Maintenance work is unavoidable for any aircraft owner, but the experience differs depending on your management of the event. How can you ensure the best aircraft maintenance experience? Aviation Director Andre Fodor offers tips.
Maintenance work is an unavoidable reality for any aircraft owner. The quality of the maintenance shop experience depends on your management of the event. Aviation Director Andre Fodor offers tips on how to ensure a smooth ride from a complex process…
Advancements in aircraft design and engineering have delivered higher reliability and longer component life. Engines, parts and avionics have become smaller, more powerful, more reliable and cheaper. Yet, they’ve also become more complex to understand and troubleshoot.
Given that inspections and maintenance are required to keep aircraft flying legally and safely, scheduling your next maintenance event requires attention to detail, careful pre-planning, excellent paperwork skills, and some measure of preparation for the surprises that will likely come up along the way.
So what are some of the best practices when scheduling a maintenance event? Following are some of my experiences…
Pre-Planning the Maintenance Work
Pre-planning is just as important as the quality of the maintenance facility you will use. Knowledge of your aircraft’s due cycles will give a clear understanding of the required downtime.
Even when purchasing an aircraft you must consider how the selected aircraft’s maintenance cycles will fit your department’s operational style. In a multiple aircraft operation, aircraft should ideally have different maintenance due dates, thus ensuring aircraft are not grounded at the same time.
It’s also good practice not to wait to schedule upcoming due maintenance.
Don’t be the operator that calls a maintenance shop a few days before a major inspection comes due to schedule a slot. That’s a sure way of paying a high cost and having a longer-than-desirable downtime.
Schedule your next inspection at least six months ahead. By doing so, you’ll have the best chance of guaranteeing the slot you want, and you can then fine-tune the shop visit to meet your trip demands.
Having scheduled the maintenance, seek to conduct monthly meetings that include the maintenance provider to discuss the upcoming work-scope. Use the meetings to begin drafting work orders and receive quotes.
This is the time to look at your discretionary maintenance list and identify what can be incorporated during the planned down-time (i.e. ‘good-to-have’ Service Bulletins, cabin upgrades or a corrosion inspection). Use the meetings to ensure everything is planned within the allocated downtime.
Internally, however, it is wise to also plan in a few extra days for unexpected issues or delays.
As the maintenance inception day approaches, all work should have been fully discussed and expectations outlined by all parties.
As Maintenance Inception Arrives...
When the aircraft arrives at the maintenance shop, work orders should be examined for every discrepancy and task and a thorough review be undertaken of what was written. No issues should be left as a verbal instruction only.
You should also have a very specific ‘Do Not’ list: “Do Not update databases without asking for our download keys”, for example.
It will be essential to have an overseer monitor the maintenance process. Although not a mechanic, for many years I stayed at the maintenance facility reviewing tasks, checking paperwork and ultimately learning a great deal about the process.
On an expensive asset like an aircraft, someone needs to be present to provide quality control, keep an eye on the aircraft and make sure that everything is protected (for example, no greasy hands should touch the interior, and aircraft avionics and displays should not be left powered-up for days).
Work should not stop because nobody is present to answer a question or another aircraft has arrived, suddenly, for a “quick” AOG fix.
The maintenance facility should provide you with accurate quotes, delivery times and the hourly rates for additional man-hours. You should be comfortable with the description of the work to be performed (which should be well detailed in the work proposal) and with the terms of warranty.
Once the quotes have been reviewed, and well ahead of the aircraft’s maintenance start date, pricing and terms can be discussed. There may be room for negotiation and small ‘good-will’ add-ons.
Before all the work is completed and the airplane is ready for RTO, it’s a good idea to request a pre-invoice meeting in which charges can be reviewed and discussed before they become part of the final payable invoice.
It requires knowledge, patience and a cool head to weather maintenance events. Costs and charges can snowball into major expenditure if not managed adequately.
Having a structured approach to your maintenance will help reduce surprises and down-time, and (most importantly) keep your stomach healthy to enjoy the free meals and socializing that is a part of every trip to a maintenance shop!