- 26 Oct 2023
- David Wyndham
- Aircraft Ownership
When buying or selling a private aircraft, it is important to have the right people at your side to lead you through an extremely complex process. René Armas Maes provides an overview of the key players, this month focusing on the maintenance specialist...Back to Articles
While there are individuals who will join your aircraft sale or acquisition team specifically to help lead you through the transaction process, others may already be part of a more permanent team, or be appointed for a longer-term position. Specifically, they are the members of your flight department, including your chief pilot and/or maintenance specialist.
As we have explored in previous articles, having maintenance expertise will be vital through various processes of the transaction, including helping to set reasonable expectations for the maintenance condition of the aircraft you are buying or selling.
In the case of a maintenance specialist on the seller’s team, they will be able to advise on essential work that should be undertaken before the aircraft is placed on the market for sale.
The maintenance specialist’s actual presence on pre-buy test flights (in which equipment and systems are checked and reviewed) and at the Pre-Purchase Inspection will also be essential to both buyers and sellers.
On a day-to-day basis, a flight department’s maintenance specialist will collaborate closely with flight operations to ensure a culture of safety and efficiency. They are responsible for ensuring the aircraft’s dispatch reliability is optimal, overseeing quality assurance to maintain the highest levels of workmanship and safety.
It is they who will ensure company policies and FAA regulatory requirements are complied with, and the aircraft remains airworthy.
Ultimately, they will have a keen sense where anything about a potential aircraft acquisition doesn’t add up in the case of the buyer’s team.
When representing the buyer, the maintenance specialist should be able to demonstrate knowledge of the specific aircraft make/model being acquired, and have all the important questions to ask regarding its maintenance programs (engines, APUs, airframe and/or avionics), as well as any upgrades and retrofits since the airplane was factory new.
If you are a first-time buyer planning to establish your own flight department, then you are going to want to make sure you recruit the right maintenance professional to assist – one with whom you can have an ongoing, fruitful relationship long after the acquisition.
The types of qualifications and experience you require from a maintenance specialist may vary, depending on the type of operation you intend to run, the complexity of the aircraft you seek to acquire, the number of aircraft within the flight department, and the total number of hours you intend to fly the aircraft annually.
If your home airport does not offer maintenance capabilities for your specific aircraft type, having a more qualified mechanic in-house will be of greater importance.
Beyond the transaction itself, the aircraft mechanic you hire will ultimately be responsible for maintaining inventory of parts, tracking and scheduling maintenance events, documenting and approving procedures for aircraft release.
They will maintain and manage the company's maintenance hangar and facilities, and ensure the aircraft’s logs and records are complete, presenting no potential problems when it comes to the time of resale.
Ultimately, by the time the aircraft is made available for resale, the maintenance specialist will be intimately familiar with every aspect of the aircraft and prove a rich resource for answers to anything maintenance-related that comes up throughout the transaction.
Should you need to appoint a maintenance specialist to your team to manage the aircraft you plan to acquire, let’s consider the process for appointing one.
Figure 1 - Metrics for measuring aircraft mechanic qualifications
For Part 91 and/or 135 operations, it’s important that a Director of Maintenance has a current Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) License, a bachelor’s degree in aviation management or related field, or more than 10 years’ experience working in aircraft maintenance and/or inspections.
In addition, expertise of FAA regulations relating to aircraft maintenance, advanced skills and knowledge of aircraft parts management and fluency, and knowledge of applicable industry-specific software tools is important. And preferably (but not essentially) the candidate would ideally have some experience as a Director of Maintenance elsewhere.
When ranking potential candidates, a strong maintenance specialist should be able to demonstrate sound technical and business knowledge, and experience in the areas covered above.
Upon completing the initial screening, proceed to rank the remaining applicants based on their personal qualifications and perceived suitability for the position. For this key maintenance position, a weighted score may be applied, as shown above in Figure 1.
Finally, as candidates are interviewed and shortlisted, proceed to re-rank them, conduct final interviews, and proceed to negotiate fees. In terms of compensation, the package can be influenced by several factors, including experience, fleet type and complexity, type of operation (Part 91 and/or 135) and more.
Nevertheless, once you have a good maintenance professional on the team, you’ll be in a stronger position to acquire a healthy aircraft, maintain its optimal performance capabilities and offer a clean, well looked-after jet further down the line when the time comes to resell it.