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You’ve had an ‘incident’ - but what happens next? Unfortunately- aviation accidents and incidents happen - and it’s something we should all be prepared to deal with. Here- we’ll look at what happens when an aircraft has an incident (as opposed to an accident). An accident is a completely different matter from an incident: simply stated- according to the FAA and OEMs- ‘Accident is defined as damage caused to an aircraft during the operation of an aircraft at which time the ...

AvBuyer   |   1st August 2009
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Aircraft Damage
You’ve had an ‘incident’ - but what happens next?

Unfortunately- aviation accidents and incidents happen - and it’s something we should all be prepared to deal with. Here- we’ll look at what happens when an aircraft has an incident (as opposed to an accident).

An accident is a completely different matter from an incident: simply stated- according to the FAA and OEMs- ‘Accident is defined as damage caused to an aircraft during the operation of an aircraft at which time the aircraft- crew and/or passengers were injured and the aircraft was damaged as a result’. An ‘Incident’ on the other hand is defined as ‘damage to an aircraft without passenger or crew injuries’.

The above are very brief definitions- but more detailed explanation is available from the FAA or NTSB. Following an incident the crew must prepare the required documents for the FAA and NTSB according to their requirements. These documents can be downloaded from the FAA and NTSB websites at www.FAA.gov and www.NTSB.gov.

Once an incident has occurred many operators are faced with questions of what to do next. The first step any operator should adhere to is to contact the OEM or OEM Authorized Service Facility (ASF). Many operators will wonder why they ought to go to the OEM to repair a smashed winglet (for example) when the local FBO could easily fix the problem- without charging the rates that the OEM charges. The answer is simple though - the OEM having your best interest at heart. Before you start laughing- I’ll elaborate…

Firstly- it’s in the best interest of the OEM to have its fleet flying- thus providing visual presence within the flying community. Once an aircraft is down- they want to get it back in the air. For this reason- the OEM is prepared and equipped to assist any operator when required.

Further- in many instances this will not be the first time your particular incident has occurred- and the OEM will more-than-likely have an established system in place to address your specific incident effectively.

Andy Nureddin- vice president- Customer Services and Support- Bombardier told World Aircraft Sales Magazine- “Being an active OEM ensures we have 24/7 coverage on our aircraft through our Customer Response Center (CRC). Through our CRC team we have direct access to our Field Service Representatives (FSR)- engineering- technical support- procurement- flight standards- plus any other department required throughout the process of getting the aircraft back into the air where it belongs.”

The CRC team begins by supplying the operator with the necessary forms required to obtain the most thorough information to properly assess the damage from the incident. With access to FSR’s they can be in place in a relatively short time to assist the operator with the report and assessment of the damage.

“No matter where your incident has occurred- an FSR will be able to get to you and provide you with factory assistance on site - even if it happened in Timbuktu-” Nureddin added.

With the forms completed- the next stage would be for the OEM to conduct a comprehensive review the incident. In most cases the OEM will already have a generic Repair Order ready which can then be shipped to the service center for immediate action. The results are manifold including reduced down-time and optimized maintenance impact (since a repair may have recurring inspection requirements- but the OEM will work to reduce or even eliminate these).

Engineering analysis will ensure fit- form and function- and address matters of tolerances and other unforeseen problems. For example; even though a landing gear looks good from the outside- it doesn’t mean the internal workings aren’t damaged from the incident. The OEM’s engineering will be able to assess this and prevent a potential problem later in time since they likely have had experience in this incident or in one very similar.

“A dedicated project co-ordinator will be assigned to the aircraft and will have the duty of co-ordinating between all the various departments within the OEM to complete the repair- thus providing a single point of contact for the operator-” Nureddin explained.

And with aircraft today containing more composite structures than earlier aircraft- special attention is required for more intensive assessments. Composite repairs are far more complex than repairs with metal- and they require additional oversight to ensure the assembly is properly repaired.

Two of the biggest advantages I can think of in support of OEMs are their history and databases. No third party provider can compare their background to the OEM. They have records going back to the inception of the particular aircraft model and have direct access to this vault of information.

“Bombardier also maintains and tracks a complete history on all our aircraft by serial number-” Nureddin revealed. The OEM will stay with the project until it is complete and will even provide dedicated flight test pilots to ensure full compliance and safety of flight.

Any time an incident occurs- one of the most perplexing issues of concern to the owner/operator is residual value. Once the repair is completed- the aircraft records and logs must legally list the incident and how it was repaired in order to ensure safety of flight on an ongoing basis. Most owners/operators automatically assume the asset value will decrease after an incident.

Let’s look at why- and what causes decreased residual value. Damage history to an aircraft automatically categorizes it as troublesome. Some repairs - but not all - have recurring inspection requirements- and this- in turn- will increase inspection costs during scheduled servicing. But to assume all damages are troublesome is something of a stigma within our industry.

With the OEM involved in the incident rectification- they will diligently work to minimize- or even eliminate any recurring inspections. Even if additional inspections are required- in many cases they are minor in detail. There have even been cases in the past where a repair ends up making a part or assembly even more robust.

Additional doublers to a damaged area will actually increase the strength of that area thus ensuring no future problems - so theoretically- some repairs should actually increase the value of the aircraft- but this is not the case. The fact is that determining residual value is more of an art than a science - and as such the value will usually decrease.

The human mindset automatically assumes that a damaged unit will never be as good as a new or previously un-damaged unit. The point I’m trying to make is to NOT look at a damaged aircraft history as always being a negative. Of course there are exceptions to this rule- such as fire damage- or extensive water damage. These can hide problems for many years- but a ‘ding’ here or there is no reason to assume an ongoing problem with a particular aircraft - especially if it has been repaired with the oversight of the factory; is repaired to factory standards- utilizing factory parts; and is reviewed by factory engineering.

As I have stated in many past articles- due diligence will go a long way in understanding the history of an aircraft. If you are in the market for a pre-owned aircraft and the listing contains details of damage history- take the time to review that history.

Examine the paperwork and consider the five ‘Ws’ concerning the rectification: Who- What- When- Where and Why.

• Who did the repair (OEM/ASF or third-party)?
• What caused the damage and what was done to rectify it?
• When was it done?
• Where was the repair done?
• Why are there recurring inspections- or not?

Damage history doesn’t have to result in problems down the road.

Also interesting to note: insurance companies will provide coverage to a repaired aircraft at the same market value as any other aircraft. They generally will request the history of the damage and repair in order to provide a proper risk assessment- but if the aircraft has been repaired at the OEM/ASF then this will greatly reduce the risk for the policy provider.

There are exceptions to this rule of thumb- such as trying to get a ‘flying submarine’ (water damaged) back in the air… many insurance providers have a hard time with that one. The term damage has been very loosely used in the past- so how do we define it? If a wing is substantially damaged beyond repair and a new wing is installed from the factory will it make the aircraft fly differently? No - and you ultimately end up with a newer wing. The issue is not whether the aircraft is damaged substantially- moderately or lightly- but how and where it was repaired.

Ultimately- we hope to have outlined how best to approach and rectify an aircraft following an incident. Spend a little more on having and damage repaired by the OEM/ASF - it’ll reflect better long term on the records- and earn more kudos when dealing with insurance issues.

Neither should damage put a prospective buyer off from purchasing an aircraft if a repair has been carried out to the highest standards. A properly repaired aircraft will still provide as many hours of service for any professional operation as any other aircraft would. In many cases it’s simply human nature that dictates reduced residual value as a result of a repair due to damage.

John Brodeur is an Aviation Consultant with experience in Completion Management- Interior Design- Maintenance- Sales and Acquisitions- along with being a Pilot and A&P for business aircraft.

Mr. Brodeur can be contacted at Tel: +1 647-448-4748 (cell) or Email: john@avbro.com

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