A San Antonio-based aircraft interiors business has cracked open the Indian market, continuing a growth spurt it has enjoyed in recent years.

Knight Aerospace announced last week it has partnered with an Indian aviation firm, Rossell Techsys, that will allow it to supply the Indian Air Force in addition to Rossell’s other clients in the country.

“This opens up a market — a significant market — that we had not yet penetrated,” said Knight Aerospace CEO Bianca Rhodes. She said the sheer size of India’s population and its aviation market — both military and private — gives it the potential to be “one of our major customer areas.”

“We’re in 36 countries but a lot have bought only one product or another,” she said. “This country has the potential to buy a whole long list of them.”

The Indian Air Force owns 11 Boeing C-17 Globemasters, which are ideal for Knight Aerospace’s aircraft modules, said Tom Gallo, Knight Aerospace’s chief revenue officer. The Indian military is likely the largest, but far from the only client, client of Rossell’s that Knight Aerospace will now be able to do business with, Gallo said.

Indian law requires foreign suppliers like Knight Aerospace to partner with domestic companies to do business in the country.

Founded in San Antonio in 1992, Knight Aerospace designs and fabricates specialized modules for carrier planes — often used in military and humanitarian missions, or wherever commercial planes are inappropriate. The modules include VIP suites, galleys, communications setups, and more. The company also produces customized units and provides support equipment for maintenance and repair of aircraft mechanical systems.

Rhodes joined Knight Aerospace in 2014 and later purchased the company’s legacy assets in 2017 to become CEO. Since then, the company has expanded significantly, doubling its number of employees to 60 during a 12-month period ending last year. The expansion prompted the company to establish a new and bigger headquarters at Port San Antonio.

Knight Aerospace CEO Bianca Rhodes. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

Rhodes said company revenue increased significantly last year, though she declined to provide figures, after it rolled out a medical module, the development of which had been a primary focus of the company in recent years. She also cited another partnership that allowed the company to introduce a restroom module for military planes.

“We’re expecting this to be a big breakout year for us,” Rhodes said. “We needed to find traction with products that had potential for recurring sales,” she said, contrasting those modules with the one-off custom designs the company focused on in the past.

She expects the partnership with Rossell Techsys to continue the company’s growth streak.

Rossell Techsys provides custom engineering and manufacturing services for airplanes in India, as a division of a larger public company that also specializes in tea cultivation and defense technology. Like Knight Aerospace, it is a partner to both Lockheed Martin and Boeing. In 2015, it won Boeing’s “Supplier of the Year.”

A report released in late 2018 stated that San Antonio’s aerospace industry contributed $3.4 billion to the regional economy during 2017. The industry provided 32,050 jobs in the region, and 10,009 in San Antonio, at an average wage of $78,850.

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Waylon Cunningham

Waylon Cunningham covered business and technology for the San Antonio Report.