At a busy time of limited capacity for the aircraft maintenance industry, how does a business jet operator act to keep their maintenance costs down?
The current aircraft maintenance market can create a tough environment for customers trying to schedule maintenance items.
From the supply side, the industry as a whole faces a declining workforce availability. From a demand perspective, the market economy has driven flight hours up, which has increased the amount of aircraft maintenance needed.
The demand is further exacerbated by the upcoming mandate for operators to equip with ADS-B and an economy-driven upturn in discretionary spending, putting more capital toward major modifications and large-scope paint and interior upgrades.
In this market shortage, however, there are a few things you can do to make sure that you can save, over the longer-term, on your aircraft maintenance costs. Following are our top three…
1. Plan Ahead
In the environment we’ve just outlined, and with demand at a premium, most of top-tier maintenance facilities have a backlog of at least six-10 weeks. Talk through your event with your maintenance provider and book your slots early.
The increase of demand for maintenance, combined with the limited supply of facilities likely means that the sales team has a large backlog of quotes, so it could take longer than expected to receive your quote.
ADS-B installations are not anticipated to slow until mid-2020, based on projections of the remaining non-compliant aircraft paired with the industry’s capacity to complete them, and the majority of aircraft owners are doing their ADS-B upgrades in conjunction with a major maintenance event.
Properly planning your maintenance events can also help you take full advantage of your downtime and avoid having to return to the shop for small items. In addition to your planned maintenance event, a reputable maintenance provider should go over any other items that could be coming due in the next six months, as well as common discrepancies found on your aircraft.
When forecasting your maintenance event it is recommended that you plan as far in advance as possible. This would include developing a full understanding of your upcoming events, including utilizing a maintenance-due/forecasting list such as a Corporate Aircraft Maintenance Planning (CAMP) due list.
2. Understanding Your Requirements
Understanding how your aircraft is utilized and what items are required for your category can help you plan your maintenance events. For instance, depending on how many hours you fly you could be categorized as ‘light utilization’, which could mean you qualify for a less-stringent maintenance plan.
Pay close attention to the terms and conditions of any warranty or power-by-the-hour programs to fully understand what they cover.
The other major issue that could impact your requirements is the difference between Part 91 and part 135 operators. Part 91 operators are only personally flying their aircraft, and the mandatory maintenance requirements can be less. As operators providing charter flights, Part 135 operators have increased requirements and increased need.
As an example, a particular Part 135 operation specification may dictate additional requirements, such as compliance with an OEM’s Service Bulletins (SB) where those same SBs might be optional for Part 91 operators.
3. Maintenance Facility
Selecting the right service center for your aircraft can be a critical component to save you long-term costs. Shopping each maintenance event can lead to inefficiencies and a frustrating experience.
In some cases, selecting a facility that may appear to save you money could only be doing so in the short-term.
For instance, if your shop is only doing the minimum to win an upcoming event, you could experience many unexpected discrepancies – particularly during your next major inspection – which can come as a frustrating surprise to customers, who may have believed their aircraft was being maintained well when, in reality, items that could have saved long-term costs were being overlooked.
Moreover, a facility’s reputation during an aircraft transaction logbook review can also help maximize an aircraft’s selling price.
Ultimately, the above three points should help operators see the part they play in helping keep maintenance costs as close to expected as possible. At this busy time for the maintenance industry, taking the time to build proactive relationships is as important as ever.
The proactive operator will identify and build relationships with their maintenance shop, working alongside them to identify and schedule maintenance needs, in many cases before they arise.
Mike Saathoff has over 20 years of experience in corporate aircraft maintenance. He has held several service technician and quality control positions with Elliott Aviation and currently serves as the Director of Sales Operations & Engine and Accessory Sales.
He has an Airframe and Powerplant and Inspection Authorization license with the FAA.