It’s puzzling that in such a dynamic relationship between OEMs, Service Centers and business jet owners, there’s hesitation in smoothing the complexities out, notes Andre Fodor. What are the solutions to fulfilling customer expectations when it comes to business jet maintenance?
It’s interesting how new aircraft deliveries typically occur at year-end. There are several contributing factors to this, including companies realizing their profits in Q4 and determining their ability to make a large purchase towards the end of the fiscal year.
Here in the US, I believe the government is at fault for being too late in renewing a valuable fiscal tool designed to motivate large purchases such as corporate aircraft; it should be available year-round to foster earlier sales and allow for more early- and mid-year deliveries.
Yet it’s not all the fault of the government. The OEMs, hungry to eliminate the possibility of white tails on their ramps are eager to discount pricing as the year progresses. If they were to correct their pricing from the early months of the year, there would perhaps be less hesitation from buyers to make a move earlier, and sales would be spread more evenly throughout the year.
The knock-on effect of the uneven spread of deliveries is less obvious, but significant. For example, aircraft tend to receive their airworthiness certificates in the same time period causing maintenance cycle clocks to begin ticking at the same time.
So 12, 24 or 36 months later, you find many airplanes with maintenance coming due that flood the service centers with an uneven workload.
What's the Solution?
This can be harmonized; it just takes a little coaching. By coaching operators and owners, the OEM can begin to spread out the jet’s certification and balance maintenance-due cycles.
This would reduce the strain that causes an increase in labor costs and decreases the return-to-service quality.
With education, any seasoned operator will see that offsetting inspections against the rest of the fleet will generate a quicker return-to-service - and hence lower the overall costs.
Another coaching opportunity comes in teaching customers how to manage their expectations. It is acceptable – particularly with brand-new airplanes – for customers to show up at service centers unannounced and expect prompt attention when a critical maintenance issue causes a potential AOG situation.
However, when that same operator decides, having arrived at the facility, to have a variety of additional squawks containing non-critical items addressed (squawks that should be kept for the scheduled maintenance events), the result will lead to unfulfilled expectations.
It becomes essential for the OEM to educate the aircraft owner as to the goal of an ‘unscheduled maintenance stop’ – i.e., to return the aircraft back into ‘revenue mode’, setting a clear understanding and harmonizing expectations of the OEM and the customer.
A laundry list of pocketed unscheduled squawks must therefore always be received with the caveat, “time and workload permitting”.
Since an jet’s maintenance clocks start ticking upon certification, it follows that the OEM has the information to predict upcoming scheduled maintenance events. Yet it has always intrigued me as to the lack of a proactive process-monitoring and forecasting of due-dates in order to schedule upcoming work with customers.
Through pre-planning, an OEM and its service center network can gain business, and spread workload through its service centers to help clear bottlenecks.
Incentives may be required to persuade customers to move their aircraft to a more distant (but less busy) shop, but again - through education - the benefits can be explained quite tangibly.
On the flip side of the coin, however, customers must also be prepared to plan. Not scheduling shop-time in advance when it’s clear the maintenance due-date is approaching shows an amateur approach to aircraft management. (In our Flight Department we schedule inspections six month in advance, fine-tuning the exact date with the flight schedule.)
So, Who’s At Fault?
It’s puzzling that in such a dynamic relationship between OEMs, Aircraft Maintenance Providers, Service Centers and Jet owners, there’s hesitation in smoothing the complexities out.
In a good marriage, you have to invest, modify, tailor and settle many of times as the relationship changes and matures. Aircraft ownership is no different - requiring long-term investment and commitment. Communication becomes essential.
When nurtured, it will fulfill all of your expectations and further your business through growth and positivity. That’s got to be worth working for!