How to Plan & Maximize Your Next MRO Shop Visit

What are the necessary tips and tricks of the trade when preparing for MRO? Rebecca Applegarth asks Jet Aviation’s Cyril Martiniere, and Elliott Aviation’s Meghan Welch…

Rebecca Applegarth  |  28th December 2020
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    Rebecca Applegarth
    Rebecca Applegarth

    Rebecca Applegarth has been brought up around Aviation for as long as she can remember. As a current...

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    A young aircraft mechanic working on a private jet nose section

    As the well-known saying goes, taxes and death are certainties in life. In the same way Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) are an inevitable, unavoidable part of aircraft ownership.

    Maintenance – specifically preventative maintenance – should be an ongoing aspect of any flight department’s day-to-day operations as they keep their jet in optimal condition, while repair becomes necessary as parts break or malfunction.

    Engine overhaul cycles, meanwhile, are events that come due after a specific number of operating hours are completed, and often provide opportunities to have a plethora of other maintenance, repair and upgrade work done to the aircraft as it is grounded for several weeks.

    The Importance of Planning Ahead

    Owing to the complex and often customized nature of many MRO projects, Meghan Welch, Director of Paint & Interior Sales, Elliott Aviation, suggests it’s a good idea to plan well in advance with your MRO facility, to help ensure the shortest possible downtime.

    “Some materials, like custom carpets or plating, can have long lead times,” Welch suggests. “By working with your MRO sales team to clearly define your work scope, you can be assured that all of the parts and materials are ordered and ready for your arrival.”

    “Another consideration is the need to make alternative arrangements for travel while your aircraft is undergoing MRO,” says Cyril Martiniere, Vice President, MRO Services and General Manager Jet Aviation Basel facility.

    “If you want to maintain the benefits of private aviation – convenience, comfort, safety, and efficiency – ask your maintenance provider if they can help arrange charter services while your aircraft is grounded.” (Jet Aviation offers aircraft charter services along with a wide global network of facilities to meet the needs of its clients.)

    “Covid-19 has created a surge with many charter operators, so it would be best to contact them as early as you can to make arrangements”, Welch warns.

    Indeed, once you decide to charter for the duration of the MRO project, it is also important to determine whether your usage during the time-period would justify purchasing a jet card, or simply booking ad hoc charter.

    Core Insights: Meghan Welch, Director of Paint & Interior, Elliott Aviation, and Cyril Martiniere, Vice President, MRO Services, and General Manager, Jet Aviation Basel

    Experience & Pricing

    Ahead of any MRO work, it’s vital to know what your aircraft’s manufacturer expects and to ensure your MRO service provider can deliver on everything. “You can do this by checking that the MRO center has all necessary approvals, and by reading up on – and inquiring about – your MRO center’s reputation in the industry,” Martiniere suggests. “Don’t hesitate to ask about the qualifications and experience of their personnel.”

    Moreover, some maintenance providers will offer low quotes to entice customers to sign with them - but operators should beware, “This can lead to very unpleasant surprises when the customer learns the quote only covered the bare minimum service,” he adds.

    “If the company is transparent with its pricing and policies, this is a good indication of their stability and integrity”, Martiniere suggests, adding that you should similarly ask to see their records to gauge accuracy in time estimates and schedules. 

    After all, inaccurate time and schedule estimates and schedules can also add significantly to the final cost.

    By planning these events enough in advance, says Welch, “You will be able to gain a schedule that works for you.”

    Moreover, this time of planning will also allow you to “understand all of the options that could be available to maximize your investment, to minimize downtime, and to allow the time for ordering all of the necessary components ahead of input to allow for a successful project.”

    Combining Projects

    To help reduce downtime and costs, it’s worth using the planning and preparation stage leading up to any MRO downtime to consider other upgrades you might like done, and have them scheduled to coincide with your maintenance.

    “When working with a one-stop-shop facility, bundling your maintenance, avionics, and any paint and interior can create efficiencies that can save you money and downtime,” Welch suggests. “It really makes the most sense to combine any refurbishment with a major airframe inspection.

    “During this time, completing items like updating your interior, installing Wi-Fi systems, lighting systems, sound proofing options, customized cabinetry (and much more), might only have a minimal impact on your downtime.”

    “The common area relates to access,” Martiniere highlights. “Some maintenance checks require removal of the cabin interior, which provides a great opportunity to install new systems.

    “Customers will want to comply with current mandates – for example, ADS-B, FANS, ATN-B1 – but if ground-time and money permit, they might consider other cabin upgrades such as High-Speed Internet installations, including an additional Satcom System - for example, Honeywell JetWave, a ViaSat Ka- or Ku-band system, or installation of a cabin router and W-LAN system.

    “Having installed High-Speed Internet, some customers might also like to integrate an AVOD server for wireless media streaming,” he adds.

    The same principle is true of considering other upcoming inspections, according to Martiniere. After all, it makes little sense to have an aircraft grounded for MRO work on two separate occasions in a short space of time. “Also, consider any upcoming aviation mandates that will likely impact your aircraft [in the near future],” he suggests.

    What are the Financial Options Available

    As mentioned, Business Aviation MRO is expensive . Many owners prefer to keep the costs predictable by enrolling their aircraft on hourly maintenance programs. These are offered by all of the engine manufacturers, and in the case of Honeywell’s MSP extends to the avionics too.

    Prominent hourly maintenance programs are also offered by third party providers, and cover multiple areas of the aircraft too. Indeed, Jet Aviation sometimes offers a Power-by-the-Hour service in which customers pay a fixed monthly maintenance fee based on the aircraft’s flight activity, helping owners and operators with their financial planning, while ensuring there are no nasty surprises.

    In addition, it’s worth speaking to the MRO center about the options when it comes to payment, suggests Martiniere. “Ask what payment schemes the company offers, such as paying in installments, and benefits in long-term or multiple-order agreements", for example.

    Companies are often willing to negotiate terms if customers want to sign with multiple aircraft, or long-term contracts, he says.

    Ready to Go!

    With everything prepared for and planned, you should be set for a trouble-free MRO experience, in which your downtime is both productive, and as predictable as possible.

    For those emerging from a successful time with the MRO shop, the effects on their freshly maintained, repaired and overhauled aircraft will be enjoyed for years to come!

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