Just Because Your Airplane’s Broke Doesn’t Mean You Have to Be

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This article appeared in the April 2017 AMT Magazine. You can find a link to that here.

By Joe Stanley – Aftermarket Sales Manager, Elliott Aviation

Repairing an aircraft can be incredibly expensive and whether you are working to repair your company’s or a customer’s aircraft, knowing you have options when it comes to repairing an avionics or airframe part can give a huge cost savings to the aircraft owner. There are several options in the industry to find PMA’d certified parts saving your customer money and in extreme cases adding up to $140,000 or more.

These PMA’d parts options are primarily for airframe parts that have been engineered and made available by the companies holding the PMA. These parts meet FAA regulations and can give you and your customers a significant cost savings. Although the use of PMA’d parts can save money, but be sure to check any warranties or programs the aircraft may be on to see if using these parts will void any warranties.

If you are looking for aftermarket options, some of the more popular part search sites include ILS, Partsbase, Stockmarket, AEA and even Ebay can yield positive results. Many of the repair stations, with their constantly rotating inventories will post their excess inventories on their web sites. These can be easily found by just inputting your desired part number onto a search engine. However, since those inventories are constantly changing, it is always beneficial to make personal contact with the repair station and see if the part you have found is still available and in stock.

Aftermarket Avionics Options

There is a fundamental misunderstanding when it comes to “As Removed” parts and if you can install parts without an 8130-3 form. Many people believe that the existence of a 8130-3 is a license to install, however, this is not the case. The fact is that the 8130-3 document was and is intended to document any testing that was done on the component and any repairs completed to return a unit to service. The absence of an 8130-3 does not disqualify a component from returning to service, but the lack of tractability can be a major issue.

Shops that deal heavily in the aftermarket avionics market remove equipment everyday normally as part of installing newer technology equipment. This is exactly the methodology behind selling “As Removed” working equipment. This equipment is from working aircraft, which allows for full traceability to allow you to reinstall in your aircraft. All major suppliers will give you full traceability and their CoC with every component you purchase. This not only gives you working components, it saves you standard repair practices and OEM bench test that may not enhance the functionality of your unit.

For instance, any EFIS-CRT that you send to a bench level repair facility is required to meet a luminance test in accordance with its current repair manual. These CRT’s will all have some phosphor burn by nature of the design of the component. This will cause the unit to fail a bench check and require a new CRT to be installed. The CRT may work just fine but has degraded over time. It is still functional and very useable. By purchasing aftermarket EFIS-CRT’s, as an example, you can spend less than half the cost of exchange or repair.

Spares

In addition to having a good resource for aftermarket avionics in an emergency, many flight departments, 135 operators and legacy aircraft that fly over 400 hours a year keep a set of spare equipment for high fail items on hand to avoid extra downtime. Given the cost of re-booking or postponing a flight, it may make sense for you or your customer to have high fail items on hand like EFIS displays, weather radars and more.

Aftermarket Airframe and Non-OEM Parts

Although they may be more difficult to find, in addition to aftermarket avionics parts, there are several options for finding serviceable aftermarket airframe parts. In fact, there are a couple of organizations dedicated to decommissioning aircraft and recycling aircraft parts. The Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) holds a conference in conjunction with the Aviation Suppliers Association (ASA) where they seek to standardize the parts distribution network, educate suppliers and certify distributors.

As we mentioned it in the beginning of the article, there are numerous options for new, non-OEM parts. These can be something as simple as a bolt or a wire harness, or as complex as a set of reverse-engineered landing gear. Since there are so many options and different types of parts available, having a good partner to work with to source these types of needs can save you and your customers both money and downtime and can increase your bottom line.

FAA Regulations and ADS-B Options

Another item to consider that is going to have a major effect on the industry is ADS-B OUT compliance. Any aircraft that operates in controlled airspace in the USA over 10,000 feet will need to be ADS-B Out compliant by December 31, 2019. This impacts over 100,000 airplanes and can be incredibly difficult to price, as it is dependent on the current equipment in the aircraft. While the standard avionics OEM ADS-B path to upgrade can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, in many cases, there are options that can work within a given avionics suite by swapping transponders. These options can be much more cost effective and take less than five days to complete. In addition, many ADS-B Out solutions give you the ability to not only meet the mandate, they give you valuable ADS-B IN options as well, like graphical weather, traffic and more.

You can also save your customer money and downtime of having to move their airplane for an ADS-B upgrade by purchasing an STC. STC’s are available for many different airframe and avionics suite combinations and many are available to include kits that consist of all parts and instructions that are needed for the upgrade.

When is it Time to Upgrade an Avionics Suite?

When a new avionics suite becomes certified, there are always hold outs that don’t want to take advantage of the new features and capabilities. As the product gains popularity in the market place, and the industry starts to fully understand the advantages and values these upgrades add to an aircraft the available slots in the shops start to dwindle. Waiting can be costly and depending on your mission, it can have grounding consequences. The upgrading option is inevitable, but the timing is always a judgment call by the DOM/Owner. While supporting and keeping the aircraft flying is always at the forefront of our mission, the timing for avionics upgrades is an opinion. Wait, gamble or get a slot and get it done, the latter would be my recommendation.

King Air Operators

The popularity of the King Air G1000 is a great example of making a cost benefit analysis. During a five-year period, a traditional upgrade could look like this:
• WAAS/LPV - $95,000
• ADS-B - $75,000
• RVSM - $83,000
• Yearly Avionics Maintenance - $20,000 (Times Five Years = $100,000)
• Total - $353,000
• Value Increase to Aircraft - $0

With the average cost of a King Air G1000 installation at $335,000, it adds an average value increase to the airplane of $275,000, so owners typically get a very good return on their investment. This example, of course, assumes no prior traditional upgrades and it may not make sense for your customer to make an upgrade depending on their mission, length of time they plan on owning the airplane and current equipment needs. That is where aftermarket avionics options, including stocking spare sets may make more sense. Regardless of their decision, the more you know, the better relationship you are going to build with your customer to keep them coming back for service.

It’s All About Options

Understanding all of your options can lead to a huge cost savings for you and your customer. When an aircraft part inevitably breaks, with a little bit of research you can find several options that can help your customer make a more informed decision about what to do. Doing so will not only help move your project forward, but will ultimately solidify your reputation with the customer.

About the Author:

Joe Stanley is the Parts Sales Manager for Elliott Aviation. He has spent over 30 years in the aviation industry sourcing aircraft parts for customers around the world. He is an aviation enthusiast and a commercial, multi-engine, IFR pilot with light-sport, tail-dragger endorsements. He has over 1,000 hours and continues to fly today. He manages over 20 employees and over 20,000 active part numbers. He is a member of AEA, NBAA, AOPA and EAA.