Custom Control Concepts: The Little Engine That Did!


Some background: The first story we did on Custom Control Concepts was around 2002, some 4 years after they were born. When we discovered Kurt Mayhall and his band of doers in Seattle, they made one of the most reliable and capable, larger biz jet IFE systems in the aviation industry. We really were impressed with their ability to bring almost anything IFE to market. In 2005, we visited them again and they were about 30 people strong, and sure enough, they all had the same positive approach to business. That’s when we coined the moniker: “The Little Company That Could“, Watty Piper’s great children’s book that taught many of us old-timers the power of positive thinking — if you have small children – they will love it! This week, our paraphrased Hot Topic title is the results of 8 continued years of steady growth, good product stewardship, innovation and the usually elusive, “can-do” attitude.

Our visit to them in Kent, Washington was quite a surprise because ‘growth’ is the new phase, if their building was any indication of their success. We are here to report that CCC has prospered by building products that work, ones that customers want and those that completion centers can install, operate, and service. In other words they design, build, test, and certify, their products from beginning to end because that way no other organization or excuse stands in their way. From a confessional point of view, we wondered if adopting things like TV studio standards (SDI video transmission specifications) was a good idea, bucking industry trends toward Ethernet and HDMI. Today, they use the HD SDI standard, and as it turns out, it was a wise move. We need to point out that the technical brains behind this choice, Kurt Mayhall, envisioned problems like video source-to-screen distances and completion center installation ease as their primary market, and thus, chose that technical direction. The rest is history.

This may be a good time to introduce the VIP market. “We are a key supplier to big business jets.” Rick Routly, VP Marketing told IFExpress: “CCC provides customized cabin management and in-flight entertainment and lighting systems to the narrow and widebody completion industry but we also support the custom and corporate jet and helicopter market as well.” Interestingly, market size numbers are all over the map. We are not necessarily talking about the Learjet and Gulfstreams of the world, although they are not excluded, as plenty of them are customers. No, we are talking about the really big aircraft from B737/A320’s to B747’s/A340. “Typically, it takes about one year to complete the order to install process on a single aisle jet like a B737 or an A320 – longer for the wide bodies,” noted Routly. Here is a chart of the aircraft types with CCC hardware installed to date. This is a special market with specialized products whereby “only the best” is baseline. In fact, there are approximately 15 major completion houses that handle these jobs and perhaps twice that who do this kind of work worldwide. Said Mr. Routly, “CCC has a substantial share of the VIP market,” and we estimate their yearly system output to be less than 20 to these big installs, but as CCC pointed out, they have had up to 12 customers in-work at one time. This is really a daunting task because each system is built around a unique customer. The trick then is to design, build, test, and certify a product with the greatest flexibility. Price is not the main driver here – customization, functionality, end customer and installer satisfaction and schedule are.

A story about IFE at CCC would not be complete without a visit to their demo room and we were lucky to catch their busy President, Bill Weaver, in the picture too! It is important to note that a complete operational system was on display. While one hardware box probably looks like most others, we were struck with a few differences. Firstly, you should know that the hardware is totally made by their manufacturing, assembly and test equipment and employees on premise. For example, they manufacture their own electronic boxes (NC Machine them to be sure they neither receive or emit spurious radiation). They polish and coat them, install circuit boards that their Pick & Place machines have loaded, and they are scrutinized by teams who test each function. Lastly, they perform all the FAA certification testing on site, under the eye of FAA DERs. “We are an approved FAA/EASA Repair Station with many categories of DO-160 testing accomplished,” noted a company spokesperson. In their own facilities they have a complete retinue of production and testing hardware like NC machines, Pick & Place assemblers, RF testing chambers, etc. They even built their own 12-ton centrifuge for g load testing. CCC is also a leader in 3D printing of enclosures and components with 7 on-line. We talked to test teams, installers, shipping, manufacturing folks and the most amazing consistency in viewpoint was observed – they all had the aforementioned positive attitude and they all were very proud of their work. Based on discussions with the company the average job tenure was around 10 years or more. If anybody should get a National Industry Attitude Award, CCC stands out!

This brings us to the company offices- the management and engineering team. Their new President is an IFE familiar face, Bill Weaver – you might remember him from DeCrane Aerospace. The new owner, Sorensen Capital Partners, recently appointed him to the position. He told IFExpress, “Sorenson saw a great future for CCC and I am proud and excited to be involved with the next growth phase.” And growth phase it will be. While we were there we saw two innovations that stood out – An LED lighting system and an audiophile system solution. The ULTEM speaker enclosures were ones we had never seen before on an aircraft and engineering was quick to point out that they were “made in house”, on their 3D printers

The LED-based lighting system was even more impressive. Controlled by installed panels or iPads, they can change the color and intensity of wash lighting on sidewalls or ceilings using a touch-graphic interface. In fact, CCC makes reading lights modules, as well as fixed or flexible LED wash lights too. Kurt Mayhall, now their CTO, was quick to point out that completion houses need a product that they can install around curved shaped panels and decor items, so CCC designed and built their own. Their product line extends beyond those mentioned; we saw 3D Custom SkyShow maps, Spectrum LED Lighting, HD Monitors and Touchscreens, and an app for your iPhone/iPad/iPod called iPlane to control the lot. These newer products got us thinking… what would we see next from the company? Wi-Fi? Satellite connectivity? More importantly, where would we see them?

As far as shows go CCC can usually seen be at NBAA, EBASE and the HELI Show. Be sure to check out this team, not only for their products, but rather, how they do business. For sure, their strong suit is a technically superior product with the ability to customize applications, which makes them very customer friendly. But you might also check out their attitude – for example, when entering the company offices, there is a simple but elegant, movie running on a widescreen display that describes the company in pictures and music but without voice-over narration. Thinking that a downtown advertising firm supplied the video, we asked about it. As it turns out, it was shot, edited and assembled by one of their Program Coordinators…”I just got a book and used my Mac,” he said. Talk about “can-do”, everybody has it at CCC!
It is that AIX time of year again and of course you want to place your company info in the AIX show edition of IFExpress – and as always, it’s FREE! Just get the following information into IFExpress by Monday, April 1. Yep – April Fool’s Day! We need your company name, AIX booth number, contact name, email, & telephone, AND LASTLY- A couple of sentences about what you plan to display in your booth. Direct all email inputs to Patricia Wiseman, IFExpress Editor at See you at the show!

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