Business aircraft ownership is expensive, and there are some areas that can seem tempting to economize on. Preventative maintenance shouldn't be one of them, as Rebecca Applegarth highlights…
The flight department may feel pressure from the finance department to justify costs and demonstrate ability to cut expenses on the operating budget. Or, the busy demands on an aircraft’s schedule may create time pressures within the flight department. There are certain areas that should never be compromised or overlooked, however. Maintenance is one of them - and in partucular, preventative maintenance.
Preventive maintenance can involve regularly performed checks and maintenance measures on a business jet that will lessen, or prevent, the need for more expensive maintenance costs later.
While the time spent on preventative maintenance may seem like an added pressure on a busy flight operation, and the small additional costs may seem ripe for cutting, they will often pay in the long run.
So, what are the more common areas of preventative maintenance that an operator should focus on? Following are five that the experts at Duncan Aviation and Elliott Aviation shared...
1. Use High Quality Fuel
One of the most preventable maintenance issues is caused by the development of bio-organic contaminants in an aircraft's fuel system, which can lead to clogged filters, damaged fuel pumps, and corrosion. The most effective means of limiting this type of contamination is utilizing quality fuel and regularly sumping fuel.
Taking the time to sump your fuel regularly will help identify early stages of bio growth, rid the fuel tanks of minor contaminants, and remove unwanted water from the fuel system.
Sumping is a straightforward process and could save you tens of thousands in repair costs. By comparison, the repairs needed for contaminant removal and corrosion repair are very intrusive, leading to longer inspection downtimes and increased maintenance costs.
2. Balance Your Props
Another common preventable maintenance issue with turboprop owners is cracking to the cowling (and its attaching structures). This can be prevented by balancing your propellers correctly.
You can complete a prop balance during your next scheduled inspection, or when you first notice signs of vibrations or cracking. Sooner is probably better than later, however.
Balancing a propeller can be accomplished for about $1,500 and could save you thousands in structural repairs further down the line.
3. Service Your Tires Properly
Incorrectly serviced tires can be a hazard for numerous reasons. It’s important to check tire pressure on a daily basis. A tire assembly can lose up to 5% of its inflation pressure in just 24 hours, but still be considered ‘normal’. Moreover, tires can face many other circumstances under which they require removal and scrappage.
Being proactive, you should try to keep your tires at the recommended operating pressures and keep them clean of fluids and foreign object damage by carrying out regular inspections. Incorrect tire pressures can result in them exploding, causing serious (even fatal) injuries.
Tire pressure is best checked when they are cool (a temperature change of even 3°C alters the pressure by approximately 1%).
Nitrogen should be used for tire inflation, as it will not combust and will reduce damage to the inner liner material.
Finally, to prevent unnecessary wear, use brakes sparingly.
Improperly maintained/serviced tires can and will reduce their life. And even a small reduction in tire life can increase your maintenance costs as the cost of replacement parts increases.
4. Keep Your Gears, etc., Lubricated
Dry and/or improperly serviced lubrication points are critical areas that are commonly found corroded if an aircraft has not been properly maintained and serviced.
To prevent additional maintenance costs in this regard, ensure that after washing the gear and any other critical areas that they are properly lubricated.
This will also apply when flying through precipitation as it can wash the grease out of critical areas.
5. Don’t Ignore Scheduled Maintenance Requirements
Ignoring or failing to meet a manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance requirements can lead to you overlooking minor maintenance issues that can later develop into something far more significant. There should be no excuse for not following the manufacturer’s scheduled maintenance program.
Complying with the maintenance requirements as they come due is your best assurance of addressing an issue before it increases the severity of a developing fault.
Ignoring maintenance items will undoubtedly result in costly repairs later on. If a part is left to deteriorate or exceed its recommended inspection, repair, or replacement time, the maintenance cost will be higher and could involve rejected cores, expensive replacements/repair costs beyond the expected, new cost replacement and safety.
As highlighted, inexpensive preventative maintenance measures, both within the flight department and during your next maintenance shop visit could save on significant expense later.
Preventative maintenance could be as simple as ensuring the aircraft is cleaned, lubricated and checked daily, through to speaking with your local MRO shop about necessary preventative measures to tie in with your next visit. Either way, you’ll be glad you took those steps now instead of justifying the cost when a bigger fault develops further down the line.
With thanks to Duncan Aviation (www.duncanaviation.com) and Elliott Aviation (www.elliottaviation) for their input for this article.