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COST & TIME EFFECTIVE MAINTENANCE

A few of the most significant expenses involved in owning a business aircraft today, are the maintenance, its tracking system and the maintenance planner behind it all.

Back in the day, the maintenance planning system consisted of a filing cabinet with lots of little drawers that would hold 4 x 6 inch cards. At the top of each card was the maintenance-related activity such as an inspection, a particular part installation, replacement, overhaul, or some other task.

AvBuyer   |   31st March 2010
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Maintenance Planning:
Making the upkeep of the airplane more cost- and time-effective.


A few of the most significant expenses involved in owning a business aircraft today, are the maintenance, its tracking system and the maintenance planner behind it all.

Back in the day, the maintenance planning system consisted of a filing cabinet with lots of little drawers that would hold 4 x 6 inch cards. At the top of each card was the maintenance-related activity such as an inspection, a particular part installation, replacement, overhaul, or some other task.

When finished with a maintenance event, the technician would take the work order into the office and fill in all the blanks on each card that recorded the inspection performed, the part installed or the activity completed. Those with a re-occurring interval would be filed into one of the drawers that would be checked often for future maintenance events.

Then there was a chalk board in the maintenance hangar that was titled the “Maintenance Due” board, where the primary inspection information would be rewritten to keep the local FAA Inspector happy. Keeping all of this information current was difficult and more than a little time consuming.

With the development of computers, programmers figured out that the necessity to record, track and project maintenance was a perfect opportunity for them to provide a service. New tracking programs were developed to make it easier to plan and track aircraft maintenance. (It’s important to note here that the responsibility to assure that this information is correct and meets requirements of the appropriate governing airworthiness authority, such as the FAA, is ultimately that of the owner/operator of the aircraft, who usually assigns this to a maintenance person or entity).

The tracking systems remember all the information that was traditionally kept in the little file drawers and on the “Maintenance Due” board. These new systems create reports that meet the Aircraft Status requirement and make life easier for everyone responsible for tracking this information. But, there is still the challenge of who provides the information and who holds overall responsibility for the accuracy of this information. It is easy to transpose numbers, misidentify the interval, or have the manufacturer change the interval of the maintenance due.

None of the maintenance tracking program providers take responsibility for the information contained in their systems, as that is the owner’s or operator’s responsibility. As we are well aware, mistakes made in the tracking system could cause costly problems, such as missing a required inspection when due, failing to replace a component before its life limit expires or performing maintenance prior to its actual due date. This in turn opens the door to the possibility of the aircraft owner/operator being out of airworthiness compliance and exposed to government penalties, or performing unneeded or premature maintenance. In the worst case, it could lead to civil litigation.

To avoid these problems, someone in the department that is familiar with the computer system reports, and who can verify the information and understand the limitations and benefits of Maintenance Projection Reports should be designated as responsible. This person is often referred to as the Maintenance Planner and will concentrate on the Maintenance Projection Reports in order to prevent exceeding the intervals for inspection, life limit and overhaul requirements on components, comply with Airworthiness Directives, reduce the exposure to violations of airworthiness authority requirements, prove compliance with mandatory maintenance and limit exposure to civil and criminal litigation.

Having an experienced and knowledgeable Maintenance Planner monitoring the Maintenance Projection Reports can save on expenses and downtime.

Good planning means saving time and money by looking ahead to consider how required inspections can be combined with parts replacement and repairs that are in the same area of the aircraft and are expected to come due around the same time.

Let’s take the following as an example: An aircraft needs an inspection at 600 hour intervals. It transpires that the aircraft has an O2 bottle that is due to expire within the next four months - about the same time-frame that the 600 hour inspection will be due to occur. Diligent maintenance planning will identify that at the same time the 600 hour inspection is being completed the aircraft has panels removed which will provide access to the O2 bottle. Given that the task of gaining access to the O2 bottle would be the equivalent of 30 man-hours labor, I’m sure you begin to see that simply by looking at, and trying to marry-up forthcoming events, the Maintenance Planner can prevent excessive and unneeded aircraft down-time and labor costs by grouping inspections together.

Manufacturers also issue Service Bulletins for product improvement. These may simply be for the purpose of improving/upgrading the aircraft, or it may be that a fault has been found and they want to reduce their liability by issuing a Service Bulletin. Occasionally, these Service Bulletins have the labor and parts provided at no cost for a specific amount of time. After this time interval expires, the owner/operator becomes responsible for the cost. Addressing this type of Service Bulletin within the time allowed is another cost savings that can impact the bottom line.

In closing, we reiterate that the aircraft owner/operator has the responsibility of knowing the inspections and maintenance status of the aircraft, and they are ultimately responsible for complying with all inspections required by the manufacturer of the aircraft, engine, or component. This is the primary purpose of a Maintenance Tracking System, and if used properly, it can provide cost savings that will help or completely offset the expense.

Most importantly, having the right combination of tracking system and talented maintenance staff will undoubtedly help keep the aircraft out of the hangar and in the air where it is most productive!

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