You’ve heard it said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but for Mike Kane and his team at Advanced Technologies, Inc. (ATI), a measurement that is off by even a small fraction equivalent to 1/25th the width of a single strand of hair is a big thing. In their area of expertise, there is no small stuff. For more than 30 years, ATI has delivered precision, accuracy and efficiency as a subcontractor in the aerospace industry to clients that include NASA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Bell Helicopter.
Kane is vice president and director of operations at ATI. According to ATI’s website, “ATI provides engineering and fabrication services, producing a wide variety of wind tunnel models and facilities equipment; full-scale models, mockups and training devices; manned and unmanned prototype flight vehicles; composite and metal aerospace structures and components; and composite rotor blades and tooling with a special expertise in developing advanced composite fan blades, rotor blades, and propellers.”
In layman’s terms, ATI designs and manufactures hardware for aircraft and research equipment for primarily the aerospace industry. It also builds and tests models of aircraft. Some of these full-scale models are built to be used as marketing assets. ATI also does some marine work, using composites and making fairings for Navy ships; however, ATI’s clients are primarily in the aerospace sector.
As an example, ATI builds wind-tunnel models of aircraft being designed by aerospace contractors to find its flight characteristics or to refine its characteristics. There are many different aspects to the aerodynamics involved, so the company comes up with an idea, tests it, then refines it and then tests it again.
Says Kane, “We build the equipment that allows them to test some of these models. Models are held in wind tunnels in different ways and we also build the hardware that does that. We have built different engine test adaptors, test rigs themselves, and we’ve built test fixtures for rotor craft that can pitch and yaw.”
The relationship between ATI, as a subcontractor, and a prime contractor like Boeing is highly collaborative. Says Kane, “They know specifically what they’re looking for from the test, and they will come to us and say, ‘we want this scale; we want to scale it to this size to fit into this wind tunnel.’ They know the test they’re going to do and they want the hardware to fit that.”
For Kane, that’s what makes the work exciting. To him, every project is new, and the company rarely makes the same product twice. “We don’t get bored with the work because there’s always something new to think about. I mean, you’re applying some of the same processes and base knowledge, but it’s always a new project,” says Kane.
ATI has approximately 70 people working in the company which is 100 percent employee-owned. The team is a combination of an engineering department, an administrative staff and workers with various skilled trades such as machinists, welders and composite technicians.
Kane has been with ATI for 27 years and is a Newport News native. In his early days, he graduated from Phoebus High School and joined the Army. After separating from the Army, he attended Thomas Nelson Community College, where he earned his associate degree in mechanical engineering technology. While in school, he was in a cooperative education program where he attended school for half day and worked at NASA Langley half day. After graduating, Kane joined ATI.
ATI’s presence within Hampton Road’s large military and defense contractor population is a natural fit. He enjoys the relationships it has built with local private companies. Says Kane, “People know some of the equipment that we have, and we get referrals for different businesses like electric motor corporations where we’ve made different pieces and parts for them. Some of their motors get quite large like four or five feet in diameter.”
Kane appreciates the advancements of technology in the tools and processes they use as well as the expansion in ATI’s actual workspace. When he arrived, the original owners of the business rented a small building across the street from ATI’s current location. Today, the business works out of an 84,000-square-foot facility with more room to grow.
“Our customers are adaptors of cutting-edge technology,” Kane says, “and we’re making their hardware. We’ve seen a big influx in additive manufacturing and we’ve added that into our designs. We also have machining robots and we can cut molds up to 16 feet wide and 90 feet long.”
Kane is very aware of ATI’s contributions to some of America’s most advanced systems. As he and the ATI team have made it their business to “sweat the small stuff,” their precision, accuracy and efficiency continues to pay big dividends within the aerospace industry and for its employees.
TO THE POINT:
Advanced Technologies, Inc.
Address: 875 City Center Blvd., Newport News, Virginia 23606
Contact: Mike Kane, vice president and director of operations