Engine Overhaul Due? How to Plan Ahead

If an engine overhaul is due on your aircraft powerplants in the next year or so, now is the time to prepare. Duncan Aviation's Susie Corn and Elliott Aviation's Mike Saathoff share tips with Rebecca Applegarth...

Rebecca Applegarth  |  30th June 2020
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    Rebecca Applegarth
    Rebecca Applegarth

    Rebecca Applegarth has been brought up around Aviation for as long as she can remember. As a current...

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    Private Jet Wing and Engines in Maintenance Hangar

    Engine overhauls are a big deal involving substantial amounts of time and money. For such projects an equally significant amount of preparation and planning is required to ensure everything goes smoothly, and that the disruption to your own flight operation is minimized.

    “Preparations should begin with the person responsible for the aircraft,” Saathoff suggests, highlighting the importance for the flight department to take a proactive approach to the overhaul from the outset.

    “The aircraft operator’s representative is ultimately responsible to ensure a timely completion,” Corn adds. “This is likely to be the maintenance technician, the director of maintenance/operations, or the chief pilot.”

    Given the magnitude of the typical overhaul event, and depending on how a flight department’s particular budget system works, “engine overhaul preparations should start at least a year out so the operator can make a plan to pay for the expense,” Saathoff suggests.

    “Financial obligations are a significant disclaimer in deciding when to prepare for your engine overhaul,” Corn agrees. “Well in advance is advisable – at least a year, based on your average hourly usage.”

    What Should Preparations for an Overhaul Include?

    A crucial thing for the flight department to factor is whether the flight hours are likely to increase over the time leading up to the overhaul, since an increase in flying will bring forward the overhaul due date.

    Moreover, assessments should be made to determine what the pool of available replacement parts is like for a particular make/model powerplant. Similarly, what’s the availability of rental engines to keep you flying while the regular engines are overhauled?

    “Having the right rental engine insurance requirements and associated bailment agreements, logistics insurance coverage, and engine provider insurance coverages for the event – either on-site or at the engine provider's location – is vital when preparing for an engine overhaul,” Corn elaborates.

    “You should also consider potential Chapter 5 requirements that should be included during an engine’s removal, such as the engine mounts. This will help avoid the added cost to remove the engine again before it is necessary.”

    The coordination of tooling, shipping, support equipment for engine removals, potential engine pre- and post-run requirements, rental engine shipment and installation, and your engine installation upon completion of the overhaul are all additional and important considerations.

    “What’s more, it is important to understand the type of coverage the engines have, and any associated requirements for approval that are applicable over and above the costs,” Corn explains.

    Whether an engine is enrolled on a warranty and/or an hourly engine maintenance program or not will also create many variables. “We always advise that it would be extremely beneficial to speak with the experts at the [warranty/maintenance program] provider to fully understand any specific details relating to that – again, well ahead of time,” Corn says.

    “Proper planning for the overhaul can be an opportunity to understand the benefits and differences for the best [warranty] support for your engine event before, during, and into the future,” she argues.

    Finally, don’t overlook the need to request or perform a logbook search, which can either be completed onsite at your location (emailing the engine logbook scans to the MRO shop), or shipping the logbooks to your engine service provider. (If you ship the logbooks, it’s highly advisable to scan them first in case they get lost.)

    The Cheapest is Not Always The Best

    “It’s important to understand that sometimes the option that looks the most reasonable in terms of cost may not be the best option,” Saathoff explains. So time should be factored into the preparation process to explore the range of choices available and establish the correct one.

    “Options might include engine overhaul, engine upgrade, and replacement of engines with used or in-service engines,” Saathoff explains. “Here, the length of time the owner is planning to keep their aircraft will be vital to determining which option makes sense.”

    And while the airplane engines are being overhauled, “is the owner looking to accomplish any other work at the time (i.e. paint, interior, large inspections, or avionics installations)? Combining this work can usually save time and money for the customer.”

    Communication is Key

    Corn and Saathoff agree that, ultimately, it’s important to find an overhaul center you trust, working with them through the entire process. “It’s crucial to understand that in most engine situations there will be a cost that goes higher than you expected,” Saathoff elaborates. “Believing that won’t happen is not realistic, and can make this process more difficult.”

    Therefore, communication is key to the relationship. “Communicate and take advantage of what is offered by the service provider and engine overhaul facility,” he continues. 

    “A reputable facility will let you review all of the items that need to be replaced. But it helps if you ensure you understand the process and appreciate where the money is being spent.”

    “Communicate your expectations, and be available and responsive to your provider for a successful event,” Corn elaborates. “Communicate, too, with your provider if your usage hours increase or decrease impacting the schedule. And during the event, stay engaged with your provider to maintain the scheduled turn-time.”

    Keep Calm and Carry on…

    With all else planned and factored, Saathoff’s closing remark will help carry you through the process: “Stay calm throughout the process and communicate. This will lead to a positive engine overhaul experience.”

    More information from www.duncanaviation.com or www.elliottaviation.com

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