From a small local company to Global Horizons: the journey of a Brazilian aerospace pioneerFrom a small local company to Global Horizons: the journey of a Brazilian aerospace pioneer

Interviewed and edited by: Kateřina Urbanová

In an exclusive conversation with ACE (Aerospace Central Europe) magazine, Luís Colus, CEO of LHColus, reveals the visionary path that propelled a once modest engineering office to become a beacon of innovation within the global aerospace industry.

Founded in 2008, LHColus has overcome its Brazilian roots to emerge as a formidable player in the aerospace industry, blending cutting-edge technology with a deep commitment to quality and sustainability. This interview offers a rare glimpse into the strategic mindset that drives LHColus’ expansion, its pioneering projects and the collaborative spirit that fosters its innovative advances.

Question: Since its foundation in 2008, LHColus has emerged as a formidable force within the aeronautics industry. Could you share the vision that drove the creation of the company and how it continues to guide its operations today?

At the heart of our founding was a bold dream: to present the market with complete and comprehensive solutions.

This dream involved providing engineering services to develop and qualify an aeronautical system and guaranteeing the supply of these developed components throughout the life cycle of a program. The materialization of this dream came about through our collaboration on the Embraer KC-390 Program, which resonated perfectly with our strategic ambition to nurture long-term partnerships with our clientele. This venture laid the foundations for further success, leading to fruitful collaborations with esteemed partners such as Avibras, Azul Linhas Aéreas, Gol Linhas Aéreas Inteligentes, Aeris Energy and various general aviation clients.

Question: The Embraer KC-390 program is one of your notable projects. Could you tell us more about LHColus’ role in this program and the impact it has had on the company’s growth?

Our participation in the Embraer KC-390 program underlines the depth and breadth of LHColus’ capabilities and our profound impact on the aerospace sector. The initial phase of the project tasked us with developing troop seats and stretchers for the KC-390, incorporating a comprehensive set of interface components such as posts, beams, hooks and installation straps for these items. This design innovation makes it possible to quickly reconfigure the aircraft’s cabin, seamlessly transitioning between troop transport and medical evacuation missions without the need for specialized tools. This flagship project marked the beginning of a significant and long-lasting partnership with Embraer, catalyzing an era of substantial technological advancement and infrastructure expansion at LHColus.

Our commitment to this partnership fostered remarkable growth in our technological resources, engineering tools and overall competencies, paving the way for a series of subsequent collaborations with Embraer. Among these next projects was the creation of a robust cargo barrier, known as the “Buffer Stop Assembly”, designed to withstand a maximum frontal load of an impressive 53 tons. In addition, we were tasked with the development of an electronic rack called the Reconfiguration Distribution Box. Our most recent contribution involved the design and manufacture of fuel lines for the in-flight refueling system, connecting fuselage assist fuel tanks to the wing tanks. Featuring a pioneering double-wall design, these tubes offer redundancy to mitigate potential fuel leaks and accommodate significant tank movements during severe landing scenarios.

These contributions to the KC-390 program reflect the essence of our partnership with Embraer, highlighting LHColus’ unwavering commitment to innovation, safety and reliability. The exclusive contract for the supply of these components, extending to the delivery of the last aircraft in the series and covering more than two decades of spare parts supply and repair services thereafter, symbolizes a landmark achievement for LHColus. It not only highlights our integral role in the success of the KC-390 program, but also accentuates our growth trajectory, reinforcing our stature as a leader in the aerospace industry, driven by a relentless pursuit of excellence and innovation. Quality is a fundamental tenet of LHColus’ commitment, as highlighted by our ISO 9001:2015 certification.

Question: Could you elaborate on how this focus on quality sets LHColus apart in the competitive aerospace technology and services sector?

Certainly, adhering to our customers’ stringent quality requirements is crucial in our industry. To underline this commitment, LHColus has established a dedicated division to address quality control challenges. Maintaining ISO 9001:2015 certification emphasizes our commitment to maintaining high quality standards, which sets us apart in the competitive aerospace field. LHColus specializes in the maintenance, repair and overhaul of various aircraft, components and on-board systems. Our unwavering commitment to quality not only reassures our customers, but also builds trust, cementing our reputation as a reliable partner in the aerospace sector.

In addition to the ISO 9001:2015 certification, LHColus holds several other quality approvals, such as the Certificate of Production Organization (COP) in accordance with Part 21 requirements and the Certificate of Maintenance Organization (COM) in accordance with Part 145 of the Brazilian Airworthiness Authority (ANAC), as well as the quality approval to meet the APQP4WIND standard for supply to the wind energy industry. These approvals further highlight the importance we place on complying with established quality systems. At LHColus, we operate on the principle that “we should always be prepared for the unexpected visit of an auditor”. This philosophy ensures that the quality of our products and services is consistently maintained to the highest standards.

Question: With a broad spectrum of services, including aircraft modifications and aerial survey systems, could you describe the innovation process at LHColus and how it ensures that the end products are aligned with the dynamic requirements of your customers?

Our approach to innovation, particularly exemplified by our most complex aircraft modification project – the cargo conversion of the ERJ-190/195 family to an “F-Class” cargo configuration as specified by FAR 25.857, shows our commitment to meeting the evolving needs of our customers. This quick-change design ingeniously uses passenger seat rails to attach 16 cargo nets, complemented by fireproof fabric and an advanced fire detection system that uses infrared cameras for early detection of heat sources, surpassing traditional smoke detectors in efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This pioneering solution, currently in the process of applying for a patent in both Brazil and the USA, marks its industry debut with this specific application.

The development of this system was a collaborative effort with the engineering team of our initial client, Azul Linhas Aéreas, ensuring that the solution met their needs precisely. With more than 20,000 flight hours accumulated on eight modified aircraft, some of which were seamlessly converted back to passenger configurations within two to three days, this innovation stands out as a testament to our adaptive, customer-focused innovation process.

These efforts are in the process of being patented, both in Brazil and the US, underlining our commitment to innovation and the protection of our unique solutions, ensuring that they meet the specific and evolving needs of our customers.

The evolution from a competent engineering office to a visionary company with three decades of production on the horizon represents a significant leap. It signifies a transformation, not just in scope, but in the essence of LHColus itself – moving from limited project engagements to a future full of promise and continuous innovation. This journey from conception to realization underlines the deep belief in the power of dreams. It is a testament to the indomitable spirit that pulses through the veins of LHColus, embodying the resilience and passion that drive Brazilian innovation. Our dreams, ambitious and audacious, have not only guided us, but have also become a beacon, lighting the way to achieving the extraordinary.

Question: As a fully Brazilian company, does LHColus take advantage of local talent and resources in its projects, and what benefits do you believe this brings to its international partnerships?

At LHColus, our Brazilian heritage is not just a source of pride; it is a strategic advantage that we make the most of. Brazil, with its rich legacy of more than half a century in aerospace excellence, mainly through the pioneering efforts of Embraer, has cultivated an ecosystem full of highly talented and educated professionals. The country’s technical colleges and universities are renowned for their rigorous curricula, producing graduates who are not only skilled, but also innovators ready to take on the challenges of the aerospace field. This reservoir of talent is a cornerstone of our operations, allowing us to infuse our projects with unparalleled expertise and innovative solutions. In addition, Brazil’s robust domestic aerospace industry serves as a breeding ground for experience and ingenuity, further enriching our ability to deliver exceptional value in our endeavors.

Brazil’s economic landscape, characterized by a lower cost of living and labor compared to many developed nations, presents a strategic advantage. This disparity allows us to offer our international partners high-quality services at more competitive prices, without compromising on excellence or innovation. It’s a win-win scenario: our partners enjoy significant savings in operating expenses and increased profit margins, while we pride ourselves on delivering superior quality and added value.

In the global outsourcing market, Brazil stands out for its young and competitive sector, offering quality services at more competitive prices than more saturated markets, without sacrificing competence or results. The cost-benefit ratio of Brazilian engineering, which is significantly lower than in the United States and other developed countries, is a testament to our ability to offer world-class aerospace solutions that are affordable and state-of-the-art.

At LHColus, we believe that our deep roots in Brazil’s rich aerospace tradition and our ability to leverage local talent and economic advantages not only distinguish us on the international stage, but also strengthen our partnerships around the world. It’s a reflection of our commitment to excellence, innovation and the enduring value of Brazilian ingenuity in the aerospace sector.

Question: Aerospace is an industry characterized by the continuous need to adapt and learn. How does LHColus maintain its competitive edge in keeping up with industry trends and could you share insights into some of the innovative advances your team is working on?

“Learning” is not just a concept at LHColus; it is a pillar of our corporate culture. With more than 38 years of experience in aeronautical engineering and advanced degrees from prestigious institutions such as an undergraduate degree from EESC-USP and a master’s degree from ITA, I find myself constantly on the learning curve, embracing new challenges that contribute to the efforts of our multidisciplinary teams. This relentless pursuit of knowledge ensures that we are always at the forefront, innovating and redefining what is possible in aeronautics.

A prime example of our commitment to staying ahead was our participation in the FAA’s International Fire Safety and Cabin Security Research Conference, where we not only shared insights from one of our successful projects, but also had the opportunity to learn about global advances in fire safety and cabin security research. This experience underlines our dedication to continuous improvement and innovation. Looking ahead, LHColus is excited about several promising projects and partnerships. We are actively pursuing opportunities with Embraer’s EVE-100, the innovative 100% electric eVTOL, anticipating our selection to contribute to this pioneering project. In addition, one of the leading global suppliers of aeronautical products and services has shown great interest in our cargo conversion kit, contemplating its worldwide distribution and its adaptation to other aircraft models such as the A320 and B737.

This potential partnership could significantly increase our market reach and allow us to offer cost-effective cargo conversion solutions on a global scale. Additionally, LHColus is expanding its international presence by targeting aerospace clusters in the United States and Europe, marking a strategic move to cement our presence in key global markets. These initiatives represent just a fraction of the exciting developments at LHColus as we continue to push the boundaries of aeronautical engineering and innovation.

Question: As LHColus moves into new markets, such as the US and Europe, we are eager to learn more about the strategies you employ to adapt and thrive. Could you detail your approach?

Our expansion strategy has leveraged our vast experience and expertise in the civil and military aviation sectors, with the aim of offering superior services within the US and European aerospace clusters. These regions are known for being home to some of the largest and most sophisticated aerospace companies and organizations in the world. LHColus’ goal is to establish itself as a competitive and reliable partner within these clusters, contributing our innovative solutions and capabilities to the global aerospace industry.

Question: Given the growing emphasis on sustainability within the aerospace sector, how is LHColus advancing environmentally friendly practices in its operations and manufacturing processes?

Looking to the future, LHColus is deeply committed to addressing environmental challenges and reducing aviation’s ecological footprint. Embracing sustainability involves focusing on fuel efficiency, exploring alternative fuels, employing lightweight materials, improving recycling efforts, running noise reduction operations, engaging in carbon offsetting and adhering to government and international emissions standards to foster sustainable practices. These measures are key to ensuring a sustainable and responsible future for aviation, in line with global efforts to mitigate environmental impact.

LHColus prides itself on maintaining operations that minimally impact the environment. Our manufacturing processes mainly involve metal, with all waste being fully recycled, demonstrating our commitment to sustainability. In cases where the production of composite parts is more polluting, we outsource to specialized companies equipped with the necessary waste treatment facilities to handle these materials responsibly. This approach underlines our commitment to environmental stewardship while maintaining our focus on innovation and quality in the aerospace industry.

Finally, collaboration often acts as a catalyst for innovation.

Question: Could you share how LHColus encourages a culture of collaboration internally and with external stakeholders to advance aerospace technology?

In the aerospace industry, collaboration is comparable to a complex and dynamic partnership, bringing together a multitude of stakeholders to achieve revolutionary milestones in engineering and exploration. At LHColus, we engage in R&D partnerships with leading aerospace companies, academic institutions and research bodies to pioneer new materials, propulsion systems, avionics and safety advances. Our collaboration extends to government agencies, which frequently support and participate in our research projects, underlining the importance of joint efforts in technological progression.

Our design and engineering collaborations are particularly notable with major aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing, Airbus and Embraer. These partnerships involve cross-functional teams focused on various aspects, including aerodynamics, structural integrity, avionics, systems integration and simulation modeling. Collaborations in the supply chain also play a crucial role, where we work alongside Tier 1 suppliers and support Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers, fostering an ecosystem of innovation and expertise. Testing and certification processes see us working closely with regulatory bodies to ensure that our products meet the highest safety and performance standards.

Our manufacturing and assembly processes incorporate global collaboration, guided by lean manufacturing principles to increase efficiency and quality. In maintenance and support, our partnerships with airlines, maintenance providers and OEMs ensure that aircraft remain operational and reliable. Collaboration in aerospace requires a delicate balance of expertise, trust and shared goals. Whether it’s designing a new aircraft, launching a satellite or exploring distant planets, it’s teamwork that propels us to new heights and beyond.

Question: Could you detail your R&D process, particularly how projects are selected and the resources allocated for innovation?

LHColus strategically integrates opportunities to contribute to our projects, creating a legacy for future endeavors. This approach is reflected in various activities, such as acquiring new equipment, participating in technical or educational events, or improving the capabilities of our technical team by engaging specialized consultants. This method has proven to be effective, allowing us to leverage results from previous developments to demonstrate our competence and secure new projects.

In addition, LHColus has established a strong reputation for innovation and quality in the Brazilian market through partnerships with important industry players such as Embraer, Avibras, Mectron, Bradar and Novaercraft. One notable collaboration was with Azul Linhas Aéreas Brasileiras to develop the world’s first F-Class cargo aircraft based on the Embraer ERJ-190/-195 platform, a project that introduced several innovative engineering solutions, including infrared camera-based heat source detection, which are likely to be widely adopted in the future in local and international markets, covering a wide range of sectors from engineering and avionics to logistics and space exploration.

The cluster facilitates various initiatives, including training, internationalization, fundraising and technological innovation, further fostering business development and trade missions. This vibrant and competitive landscape ensures that LHColus remains aligned with global trends and technologies, ensuring a promising future for the aerospace sector.

As we conclude our engaging dialog with Luis Colus, we at ACE Magazine recall what a unique and enriching experience it was to immerse ourselves in the LHColus narrative. This endeavor allowed us, once again, to cross the geographical boundaries that usually delimit our explorations, reconnecting with the vibrant aerospace landscape of Brazil – a region we have had the pleasure of exploring in past collaborations with industry giants such as Embraer. LHColus, although a smaller entity compared to the giant that is Embraer, stands out as a beacon of innovation, resilience and ambition, reflecting the pioneering spirit that defines the Brazilian aerospace sector.

Its journey from a local start-up to an influential representative on the global stage underlines the rich fabric of talent and innovation that Brazil brings to the world of aerospace. It is a privilege to share the story of LHColus, which, like our partnership with Embraer, highlights the extraordinary contributions of Brazilian companies to global aeronautics and innovation. The passion, ingenuity and forward-looking approach of the LHColus team, led by Luís Colus, not only inspire us, but also amplify our anticipation for what the future holds. As we continue to follow the progress of LHColus alongside our ongoing engagement with aerospace leaders such as Embraer, we remain committed to showcasing the diverse and dynamic nature of aerospace innovation, bridging continents and cultures in our quest to highlight the industry’s most engaging stories.

Photo credit: Marília Rossi *** Translated by DEFCONPress FYI Team ***

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