Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization (CAMO) is a term originating in Europe, but today is used across continents, according to Gamit’s Nadeem Muhiddin. So what is it, and what could it mean to an aircraft operator?
Essentially CAMO is an approval given by a National Aviation Authority (NAA) to a maintenance company within its region that demonstrates the firm meets certain criteria. The CAMO designation, also referred to as Part-M, was introduced in 2003 and slowly it became mandatory for all EU-registered aircraft to be supported by a CAMO-approved company.
The role of a Continuing Airworthiness Management Organization ultimately requires handling liaisons with authorities on behalf of an aircraft owner; finding solutions to maintenance problems with OEMs; delving into the aircraft manuals; assessing Airworthiness Directives and Service Bulletins; tendering management for maintenance input; and performing on-site aircraft surveys as well as record audits.
In certain scenarios the CAMO may be on-site during heavy maintenance as the aircraft representative overseeing the technical aspects. It’s common for aircraft owners to refer to a technical representative - the back office engineering department handling all of the planning and paperwork for engineering - as CAMO.
Only a decade ago, any semi-retired aircraft engineer could take on the engineering planning and maintenance management for a client with a private aircraft in Europe. The introduction of CAMO has helped to regulate this niche, and today in order for an engineer to offer such services for an EASA-registered, mid-weight turbine aircraft, they must gain CAMO approval.
To obtain that CAMO approval an organization must establish that it has the required NAA-approved caliber of employees with the relevant level of training and experience; plan a training program for the staff; have adequate office facilities; and have a secure IT infrastructure with all necessary protocols in place - all of which may mean the semi-retired engineer may want to reconsider how and when they retire!
Not Just for Europe
Since its inception, the concept of CAMO has been catching on, and slowly the authorities of other countries are following EASA’s lead, including the United Arab Emirates. In fact, most regulatory authorities are starting to align themselves with EASA rulemaking in this area.
Having received approval from the UK’s CAA, Gamit can take responsibility of any EASA-registered aircraft within its approval list, and its CAMO approval is also recognized by many other National Aviation Authorities around the world that have followed the EASA rulemaking of Part-M. As an example, the Bermuda and Cayman Islands authorities have followed EASA with CAMO, and broadly speaking are very similar in their rules regarding Continued Airworthiness.
The fact that CAMO is mandatory for EASA-registered aircraft does not mean that an N-Registered aircraft (for example) cannot have its engineering responsibilities covered by a CAMO-approved organization.
The CAMO approval in this instance would simply show that the company that is handling the responsibility for the airworthiness of the N-Registered aircraft has been formally approved by EASA, while providing the operator peace of mind that there is an NAA performing regular audits on the service provider ensuring its practices remain at a satisfactory level.
Are All CAMOs Equal?
Not all CAMOs around Europe operate the same, and consequently different service-levels exist. Ultimately it’s up to the NAA to audit the CAMOs as often as required to ensure that a minimum acceptable level of support is provided by an approved organization. An operator interested in placing their aircraft with a CAMO should be asking how a facility not only meets the requirements set by the NAA, but looks to exceed them.
One factor that is becoming clear to the technical team at Gamit is the growing reliance on IT systems within aircraft maintenance. There are mainstream maintenance tracking systems in the Business Aviation industry that provide a very important tool. As with all IT systems, however, the information is only as good as the last piece of data inputted.
We’ve found on occasion, when taking over the CAMO from previous providers, that quality control and attention to detail is sometimes lacking; never to a critical extent, but when operating an aircraft, maintenance is often one of the three most-expensive elements of operation. If maintenance tasks become redundant or can be consolidated into bigger checks, this will make for far more efficient maintenance input, and result in a cost and time saving to the aircraft operator.
As an example, last year we took on two aircraft for which we could amend the Maintenance Program to offer the customer a cost-saving.
This was something the previous provider could have offered, but being a CAMO is a time-intensive requirement, and unless the time put into the maintenance planning and constant assessment is justified, maintenance costs can rise unnecessarily.
Summary of CAMO
The CAMO is employed by either the aircraft owner directly or by the operator, depending on how the owner wishes to handle their aircraft. In regards to the CAMO, it is their responsibility to plan and coordinate all maintenance activities and to keep the aircraft airworthy as much as possible. Broadly speaking this means:
• Forecasting planned maintenance work;
• Reliability assessment;
• Ensuring the maintenance provider can begin and finish works within the planned down-time.
All of the above keeps the owner happy, safe in the knowledge they can use their aircraft as much as they like outside of maintenance downtime.
The CAMO should always maintain contact with preferred maintenance providers (Part 145 organizations) of which it is typical to have at least three-optional companies to go to at any one time (see Diagram A, below). In the event there is a fault on the aircraft, the CAMO should be in a position of knowledge as to where the aircraft can be referred to efficiently rectify the issue.
Ultimately, a good CAMO-approved company should be the eyes and ears for an aircraft operator, and know exactly what’s going on technically with the aircraft - past, present and future. Significant levels of trust are afforded a company looking after the maintenance of an aircraft. If you choose to place your aircraft with a CAMO, you should ensure that your trust is well placed.