San Antonio’s new VIP interiors and modifications business is setting its sights on customers outside its U.S. market.
“I think the exchange rate between the U.S. and euro makes it attractive to have the work done in the U.S.,” says Ron Soret, general manager of completions at ST Aerospace San Antonio, which recently rebranded its VIP interiors and modifications business, Aeria Luxury Interiors.
Soret says the business unit will leverage ST Aerospace’s global network to source customers. “With the market headed the way it is, we could have 50% of our customers coming from the Asia Pacific region this year,” says Soret, who also sees the Middle East as a prime market. Aeria will focus on VIP aircraft that useand narrowbodies and widebodies, says Soret.
He says one of the ST Aerospace San Antonio hangars, with about 100,000 sq. ft. of space, is being refurbished and will be ready on May 1; it will be dedicated to the VIP interiors business. The first customer for the hangar is expected to come soon, says Soret, adding that two potential clients have short-listed Aeria.
Soret, who joined ST Aerospace San Antonio only recently, was president of King Aerospace Commercial Corp., Ardmore, Okla., which performs VIP interiors and modifications on large aircraft, such as Boeing Business Jets. He also is a former employee of Dee Howard Co., which later became San Antonio Aerospace and was acquired by ST Aerospace.
At Dee Howard, he worked with Don Bell, who left Dee Howard and in 1996 founded DRB Aviation Consultants. This company is anODA (Organization Designation Authorization), meaning it is authorized to act on behalf of FAA in approving and issuing supplemental type certificates (STCs).
Last year, ST Aerospace agreed to buy Bell’s consulting firm, which is helping Aeria with its push into the VIP business by assisting with STCs for interior modifications. Soret says having an FAA ODA on board means Aeria can provide “a complete solution.”
Soret, who has spent a great deal of his career working in and around San Antonio, also is very bullish about the local workforce. “There’s a very large talent pool that we can draw on,” he says. The talent pool includes people with skills in wire harness fabrication, upholstery, cabinetry, sheet metal and upholstery, he adds.