Buying a Jet? What to Know About the Engines

Top five engine items to understand when buying an aircraft

AvBuyer  |  15th February 2017
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    The AvBuyer editorial team includes Matt Harris and Rebecca Applegarth who contribute to a number of...

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    Bombardier Business Jet Engine

    With many variables including engine OEM, engine programs, parts obsolescence, maintenance history and more, doing your research ahead of time can help you avoid costly mistakes when buying a used jet for sale, says Mike Saathoff. What are some items that can make you a smarter buyer?

    Throughout the lifetime of an aircraft, the engines will probably be the most expensive item to maintain. Unfortunately, there is no simple one-size-fits-all solution to apply to every make and model of engine.

    Fully understanding your variables and knowing the right questions to ask your service center are critical considerations when selecting the best aircraft for your mission. Following are five key areas to focus on…

    1. Engine Times & Cycles

    The value of an engine depends upon the cost of complying with inspection and overhaul requirements, the time or cycles remaining before such requirements must be met, and the cost of components.

    In reviewing the engines of an aircraft you plan to purchase, make sure the seller has the current and up-to-date times and cycles of each engine, including the APUs (if applicable). These data are primarily tracked and documented in a flight log.

    Make sure all cycle-limited components are tracked. Numerous items inside a turbine engine are tracked independently and have different cycle-limited replacement or overhaul requirements.

    Someone on your team who is familiar with logbook research, or a knowledgeable consultant with similar skills, can determine if engine times and cycles are accurate. Such expertise will avoid costly mistakes.

    It is essential to check whether the aircraft engines are up-to-date on service bulletins (and if not, why not), to check for inconsistencies in engine times, and to evaluate recurring issues.

    2. Enrolment in a Program?

    There are many engine programs in the industry, including JSSI (Jet Support Services, Inc); Rolls-Royce CoroprateCare; Honeywell MSP (Maintenance Service Plan); Pratt & Whitney ESP (Eagle Service Plan); Williams TAP (Total Assurance Program); and more.

    With each program there will be many variables and options. Some programs are highly customizable for the customer, and could vary from covering a portion of the major events, to covering every possible expense the engine might incur.

    When purchasing an aircraft that is enrolled on an engine program, don’t assume total coverage - make sure you fully understand what is and what is not covered.

     Ask for a copy of the current engine maintenance agreement, and review this agreement with your engine representative or the program representative.

    When reviewing the agreement, ask the following questions:

    • Is the existing contract transferable?
    • What are my monthly costs?
    • What items are completely covered?
    • What items will I be responsible for at small and large engine events?
    • Does the program cover normal inspections and discrepancies?
    • Do I have to use a particular service provider to complete the service, or
    • Are there advantages to using certain providers?

    3. Maintenance History & Cost

    One item that some owners overlook is the engine maintenance history. The primary question should be whether they have been maintained by a reputable facility that carefully follows maintenance guidelines?

    Like many other items, much of this information can be obtained with thorough logbook research. Most aircraft are consistently serviced by the same facility. Check whether that facility has a good track record for the type of aircraft you’re purchasing.

    In order to establish any upcoming maintenance costs on the engines, you should be able to use all of the information gathered from the logbook research and supply that to your preferred maintenance provider, who should be able to provide you with an estimate of the upcoming maintenance costs on your engines, based on your estimated utilization.

    Aircraft owners need to understand where the engine is within its current lifecycle, and what upcoming events are coming up. You can then discuss any potential expenses with your planned maintenance provider or the agency providing the Pre-Purchase Inspection.

    4. Location & Operation

    The primary location of the aircraft during its prior operation can have a major impact on engine life and cost. Have the aircraft’s engines been operated in an extremely sandy environment, a corrosive (i.e. coastal salt air) environment, or in an area with significant pollution? Have they been exposed to the elements for a significant amount of time? These factors make a difference on the internal condition of the engine.

    Even more significant is if the engine has been run through a complete cycle recently and on a consistent basis (for long enough to get them to the appropriate operating temperatures to meet the engines’ needs). Does oil sufficiently coat all internal components requiring it, and have all areas been heated to remove the contaminants? Many times this is tracked in the engine or flight log.

     Each engine will have its own particular requirements for calendar limit between cycles – so consult the engine OEM’s manuals.

    Trend monitoring is often used to understand how an engine has been operated. Many of the current generation of avionics systems have digital trend monitoring that will track relevant parameters through all engine operations. Additionally, there are many aftermarket or manual-tracking methods that can be used.

    5. Understanding the Value of Installed Engines

    The items presented in this article impact the value of an aircraft’s engines, thus they greatly influence a buy or sell transaction. An additional factor is how and where engine maintenance was performed. Was it completed “on-wing” or “off-wing”, was the facility factory-authorized, and what is its reputation?

    Have the engines been modified? If so, do those modifications have an effect on the engine or airframe warranty? Aftermarket parts, facilities used to maintain the engine, and parts obsolescence all influence the value of the engine and the cost of repairs.

    An independent ASA Accredited aircraft appraiser is a valuable resource in determining engine value. ASA Accredited appraisers deal with valuing aircraft every day and are the most knowledgeable professionals in the industry.

     Gaining Full Understanding

    Fully understanding aircraft engines during a transaction can be difficult and time-consuming. However, working with an experienced maintenance provider and broker dealer to explain all the parameters will make a significant difference in your comfort level when making a decision.

    Ultimately, you have to make the decision that will be best for you. Do your research, talk to reputable shops and talk to other operators.

    Never feel pressured into a transaction without fully understanding all of your available options.

    Weigh the pros and cons and when you come to a conclusion, you will know that you made the right call!

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