To develop avionics, Universal flies units, engineers and execs in market airplanes

Challenger 601-3A, King Air 350 and F90 support company research and business.

By Grant McLaren

(Front L–R) Universal Avionics Systems Corp (UASC) COO Paul DeHerrera, VP Marketing & Product Support Dan Reida, Gen Mgr Manufacturing Division Steve Pagnucco and CFO Michael Delgado with manufacturing team at UASC’s Tucson AZ headquarters.

As Universal Avionics Systems Corp (UASC) approaches its 30th year in business the group is not slowing down on either the innovation front or in productive use of business aircraft.

Privately-held TUS (Intl, Tucson AZ)-based UASC operates a locally-stationed Hawker Beechcraft King Air 350 and a King Air F90 supported by Pres & CEO Ted Naimer’s Bombardier Challenger 601-3A—normally based deep within the Alps at ZJI (Locarno, Switzerland). UASC has used inhouse corporate aircraft to test and certify every one of its aviation products, beginning in 1981 with launch of the world’s first FMS—the UNS1.

The company is moving into new dimensions in advanced flightdeck technology while evaluating additional corporate aircraft both to test systems and manage company travel. Today, company products are aboard everything from Pilatus PC12s and King Air 90s right up to Boeing 737-300s/400s.

Naimer is even looking into developing supersonic business jet (SSBJ) specific avionics systems with new symbology to provide sonic boom mitigation graphics. “We’re in the midst of reinventing and redoing almost everything we’re working on today in order to take our products to the next level while integrating all of our technology,” says Naimer.

“We’re moving from FMS to flightdeck management systems far beyond just navigation capabilities. It’s a huge job but we see opportunities on several fronts to dramatically improve flightdeck safety and functionality.”

It was in 1981 when Kraus & Naimer Pres & CEO Hubert Naimer formed Universal Navigation (the original name of the company before it was changed to UASC in 1995) with a plan to develop the world’s first FMS—something he referred in those days as the master navigation system. He had been flying the world’s airways aboard a Dassault Falcon 10 and felt that there must be a better way to integrate assorted navigation sensors.

After developing its initial FMS Universal debuted the first FMS color CDU (1986), the world’s first 30-min solid state cockpit voice recorder (1990) and the world’s first certified synthetic vision system (SVS)—Vision 1—for both Part 23 and Part 25 aircraft. Hubert Naimer, an experienced pilot who constantly piloted company aircraft around the world, died in 2004.

Son Ted Naimer is a 9600-hr pilot who also holds ATPs for fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Ted Naimer’s business activities include UASC as well as global operations of Kraus & Naimer, the Austrian-based manufacturer of industrial electrical switching equipment with factories scattered across the world.

Universal Avionics Systems Corp Pres & CEO Ted Naimer (L) and nephew Laurent Groothaert—an Embry-Riddle graduate and banker, here holding a company cockpit voice recorder—at Universal Avionics’ EFI890R/UNS1Fw display at EBACE 2010.

Laurent Groothaert, Ted Naimer’s nephew and 3rd generation of this bizav adept family, has had his license for a few years and flies a V-tail Beech Bonanza from ZJI. Back at the TUS corporate hangar UASC Aviation Dept Mgr/Chief Pilot Mitch Oomens and Mgr Airworthiness & Product Development Paul Damschen pilot the King Air F90—used primarily as a flight test bed aircraft—and the King Air 350 for both corporate travel and avionics support.

Maintenance of the local fleet is the responsibility of Chief of Aircraft Maintenance Luther McLeod and Avionics Tech Jose Gonzalez. Meanwhile, Capt Mi­chael Spoerl helps support Ted Naimer’s 340-hr-per-year Challenger 601 flight schedule. UASC is considering upgrading its King Air 350 to a Part 25 category light jet with a relatively spacious flightdeck to accommodate test bed avionics—perhaps something along the lines of a Cessna Citation VII says Naimer.

Recipe for success

Universal Avionics System Corp COO Paul DeHerrera anticipates expanding market share with a new range of integrated flightdeck systems.

Technical innovation has always been a recipe for success for the Naimers. Hubert Naimer believed that no challenge was impossible and that all technological systems could be improved on.

When this writer visited Hubert and Ted Naimer at their respective homes in Switzerland during 2001 it was obvious that this was a family that enjoyed all manner of technological challenges. Hubert Naimer had his lakeside home set up so that it could function entirely independently from municipal services, for months at a time if need be, with everything controlled via a high-tech Phantom of the Operalike control station within the lower levels of the villa.

Meanwhile, Ted Naimer, in order to access his home perched high on an embankment, blasted a parking cave into rock at street level then tunneled an elevator shaft vertically through 100 ft of solid rock—with elaborate escape mechanisms and options should passengers get stuck midway—with an end result that even Batman might envy.

Building a business

Before forming Universal Navigation Hubert Naimer was accustomed to corporate aircraft. In the 1950s he operated a Beech Bonanza and a Rockwell Aero Commander before acquiring a King Air C90. As Kraus & Naimer business demands grew globally Naimer purchased a Dassault Falcon 10 which he routinely flew around the world with his wife Gerda (also a pilot) to oversee assorted corporate interests.

In 1981 the Falcon 10 was traded in on a Challenger 600 used to flight test early FMS systems. Naimer upgraded to the current Challenger 601-3A in 1989 and used this to visit UASC sites in the US as well as Kraus & Naimer facilities around the world.

Flight ops

UASC’s TUS hangar accommodates both King Airs easily and has room for a new light jet. Oomens joined UASC back in 2001 and operated the company Falcon 20 before it was sold. Typical missions, other than avionics flight test work, include ad-hoc travel throughout the country, and commutes to visit UASC’s facilities in Redmond WA, Wichita KS and Atlanta GA.

“The F90 has taken on a role of purely test aircraft while we’re running a 50/50 split between test work and corporate travel with the 350,” says Oomens. “We’re very happy with the F90, which has been fully upgraded with our systems and has much more power in hot conditions than a C90.”


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