- 04 Apr 2022
- Sherryn de Vos
- AvBuyer Africa Articles
Finding the right hangar partner is as important as finding the right aircraft management company for any aircraft owner in Africa. Sherryn de Vos explains more…
Aircraft owners should conduct various levels of due diligence to establish the capacity and ability of a hangar partner to effectively provide hangar facilities. The ultimate selection should be based on more than mere storage and protection. It should include value-added services, location, costs, and facilities to ensure that the aircraft is functioning at its optimal level at all times.
With this in mind, we unpacked what aircraft owners need to consider when choosing a hangar partner in Africa, and how they can maximize the storage space.
Initial Considerations for Aircraft Owners
One of the initial, and most pertinent considerations is where your aircraft will actually be based, and whether it will be easily accessible to the owner. In many cases, owners tend to seek out low-cost hangars to cut the overall budget of owning and managing an aircraft.
However, while some of the smaller, more regional airports might be cheaper to store your aircraft at, it might end up costing you more in the long run.
Secondly, you will need to consider the size of the hangar that you will need. This will depend on your aircraft size. Aircraft hangar sizes are usually divided into the following categories:
Operators with a diverse fleet will usually opt for larger hangars to accommodate the varying sizes, but will also require extra space for specific maintenance requirements, tools and equipment.
Lastly, ask yourself when you’ll have access to your aircraft. If the airport has night operations, is the hangar open 24/7? If not, can you get access to your aircraft after-hours? If so, what is the call-out time and cost?
Is Safety Central to Your Requirement?
Hangarage procedures and safety are often overlooked by aircraft owners, and could end up resulting in mismanaged aircraft.
We spoke to Justin Reeves, the CEO of Comair Flight Services, for his advice on choosing a hangar partner. “Outsourced hangar partners can differ greatly between what you’re used to at your home base, and what you are getting at an away-from-base hangar.
“It is therefore key for owners and operators to pay equal attention to what exactly they’re being sold on with the partner.”
Not only should you consider the natural elements when it comes to storing and protecting your aircraft, but locality could dictate protection from elements such as power outages, crime, war, looting and terrorism.
Hangars across Africa need to be verified and well-established to ensure that they are not at any high risk, and if they are, will they be covered in such events? “Does the hangar-keeper have sufficient insurance cover (or any cover at all) to cover any damage they may cause to your aircraft while it’s in their care?” Reeves asks.
“Will you be expected to claim from your own hull insurance in the event that your aircraft is damaged?”
The aircraft will also need to be protected within the hangar space, and hangar-keepers will need to assume responsibility for any damage taking place on their premises. When conducting a site visit, determine whether there are any hazards in or around the maneuvering area.
Reeves recalls a key example: “I worked at an FBO early in my aviation career and the helipad was on the same apron as the fixed-wing parking ramp. On two different occasions the crew found small stones in the jet intakes during their pre-flight inspections,” he shares. “These were the direct results of the helicopters taking off and landing in close proximity to the jets.”
Undetected, stones could cause extremely costly damage and potentially ground the aircraft for an extended period if it passes through a running engine. So, if the apron is in a poor condition or is not kept clean and tidy one can incur costly damage caused by FOD (Foreign Object Debris).
Resources Need to Be Carefully Examined
As mentioned, hangars should provide more than mere storage and protection services, and include aircraft management services. “One has to ensure that the hangar-keeper has the correct ground service equipment (GSE) and procedures in place to safely store your aircraft,” Reeves explains.
It’s important to ask the right questions to the provider when you are sourcing a rental hangar space, which might include:
“As an example, at our Lanseria FBO we have both battery and diesel powered GPUs (Ground Power Units) to cater for AC and DC electrical systems used by different aircraft types as well as to protect us against power outages (quite common in many parts of Africa),” Reeves says.
Value-Added Services May Sweeten the Deal
Beside protection and management, do the facilities include day-to-day services for your aircraft? It could be important to establish whether the hangar-keeper offers a cleaning service, and if so, do they give the cleaners proper training on the do’s and don’ts of cleaning sensitive equipment on the aircraft?
“We also have a 15m cherry picker (aerial work platform) to clean and inspect the tails of large jets,” Reeves says. “Our lavatory and potable water servicing carts are also powered by lithium ion batteries to service the lavatories and galleys of the larger jets while they are parked on the ramp.”
You can also establish whether there are storerooms available for loose equipment and consumables, such as anti-freeze fuel additives, oil, covers, seats, etc., all of which becomes more important the larger the aircraft.
A professional operation should have regular staff refresher training on towing and marshalling procedures, and ensure that they know how to effectively maintain and manage an aircraft. They should also own suitable GSE necessary to service the respective aircraft types, and should regularly inspect and service that GSE.
Reeves highlights that it is important to pay attention to these details. “Whilst proper due diligence remains very important, one can very often get an idea of the kind of service you will get by looking at the condition of the hangar itself, the ground support equipment, and the cleanliness of the ramp and hangar floor.”
Unpacking the Costs Involved
“Hangarage cost is an open ended question and depends entirely on your needs as an aircraft owner,” Reeves explains. Airports which are popular for various reasons will obviously attract higher fees.
Fees could be determined by the availability of customs and immigration, the availability and price of fuel, geographic location (and proximity to passengers’ end-destinations), hours of operation, and airport facilities, such as instrument landing systems for landing in poor weather conditions, etc.
“A small aircraft at a small airport, catering for recreational flying may cost a light aircraft owner only a few hundred dollars per month,” Reeves says. “A large business jet, on the other hand, such as a Gulfstream G600 or Bombardier Global 6000, could cost hundreds or even thousands of US dollars per day to park – and probably far above $10,000 per month, depending on the airport and the country.”
The cost will usually be driven by supply and demand, as well as the costs to the hangar-keeper themselves.
“Being based at a large international airport means that we would be paying a lot in rent,” Reeves continues. “This, together with the cost of labor, the running of a 24 hour operation, plus the consumables, diesel for tugs and GPUs, as well as the purchasing and maintaining of modern GSE all adds up.”
The best advice would be to get comparative quotes from more than one hangar-keeper, and to understand exactly what the price includes and excludes.
We asked Reeves if there was anything else to look out for, and what aircraft owners should avoid when choosing a hangar. He responded that it is important to ask whether the hangar-keeper guarantees parking inside the hangar.
“It is common for hangar-keepers to oversell their floor space in order to balance selling price with operating costs and profits. This is often done because aircraft are usually away from their base on trips, leaving vacant space in the hangar which the hangar-keepers then sell to sweat the assets,” he explains.
The potential downside to this, is that occasionally you may find that the hangar-keeper works on a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis when all of the aircraft happen to be back at base at the same time.
“Your aircraft could then be exposed to the elements, and we’re all aware that the African sun can be harsh, but not as harsh as the hail storms often experienced in Johannesburg during the summer.
“It may be a good idea to pay a slight premium to ensure guaranteed under-roof parking, rather than risk potentially costly damage and extended downtime to repair the damage caused by storms in order to save a few dollars per month on a multi-million dollar asset.”
So, in wrapping up, conduct a full due diligence of your hangar partner, asking the right questions. Pay attention to the smaller details, as it is those that can make a huge difference in the management of your aircraft.
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