- 05 Oct 2021
- Matt Harris
Aircraft refurbishment is a fact of life for aircraft owners. While the scope of a refurbishment can be minimal or significant, the impact is often high, meaning you’ll want to avoid these three aircraft refurbishment mistakes…Back to Articles
Aircraft refurbishment can be a relatively minor process, or highly detailed. And depending on the type and size of the refurbishment it can also be a lengthy process. Refurbishments can add significant value to an aircraft, perhaps increasing its lifespan. Equally, a poorly planned refurbishment can detract from value.
Private owners who fly the aircraft themselves can personalize their aircraft refurbishment more extensively than operators of fleet aircraft, who may prefer to refurbish their aircraft for branding purposes, helping keep a consistent look and feel throughout the aircraft fleet.
Most aircraft owners will seek to refurbish their aircraft at some point during the ownership cycle. However, there are some common mistakes to be aware of and avoid when refurbishing your aircraft. Following, we’ll consider some of these…
1) Poor Insight into the Condition and History of the Aircraft
One of the most common problems encountered is that owner or operator does not have a detailed history of the aircraft. Operators and owners need a comprehensive insight into an aircraft’s current and future maintenance status for future refurbishments to be successful.
Owners should have access to complete logbooks. This is critical to not only understanding what’s due, but what is overdue.
An owner or operator will also need to communicate where the aircraft is being stored, and what conditions it faces. If it spends most of its time outdoors facing the elements, the MRO will need this information to effectively plan the refurbishment and know what else to look out for.
The MRO center might also be able to include various other touch-ups while the aircraft is undergoing its refurbishment.
“The most common mistake people make is to leave the aircraft’s exterior bare skin surfaces exposed for too long,” said Francois Denton, Director at Executive Aircraft Refurbishment. “This leads to corrosion build-up, and possible rivet and skin replacement.
“This can be prevented by treating and painting the exposed areas right away as they appear.”
2) Failing to Consider the Age of the Aircraft
An aging aircraft will need different attention at different times in its lifespan. It is essential to consult with the MRO and have the logbooks ready to choose the correct refurbishment.
“This also depends on whether the aircraft has been hangared most of its life, or was standing outside in the open weather,” Denton explains. “In the case of an aircraft being left outside for most of its life, we will recommend refurbishing the complete interior and to paint strip and respray the exterior.”
The reason for this much of the time is “the interior leather, woodwork, panels, etc. which become faded, cracked, or brittle from the sun”, and interior plastic trims that “tend to lose their original shape and qualities,” explains Denton.
The exterior of an aging aircraft will also need to be examined. For aircraft left outside to face the elements, “we will recommend a complete paint strip, corrosion inspection and treatment (e.g. Intergranular Corrosion, Stress Corrosion, Crevice Corrosion, Pitting Corrosion).
“In most cases, corrosion is barely noticed by anyone, but it can make an aircraft unairworthy in just a few months,” Denton warns.
“Corrosion can start overnight and become a concern incredibly rapidly, especially if it is hidden on the inside of the fuselage or flight controls – and especially if left untreated.”
For aircraft hangared for the larger part of their life, and well looked after, “we will do an inspection and recommend a partial interior refurbishment, which will only include select interior items which needs to be refurbished or replaced,” he adds.
“The exterior will also only receive spot repairs and paint blendings on damaged or flaking areas. In these cases, some clients prefer the original styles and colors of the older aircraft, preferring to keep them as original as possible. Others prefer to modernize their older aircraft, depending on personal preference.”
3) You’re Basing a Refurbishment on Cost Alone…
While budget is most certainly key when it comes to refurbishments, tight purse-strings can lead to more exaggerated problems at a later stage in the aircraft’s lifespan. Hence it’s essential to know what is due, and when it is due.
If you consult your MRO closely, you will most likely be able to fit in an additional refurbishment that is due with the planned one.
It’s also important to not scrimp on the quality of the refurbishment. Your MRO should be well established and have a good reputation in the industry. A “cheap job” done by amateurs can negatively impact your aircraft and have incredibly damaging effects on it.
Basic technique of performing a refurbishment is also key. Once again, choose an MRO with a good reputation. Something as apparently simple as a full valet could damaging the aircraft if it’s not done correctly.
In fact, some types of refurbishment actually add value to the aircraft, justifying the cost of a well-executed upgrade.
“A complete interior and exterior refurbishment is certainly one of the biggest value adds,” Denton shares. “Not just only for the look and feel of a new aircraft, but also because the lifespan of the aircraft is now extended.”
For the most surprisingly effective, and even cost-effective ways that make a significant impact on the aircraft value, Denton recommends looking at the small things.
“By just treating corrosion, or doing exterior paint touch-ups as the damage appears, you will make a huge difference,” he explains. “Cleaning and polishing the exterior often will also keep damaging grit off the paint, extending its lifespan.
“Lastly, simply repairing any interior items faults as soon as they appear will make a difference,” Denton concludes. “Should your aircraft be available for sale, the first thing buyers will do is to inspect the aircraft to see how many defects can be found to lower the value of your aircraft.”
Before embarking on a refurbishment, it’s important to do your research first. Have a keen insight into the condition, and history of the aircraft. Map out a time and create a plan that will reduce the amount of downtime for the aircraft.
Most importantly, choose the right MRO partner for your refurbishment project. You will want a partner who is an established brand in the industry and has a good reputation with other operators and owners.
Without thorough planning and research, you may end up spending more on fixing the damage done to the aircraft than on the refurbishment itself.
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