm and a leg if you went to the OEM to get a replacement — if that’s even possible. “Our Brazil expansion is just as strategic as our move to Cedar Hill. It’s thinking outside the box and positioning ourselves for growth. “But ultimately this is a relationship business. People in this industry don’t think of ‘DAS,’ they think of ‘Don and Mike.’ They know us. They know the kind of work we do. They know we will do whatever it takes to make them happy with the work we do for them. They know we’ll tell them the truth, even if it’s not what they want to hear. “You see, I don’t care where you take an aircraft or a

part to be fixed, there are always going to be unexpected issues that come up when you’re fixing airplanes. So it’s not a matter of whether the repair shop can handle those issues that do come up, it’s HOW they take care of those issues. And that’s why we say this is ultimately a relationship business. Yes, our customers know we’re really good on composites. But more importantly, they know that we do whatever it takes to make our customers happy.”

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