Scheduled Inspection Due? Your Knowledge is Power

Throughout his aviation career, data-gathering, analysis and application became increasingly important professional requirements for Andre Fodor, including when ensuring a successful scheduled inspection for the airplane. Here's how...

Andre Fodor  |  16th March 2021
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Andre Fodor
Andre Fodor

With a focused approach on global excellence and creativity, Andre Fodor has managed flight operations...

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A mechanic refers to a checklist as he inspects a turboprop engine

Do you have a scheduled inspection coming up? Knowledge - derived from data-gathering - is key to a successful MRO shop visit. Here's why...

Data provides the foundation for decisions and forecasts, and the leverage to answer difficult questions received from our board of directors. As I grew in the knowledge of data-gathering, I found data confirmed my hunches and theories. Today, I share it with other aviation managers and service providers who share the goal of contributing towards reliability and operational cost reduction in Business Aviation.

Data-gathering is multifaceted: From collecting fuel burn data and costs on a spreadsheet, documenting trip purposes and aircraft maintenance issues in a database, it can all be analyzed and used. As with a screwdriver, you don’t have to be an expert on its use, but you should know how to hold one.

Data allows us to identify the high cost centers (maintenance, if not managed correctly, can easily take the lead in this regard). Refining the data provides insights into what causes costs to soar. And it helps us make key decisions, quickly.

As an example, on one occasion when we encountered an AOG situation in Helsinki, Finland, it required a replacement part from France, a mechanic from Portugal and an inspector from the US to be dispatched quickly and fix the malfunction.

These could seem like a major expense – and indeed it was. But, the data allowed us to understand how the cost to charter and the loss of business revenue would far exceeded the AOG expense. As an aviation manager, if you know the numbers then you’re able to make the best decision, quickly.

Applying Data to Scheduled Inspections

With that in mind, let’s apply data management to enhancing scheduled aircraft maintenance. If your aim is to reduce costs and make planned and effective management decisions, this can help. Scheduled inspection has two main components:

  1. Required inspection items (as outlined in the inspection and maintenance manual) and
  2. Findings that result of the scheduled inspection.

The maintenance provider will quote a price, based on the inspection tasks. You can request a breakdown of each individual task and the expected labor hours. The summation of all labor hours will give you a good idea of the turn-around time before the airplane is ready to return to flying.

That’s all well and good, but the inspection quote doesn’t include the additional cost of labor, parts and materials to repair any finding resulting from the inspection.

Suppose that you have a task requiring the visual inspection of a bracket in the landing gear bay. The inspection quotes six hours of labor to gain access to the bracket, inspect it and close the access up again.

Now imagine if a minor crack is found in the bracket… You could choose between repair and non-destructive testing (NDT), or full replacement of the part. Both will incur additional labor hours and materials.

Your choice could be based on how long each repair type takes, price, or what you ultimately want the records to show at the end of the repair. In any event, you should get a breakdown of the repair costs, which may be priced as fixed, variable, or 'not to exceed'.

When reviewing this data, beware of repetitious charges. For example, an inspection requires the removal of your landing gear wheels. If you have also elected to do a Service Bulletin (SB) to change a protective sleeve on the same wheels, both tasks require the removal of the wheel, and each task includes labor cost for its removal.

An aircraft mechanic examines a private jet's engine with a torch

As aviation manager, it’s your job to review this data and spot the ‘double charges’, fine-tuning them to establish that both tasks require the same labor to remove and re-install.

As you prepare for your scheduled maintenance event, review all upcoming inspection tasks, document them, and have the provider prepare a work-scope and financial proposal. The final proposal will then give you the opportunity to understand and discuss the upcoming charges and to negotiate pricing that may arise from additional labor hours.

Remember, you have not committed to anyone yet, and, if you are soliciting quotes from different facilities this is an opportunity to give a valued maintenance provider a chance to revisit their quote before you accept one.

Armed with the knowledge of the upcoming inspections tasks, you can give your team the opportunity to perform a pre-inspection, identifying or predicting the possible findings that may need to be corrected (or better, negotiated before your airplane arrives at the MRO facility for maintenance).

Open to Discussion

As the inspection process begins, findings may be open to discussion. Inspectors identify what they perceive to be a discrepancy, but may not understand what the criteria is for the finding.

During one inspection, the mechanic wrote up several stainless steel rod connectors as being corroded. As we examined the findings, we noticed that what was identified as ‘corrosion’ was a nearly microscopic speck with no metal penetration. We requested that the part be cleaned and re-inspected. Upon re-inspection, the corrosion findings vanished with the speck.

You are strongly recommended to have your seasoned Director of Maintenance, or in the absence of one, a freelance maintenance expert accompany your jet during any inspection. They will have the knowledge and data to question (within reason) any non-clear-cut findings, and understand the criteria and tolerances.

And, never shy away from requesting an engineering assessment – it’s unfair (to everybody) to expect deep knowledge of every detail in a task.

In Summary

We are mandated - both by law and ethical professionalism – to seek only the best when maintaining the aircraft we manage and fly. There is room to balance costs with excellence, but learn to be savvy without being antagonistic, and back yourself up with data and information. Develop strong professional bonds and the respect of everyone working around you.

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Read More About: Aircraft Maintenance | MRO | Aircraft Ownership | Turboprops

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