Top five maintenance recommendations when refurbishing your aircraft
A fresh new jet interior can be just what you need to improve the aesthetics of a jet and enhance its overall value, notes JSSI’s Donald Ridge. From a maintenance perspective, there are several associated concerns that you must consider when refurbishing a jet......
What are the biggest maintenance issues to consider when your jet is scheduled for refurbishment? JSSI is involved in thousands of inspections each year, and many of these are in conjunction with a major refurbishment event. Speaking from experience, here are my top five…
1. Be Prepared for Corrosion
Corrosion happens, and depending on the age of the jet the odds are in favor of discovering some level of corrosion when you open it up for a complete interior refurbishment. These odds increase even more if the airplane is based in a salty environment or the majority of the missions flown happen to be to tropical destinations.
When the interior is completely removed, it is a perfect opportunity to take out the insulation between the interior panels and the skin of the aircraft to perform a thorough examination of the skin and various structural components that are now exposed.
Special attention should be paid to any openings in the fuselage such as antennae and emergency exits. Also, all the structure around galleys and lavatories should be carefully inspected as these areas are known corrosion hotspots.
2. Timing is Everything
Once the decision is made to do an interior refurbishment and the maintenance department is informed, the next step should include looking at all the upcoming inspections and overhauls that are due around the same time as the refurbishment. (The last thing you want to do is rip out the headliner and flooring a couple of weeks after the interior was just completed, all because an inspection deadline is due but wasn’t in your refurbishment plan.)
Substantial labor costs can be saved by coordinating the scheduled airframe inspection work during the refurbishment process. I suggest taking all the time you need to plan this work carefully. A good hourly maintenance program will do this for you. Planning will save a lot of time and expense, as well as limiting the wear and tear on the new interior that was just installed.
Be prepared to postpone or reschedule a desired interior project to coordinate with a scheduled inspection(s).
Careful consideration for other upgrades should also be integrated into the refurbishment plan. Entertainment systems and LED lighting are the more obvious upgrades and typically get included up-front with the refurbishment plan. But, new cockpit avionics - mandated or optional - should also be part of the plan because such work will most likely involve a new antenna that requires access through that freshly refurbished interior if it is not completed during the new interior refurb.
The new ADS-B and FANS mandates are good examples of upgrade plans that you should include in this process.
3. Find The Right Shop For Your Jet
There are plenty of refurbishment shops vying for your interior project, but many of them may not be the right choice. Finding the right shop requires extensive research and should involve talking to several other aircraft operators that fly the same aircraft model as you. Getting referrals and learning about other’s experiences will help you make a final decision.
Keep in mind that your situation could be unique if you are trying to schedule other maintenance inspection work at the same time, as suggested earlier. Making sure that the shop’s logistical support and technical capabilities meet your needs is crucial when selecting the right refurbishment facility.
4. Proper Documentation is Crucial
Maintenance departments go to extremes to meet Part 135 requirements so the jet can be used for charter operations. There are all kinds of regulations to follow, as many of you know, to operate under this charter designation. One thing we have seen happen time and time again is that owners create a refurbishment plan without any consideration to all of these Part 135 requirements.
I always recommend installing the interior that complies with Part 135 standards, including fire-blocking of the interior, because you never know when a decision to put the jet on a charter certificate may happen even if the airplane has always operated under Part 91. Many interior finishes and materials are beautiful and will look great inside your aircraft, but if they don’t meet the required standards you will not have the proper documentation should you wish to broaden out the operations of your aircraft.
Most new aircraft come from the OEM with proper documentation for meeting the stricter Part 135 regulations, but a review of the documents should be performed to be certain that any new rules that may have been introduced since the aircraft was built will be addressed at this time.
5. Finish the Planning Process Before Taking it to the Shop
My advice may sound strange to many readers but in my 30 years of experience, I have witnessed many operators dropping off their aircraft for refurbishment without making sure all of the materials and parts are already ordered for the interior. This one element of planning can save weeks of downtime because of the extensive lead times on some fabrics and other interior materials.
You can also save plenty of time by coordinating with the maintenance team that will be doing the inspections or overhaul work to make sure all necessary parts are ordered, and the procurement process has begun before the airplane arrives. Also, once the aircraft has been dropped off at the shop, any changes to the agreed-upon plan will cause delays.
Proper planning before dropping off the aircraft will not only help you receive the best outcome, but it will make it easier for the shop to deliver the right outcome.
Jet interior options today are amazing, and the vast number of qualified refurbishment facilities can do incredible things to make your aircraft look and feel brand new while adding to its residual value. Just keep in mind these five recommendations from your friendly maintenance side of the operation, and make sure they have plenty of time to put the best refurbishment plan together for your aircraft!
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