- 23 Nov 2022
- Chris Kjelgaard
- Aircraft MRO
Following discussion of red flags to watch for when selecting a maintenance shop to complete upcoming aircraft maintenance work, Chris Kjelgaard explores how owners can mitigate the risks for themselves...
With aircraft, engine, and component repair shops alike all working flat-out to handle the unprecedented demand for Business Aviation MRO — whether it be pre- purchase inspections, refurbishments, upgrades, modifications, scheduled, or unscheduled maintenance — aircraft owners must make sure they provide everything their chosen MRO facilities need to perform the work in a timely fashion.
All three experts interviewed for this article stress the need for aircraft owners to plan for upcoming maintenance carefully, and well in advance. “Never before have directors of maintenance had to be as plugged into their aircraft and engines as they are now,” highlights Sean Lynch, Program Coordinator at Engine Assurance Program.
It is contingent upon, and imperative for aircraft owners and their staff to be in frequent, even near-constant, very clear communication with their preferred MRO facilities regarding the timing of their next scheduled maintenance events.
In fact, says Jeremy Cox, Founder and President of aircraft appraisal firm JetValues-Jeremy, it is a good idea to have the preferred MRO facility itself monitor the aircraft’s maintenance history and the timing of future required maintenance events proactively, on behalf of the aircraft owner.
In such cases the MRO facility will dictate to the owner when the aircraft needs to be brought in for scheduled maintenance, and by having such control over the aircraft’s maintenance planning, the MRO shop can fit the job neatly into its work schedule without incurring delays.
According to Lynch, for scheduled engine maintenance, it’s vital in today’s MRO market for owners to communicate with both the MRO shop and the engine maintenance program provider (if one is involved) from three to six months in advance of the planned induction. This level of advance notice is necessary for the owner to make sure rental engines will be available during the downtime should they wish to keep operating the aircraft during that period.
Depending on the engine type involved, even then many companies will struggle to find rental engines because of critical parts shortages for certain engine models in the current market, Lynch adds. In any event, “You need to be on the list [for rental engines] months in advance,” he warns.
Documentation and Contracts
Equally important as forward planning and advance notice to the MRO ship is the need for the aircraft owner to be fully prepared. This can be achieved by having all the required aircraft documentation ready, and a full, clear, and definitive list of the work the owner wants the MRO shop to perform on the aircraft, notes Lynch.
If the owner isn’t able to provide this at a time of unprecedented MRO demand, “they’re slammed and you’re now part of the problem,” he emphasizes.
Trying to add to the list of planned maintenance work once the initially planned work has started further complicates the event. This will only serve to make the work-scheduling task more complicated for the MRO facility and it will inevitably result in increased downtime for the aircraft and/or its engines.
Given that part of the capacity crunch for Business Aviation maintenance today is caused by an industry-wide shortage of A&P mechanics employed by the MRO facilities themselves, Cox suggests that far-sighted aircraft owners should (assuming they have the necessary financial resources) enter long-term contracts with their preferred MRO facilities.
Such contracts cover the aircraft’s maintenance requirements throughout the period of the owner’s ownership of the aircraft, and specify that the owner will have all of the planned maintenance for the aircraft performed by the facility, thus guaranteeing a level of future work and revenue for the MRO shop.
This may enable it to invest in hiring and training engineering apprentices, and providing it with a pipeline of future A&P mechanics for its workforce.
According to Cox, the aircraft owner and MRO shop can also agree within the contract for the owner to hire contract mechanics (or for the MRO facility to do so on the owner’s behalf) whenever the MRO shop needs additional labor resources to perform the work on their aircraft on schedule and within a specified downtime period.
The Importance of Being On-site
One of the most basic and important ways in which aircraft owners can make sure they get their aircraft and engine maintenance performed on schedule and with as little downtime as possible — while avoiding most (if not all) potential red-flag situations into the bargain — is for owners to conduct advance research on any MRO providers they are considering, according to Tom Mitchell, Executive Vice President at Essex Aviation.
Once satisfied that basic research into the MRO shop’s references from clients indicates its work standards and practices are suitable from the aircraft owner’s viewpoint, it is then important for the owner to visit the MRO facility in person to find out as much as possible about the company’s capabilities and work situation.
Here, the owner can establish personal relationships with the management and workforce, so that vendor and client can establish a harmonious working relationship.
A responsible owner will bolster the closeness of this relationship by ensuring that they remain a trusted customer of the MRO facility by always settling its bills promptly for MRO work performed on the aircraft and engines, adds Cox.
It is never a bad idea for an aircraft owner to visit an MRO facility and get a sense for how orderly and clean it appears, Mitchell suggests.
Look for features such as “adequate shelving and tables that store and protect inspection panels and engine cowlings which have been removed — as opposed to having them laying on the floor where they can be damaged. [This] can provide a good sense of the organization and general culture of the MRO shop, and ultimately how your aircraft would be treated,” he illustrates.
“A visit will also give a sense of whether the MRO is maintaining comparable-make and model aircraft to yours,” he adds.
When it’s time for the aircraft and/or its engines to be inducted for scheduled maintenance, it is helpful for the owner to be on-site as much as possible to monitor the progress of the work, and ensure that the MRO shop doesn’t divert the labor resources allocated to the job to work on other aircraft.
In many cases, while the aircraft owner cannot be present personally, they may instead elect to hire technical representatives to attend the aircraft on a frequent or even near-daily basis during its downtime period, Mitchell suggests.
Owners who have qualified technical representatives attending on-site when their aircraft are in for scheduled work accrue three major benefits from having that near-constant oversight of the work.
Additionally, says Cox, the technical representative can also ensure that if the replacement parts purchased are life-limited parts, they have sufficient life remaining in terms of hours and flight cycles to ensure the aircraft and its engines remain in airworthy condition long enough to meet the owner’s operating horizon — whether that be another scheduled maintenance event or even resale of the aircraft.
In the latter case, any LLPs installed during the previous scheduled maintenance events should have enough life remaining to ensure the aircraft retains its resale value.
If the aircraft owner has sufficient financial resources and wishes to keep their aircraft in operation during extended periods of maintenance downtime, they can help make sure that happens by investing personally in the purchase of LLPs, and even one (or more) spare engines, says Cox.
For any aircraft which an owner regards as having a critical operating role in their business, this is particularly important at a time when spare parts for all engine types are scarce or almost non-existent for some less widely used engine types.
And Cox suggests small personal touches on the part of the owner and/or technical representative can work wonders in making the MRO facility’s management and workforce sympathetic to the cause of completing the maintenance work on the owner’s aircraft, on schedule.
“Baby-sitting the aircraft means so much more, because you’re there on the spot to make decisions,” he says. “Show up every day — and bring a box of doughnuts,” for the MRO facility’s workforce to enjoy. “It works! Active goodwill pays dividends. They like you and you’re their favoritecustomer. It’s all about relationships and communication.”
One other piece of advice is vital, according to Cox. “Don’t ever ship your records” to the MRO shop. “Put your records on the airplane,” as it goes in for maintenance. Additionally, “You and the MRO facility need to be sure your records are going to be in a fireproof and waterproof safe.”
Only in this way can the owner ensure that the aircraft’s maintenance records — and particularly its all-important logbooks, the ultimately authoritative listing of the MRO work performed on the aircraft — will never be lost, an eventuality that can ruin an aircraft’s resale value.
Mitchell agrees, adding that making and keeping digital records of the MRO work performed on the aircraft (increasingly common for newer, fly-by-wire aircraft types) provides a very valuable back-up, should the aircraft’s paper records ever be lost or accidentally destroyed.
Nevertheless, today the paper logbook remains the ultimate authority regarding all work which has been conducted on the aircraft. Take care of it!
Did you miss Part One of this article? Read Upcoming Jet Maintenance? Avoid these Red Flags
More information from
Engine Assurance Program: www.eap.aero
Essex Aviation: https://essexaviation.com