You’ve read the listings of aircraft for sale and noticed the terms and abbreviations – some of which you may not be familiar with. In this series, Ken Elliott delves into the complexities of the terms used by aircraft brokers to help provide some clarity.
By necessity of space and cost, publications and websites advertise business aircraft for sale using abbreviations, acronyms and short-from descriptions, as provided by the seller or their broker. Brochures and specifications sheets use a similar practice, though to a lesser degree.
Following, we will ‘break out’ some of the frequently used terms with comments on their relevance, highlighting noteworthy aspects to potential buyers.
Let’s begin with a typical example of a short-form advert:
- Aircraft Type, Year of Production, Serial Number RRCC/MSP Gold/HAPP/JSSI Parts/CAMP/Batch 3/FANS 1A/SBAS/LPV/WAAS/TCAS 7.1/ADS-B Out; Fresh 12C Inspection; New Paint and Interior with completion date.
While the full meaning and implications of the above description will be familiar to many, for those entering the business aircraft market (or who function indirectly to transactions) the meaning could be a challenge to translate into meaningful data.
Broadly speaking, the details of an aircraft summary will commence with the aircraft itself, assuming the reader has predetermined the baseline requirement in terms of mission purpose and necessary performance.
The summary is designed to highlight the uniqueness of the serial number on offer and not the type of aircraft already selected.
Above all, the summary attempts to differentiate an aircraft as superior to others of a similar type that may also be for sale.
However, there may be several types of aircraft well suited to the buyer’s general requirement, leading to a decision based on ‘uniqueness of equipage’, level of operations certification and factory options installed.
Clearly, the most significant factor in aircraft selection relates to the ‘intended operational requirements’. That goes beyond the routes to be flown and details of payload to include the regions in which it will be operating.
Once this is established, it will drive the need for certain equipage, as well as maintenance and service provider programs. Who will be occupying the cabin seats? If the aircraft is to be used for company-only business, it will have a different set of requirement criteria than if intended to operate on an FAA Part 135 certificate, for example.
Essentially, the specification of an aircraft to be transacted is all about the operating envelope. With that in mind, the breakout of terminology will include comments in reference to the intended future operation of an aircraft for sale.
The following paragraphs address:
- Aircraft Primary
- Times & Cycles and
- Partial Coverage of Available Programs
Let’s begin with an example from a fictional aircraft for sale listing advertisement:
- Dassault Falcon 2000EX EASy, 2006, Serial Number XXX
This would appear self-explanatory, if you assume the reader has already narrowed their aircraft search to a Dassault Falcon 2000EX. The ‘EASy’ alludes to the aircraft’s technology level.
Technology: EASy (representing ‘Enhanced Avionics System’) is a Dassault term specific to the Honeywell technology suite and embodies different levels. The EASy II upgrade has optional improvements that are subject to a prior change to the baseline, while ‘EASy III’ refers to a newer package being installed on the latest Dassault aircraft.
For any aircraft, the technology package is crucial and can be a significant driver of the aircraft price. That’s because upgrades to meet operational requirements can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is therefore advisable for buyers to be very sensitive to the technology status of the aircraft under review.
Another technology term that can often be seen in an aircraft listing is ‘Batch 3’ and refers to a level of avionics associated with Bombardier aircraft.
Year-of-Manufacture: The model year is always important. Not only is each aircraft different in its appearance, it may also be different in its equipage. The equipage can include both factory options and post-delivery third-party solutions. Often manufacturers will change the baseline equipage with their own updated versions.
These may be as simple as a software upgrade, or much more complex such as major hardware and wiring upgrades.
And, of course, the manufactured year is also an indicator of an aircraft’s age which, in turn, can be compared to hours flown and offer an indication as to a high- or low-time airframe. It can also be an indicator as to the anticipated stages of inspection and maintenance due.
Serial Number: The baseline technology can automatically include provision for, or completed and in-service options. It is very important to understand the baseline aircraft across a range of serial numbers though. Where does the candidate aircraft sit within that range? This can be very confusing, even to industry veterans.
What’s included in an upgrade is crucial and could boil down entirely to the aircraft’s serial number, because within options are sub-options that could be as simple as software level but are crucial to receiving flight clearances on certain international routes.
That’s why it’s vital for buyers to know exactly what they want to do with the aircraft, and for how long. Removing an interior to gain access for installation of additional wiring, or adding an antenna is no fun for the owner. By understanding the listing, buyers can get in front of the purchase and control the outcome.
Aircraft Times and Cycles
As an example, our fictional aircraft for sale listing might include the following data covering aircraft times and cycles:
- TTAF – 5,130/Ldgs – 3,020
The Total Time Airframe (TTAF) or Hours and Landings (Ldgs), refer to the airframe as a whole and not the engines. The total time is the amount of time the airframe has remained airborne and the landings refers to the ‘cycles’.
Cycles represent the up-and-down transition of the aircraft’s landing gear that is used to trigger a consecutive count, or (as in this case) the application of the weight on wheels as the aircraft touches down and settles its full weight on the nose and main landing gears, if already in the down position. Because a different history is possible, the engines will have a different time to the airframe…
Traditionally, engine time is counted the same as airframe time, but the engine manufacturers carefully monitor the engines’ start-stop events and the total running time of each. The actual engine time would be greater if the engines had never been changed.
Additional Comment: Buyers should be careful to analyze the airframe and engine logbooks, to ensure the accuracy of the stated measurements. Also ensure the existing computerized maintenance tracking accurately reflects the written record. Logbook reviews are part of a pre-purchase inspection and should not be hurried.
Note: Times and cycles also refer to the aircraft APU, for those aircraft that have one.
Relating to programs, our fictional aircraft for sale listing might include the following data:
- CAMP; HAPP; ESP GOLD; APU-MSP
There is a plethora of programs that are available to operators, either from the manufacturers or from third parties. Programs found within aircraft transaction information are designed to show that the aircraft has had excellent post-delivery maintenance tracking and support.
Other listed programs could include parts replacement, and sometimes there are complex programs at different option levels coming directly from the aircraft or equipment manufacturer.
Buyers should be careful when they review aircraft descriptions. Programs may be listed as either ‘eligible’ or ‘enrolled’, two very different scenarios.
Not surprisingly, there are many short form descriptions of these programs. Table B (above) covers some of the popular airframe programs, while Table C (below) highlights the frequently offered engine (and APU) programs.
Finally, Table D (below) details the avionics programs buyers might read about in an aircraft listing advertisement.
Separately, and not covered here, are Service Provider programs. These are typically reset during an aircraft transaction and are necessary to operate some of the cabin and cockpit communication and data systems.
The Service Provider acts as the agent between the aircraft’s Satellite, Wi-Fi, Weather, VHF data link, Flight Information equipment, and the ground or space radio frequency service.
Airframe Maintenance Programs: In recent years aircraft manufacturers have delivered aircraft with freshly initiated service programs (also considered maintenance tracking) that serve to bolster the existing warranty commitment. It is noteworthy that factory warranty, in some cases, only covers unscheduled maintenance. In those instances, operators still need to cover the cost of inspections or due items.
Traditionally, clients would separately approach third parties for maintenance tracking. The same original providers have now succeeded in persuading the aircraft OEMs to package their various programs in with new platform sales.
Engine Maintenance Programs: Many pre-flown aircraft operators engage in engine (and APU) OEM programs through their preferred maintenance provider. Their Maintenance Repair Organization (MRO) may have multiple sites and mobile repair teams to remove or service the engine on-site (onwing).
By setting up their support needs this way an operator can rely on the MRO to conduct the labor and arrange, either in-house or externally, the engine service. Importantly, the MRO will complete necessary engine work and return to service (RTS) the aircraft. The MRO can also be the aircraft OEM—it’s all a matter of customer preference.
Avionics Maintenance Programs: Most aircraft will have avionics from several different manufacturers with a primary suite as the overarching technology.
A good example, outside the primary suite, is cabin equipment — and especially Wi-Fi. Buyers should always remember to check which avionics are covered by the various service plans to avoid a surprise when the system that fails the most is not covered by the purchased program.
Next time, we will continue this series with a look at Aircraft Options, Enhancements, Status and Configurations.
Disclaimer: The summaries and tables provided within this article are NOT fully inclusive and are meant to provide those abbreviations and programs commonly found. Various programs have several options, including different levels of service. It is not possible to include all of them here. It is assumed this article will help guide the reader to seek further information by knowing where to begin within the complex architecture surrounding an aircraft transaction.