- 09 Feb 2021
- Aircraft MRO
Operating an aircraft for the benefit of a company doesn't cost, it pays. At least, it pays if the operation is managed properly. Dave Higdon offers three tips on managing the substantial costs of private jet maintenance.Back to Articles
To enjoy the well-documented benefits of Business Aviation, good management of all the sundry costs is paramount. Maintenance forms a significant part of an operating budget and needs to be carefully controlled.
When a business jet’s operating costs run into thousands of dollars per hour in variable costs, operators can ill-afford to neglect managing even the most mundane of costs – whether they are variable or fixed.
While military planners tell us how many maintenance hours an aircraft faces for every flight hour, civilian operators seldom think of, or plan, in the same stark terms. If they did, their approach to the maintenance budget might be more carefully managed.
Following, and in no particular order of importance, are three areas you could look to improve the management of your own business jet maintenance budget…
Tip 1: Predictive Maintenance Enhances Preventative Maintenance
Certain preventive maintenance must be conducted throughout an aircraft’s flying career. When diligently followed through to ensure the aircraft’s needs are always met and up-to-date, preventive maintenance can help operators avoid the sticker shock associated with an unplanned maintenance event.
Preventive maintenance is also required to keep any warranties in force, so it’s certainly something to be taken very seriously. In the long run, an aircraft should run better and cost less if it is well maintained by your in-house maintenance team, or a trusted Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) partner. But how can you enhance your preventative maintenance efforts?
New and emerging predictive and prescriptive maintenance capabilities are making maintenance programs more effective, by leveraging smart machines and the industrial Internet of Things to diagnose potential problems and alert maintenance teams, before they can cause significant disruption.
Thus, predictive maintenance can help the maintenance technicians identify and catch possible unplanned maintenance events, enhancing the preventative maintenance process (which usually includes items checked after every flight).
Tip 2: Use Maintenance Tracking Software
Between maintaining the airframe, the powerplant system – engine, nacelles, thrust reversers, and necessary accessories – there is plenty to manage regarding the maintenance of a modern turbine business aircraft. No wonder – given the complexity and sophistication of a business aircraft – that managing and tracking its maintenance needs is such a substantial task.
Today’s operators (particularly those managing multiple aircraft) are increasingly turning to specialized computer software, or an independent maintenance-recording and management company, to help oversee their maintenance needs.
Operators employing a digital storage and tracking scheme for maintenance records enjoy a distinct advantage over operators who have yet to transition from paper. Leafing through pages of paper-based logs, file folders full of reports, and purchase orders, and seeking to confirm that parts used were indeed correct, is far more time-consuming.
But aircraft maintenance tracking software is specifically designed to make this whole process more efficient. Using such a tool, operating crews can enjoy the ability to track, maintain and analyse a complete system of records.
Better still, the records are accessible by more than one person at a time, eliminating choke points that occur when records, files and logs are accessible to only one person, or at one location.
The time saved in searching and filing is a tangible, documentable result which can be shown to save money.
Tip 3: Hourly Maintenance Programs
Hourly maintenance programs help remove the unpredictability of aircraft maintenance for operators. Offered by third party providers, or the equipment provider – i.e. engine or avionics OEMs – themselves, the operator is typically billed on a monthly or quarterly basis for the number of hours flown during the billing period.
That amount accrues in an account. In return, the program provider delivers services that are spelt out in the contract, according to the level of coverage the owner/operator selects. However, the program provider will usually also stipulate who performs the maintenance work, with a list of approved MRO centers.
Coverage may also provide AOG services for stranded aircraft, or access to a replacement aircraft or rental engines, when needed. The greater the level of coverage, however, and the more complicated the aircraft, the higher the hourly fee will be for the contracted services.
Such programs can also prove to be big money savers when an unplanned maintenance event happens.
Ultimately, an hourly engine program will help bring predictability to maintenance costs, enabling you to benchmark whether the costs will change monthly, quarterly, and annually – which is something the folks in accounting will certainly come to appreciate.