Austin Jet International in Horseshoe Bay, TX, is located in the center of the triangle created by Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Its three-hangar, 12,500-sq.-ft. facility is a Federal Aviation Administration repair station. Employees who work in the hangar provide clients with a variety of maintenance services, including scheduled inspections, parts, inventory, engine overhaul and non-routine maintenance. The crew at Austin Jet have been trained in Lears, Citations, King Airs, Hawkers, Gulfstream, Bell Helicopters and Eurocopters.

Until recently, maintenance crews worked in unheated facilities that hampered work in cold weather. "You can imagine how cold it gets in a 140x85-ft. uninsulated metal hangar where the employees work to repair helicopters and fix wing aircraft," says Bill Lucy, senior vice president of Austin Jet.

To improve the work environment, Austin Jet installed four ETU200 gas-fired infrared tube heaters, made by Space-Ray of Charlotte, NC. The units were purchased from a Fort Worth, TX-based dealer who "worked with us to design the system, provide the technical expertise and deliver the equipment on time at a reasonable price," says Lucy. The heaters were mounted side-by-side along the 28-ft.-high ceilings, above the main work area in the hangar.

Each of the ETU200 infrared tube heaters has a 200,000-BTU/hr. capacity, and can be manually adjusted to a desired temperature. Unlike forced-air heating, which works from the top down, gas infrared heat works from the bottom up, warming people, floors and machines. Lucy says the heaters are used when temperatures dip into the teens, and on many mornings when outside temperatures are in the 40s. He says the heaters only take 20 minutes to remove the chill because they heat objects, not air.

The ETU200 Space-Ray tube heater features a self-contained draft inducer, which pulls products of combustion through the combustion chamber for increased radiant efficiency and safety. The lubricated, enclosed, fan-cooled and heavy-duty ball bearing draft inducer motor powers the unit. A rugged one-piece cast-iron burner and an emitter tube are also components. Both come with warranties. A state-of-the-art opening combination gas valve also provides a quiet ignition. The closed-combustion chamber design and direct-spark ignition system with shutoff control enhance safety. The heaters are available in both natural gas- and propane-fueled versions.

"We used to lose a lot of work time during cold spells because employees were just trying to stay warm," says Lucy. He estimates that the losses were often substantial among the company's 15 employees over an eight-hour work day. "Not only have the heaters improved the working environment for the maintenance staff," he says, "but they have increased the safety of our maintenance operation since it's always more difficult to perform work on a cold aircraft." Lucy adds that the heaters have eliminated cold-weather work delays when temperature-sensitive products such as paint and adhesives are used.

Unlike other open-surface combustion heating systems, Space-Ray heaters are not affected by outdoor environmental conditions. Since the flame is totally enclosed in the combustion chamber, strong gusts of wind which can develop when doors are opened does not affect the operation of the heater. "The heaters are working in all types of conditions, and the results are better than we anticipated," says Lucy. "We are delighted with the installation." In addition to the units' effectiveness, Austin Jet reports that the heaters are economical. The company expects annual fuel savings of as much as 50% compared with forced-air heating.

Space-Ray Infrared Gas Heaters, 305 Doggett St., Charlotte, NC 28236; 704-372-3485.