March 2016 - Page 2 Aviation Articles

HAI HELI-EXPO Show 2016 Review

This is a year of firsts for me; my first Oshkosh EAA show, first NBAA show and now HAI’S HELI-EXPO show. It was also a first in Louisville as this was their first time hosting the show. So this is a layman’s view of not only the show but my home city’s hosting of the show.

Louisville’s weather in the beginning of March is a crap shoot at best. It can be 70 degrees and sunny or 30 and overcast. Unfortunately, during the show it was closer to the latter. So why Louisville was chosen I can only surmise that it fit what HAI was looking for and weather was not one of the prime requirements. The exhibit hall was well laid out and there were helicopters galore to look at. For a show in a closed facility there was as much room as one could ask for. While there was no hotels near the actual show the buses were running on time and at least to my ears there was no mention of any major transportation problems. Louisville did themselves proud with their delivery of the show (weather not included of course).

So what was on display? Every major manufacturer was highlighting their new aircraft and how they are adapting to the down petroleum market by offering solutions to other markets that can benefit from these aircraft. Bell, Airbus, Sikorsky, Robinson and others all showed their diversity into new markets. The aircraft support exhibitors were there in force as well. In all over 700 booths were set up and ready for business.

That leads to the question, who would want to come to Louisville for a helicopter show in March? As it turns out the weather didn’t stop the buyers, just the browsers. While I was not able to go to the 700 plus booths I was encourage with the reports that there were good business conversations going on and buyers were doing their shopping for the most part. So while traffic was down the buyers were able to navigate much easier and see who they wanted to see.

I did hear rumblings that the show will come back to Louisville in the future. Some hoped for later in the month, others that maybe it would be downtown, and yes there were a few “really?”. All in all though when and if it comes back and you have a product for this part of the industry the buyers will be there. Do you have something they might want?

Why you should have a guaranteed maintenance program

We are working with someone who has a business jet. They have had the aircraft on guaranteed hourly maintenance programs for the engines and also for the airframe and avionics. The aircraft is coming out of warranty and the hourly rates are going up considerably, especially for the airframe. They are trying to figure out (a) whether to keep the aircraft and (b) if the keep it, what would be the future maintenance costs if they take it off one or more of the guaranteed hourly maintenance programs (GHMP). Within the next five years, that aircraft’s engines will need overhauls, to the tune of almost one million dollars, each!

The make and model aircraft they operate is doing the job quite well. The feel no need to change models. So if they sell the current aircraft, it would be to buy a new version of what they now have.  The aircraft is worth about half what it was since new. While they can negotiate on the new aircraft price, they still need to come up with a significant investment. Given the current economy and the company profitability, they do not want to undertake a capital acquisition – even if financed or leased.

Turboprop and turbine helicopter engine overhauls can run to $300,000 and turbojet engines, over one million. Within the engine are a number of components that will have different cycle limits. Typically they can last to the second overhaul, or perhaps even the third. These turbine wheels, blades, etc can add significantly to the cost of the heavy maintenance. More and more turbine business aircraft are heading into their twenties and will be facing these cycle-limited items’ additional expenses. Budgeting for these major inspections and overhauls can be difficult. In good times, reserving cash can be difficult for a company, and in today’s economy, the cash may not be available.

All the major turbine engine manufacturers offer some form of a GHMP. Plus, there is one major third party provider of these plans that cover most popular business turbine engines.  Many current production jet aircraft have GHMP for the parts provided by the OEM. Some of the major avionic manufacturers also offer hourly programs covering their systems.

What are the advantages of GHMP - guaranteed hourly maintenance programs?

Budget Stability


Under a GHMP, the aircraft owner pays in an hourly set-aside to the plan provider. The monies go into an escrow account. As engine maintenance expenses occur, the money is drawn out to pay for the expense.

The amount to be paid in is set by contract, and thus, a GMP offers a stable budget. Accountants love stability in budgeting. So should you. Take the hourly rate times the number of hours to be flown, and your engine budget for next year is mostly done. You need to budget for minor line maintenance. There are no unplanned for costs and no surprises. An GHMP offers a financial peace of mind.

GHMP Limits your maintenance exposure

A full-featured GHMP also offers insurance against the rare, but costly unscheduled maintenance event. While turbine engines are reliable, when an unscheduled event occurs, they can result in significant expenses. Once an engine is opened for inspection, the cycle-limited components are also subject to replacement or repair. I’ve heard from a few operators who went in for a $50,000 Hot Section Inspection and came out with a $150,000 repair bill. Similarly, for major airframe inspections, the flat-rate tends to be about half the total cost once all repairs and overages are accounted for.  Today’s modern avionics tend to be reliable. When they fail, however, it tends to need a full replacement rather than a repair.

GHMP can be less costly in the long run

Engine removal, shipping, and loaner engines can all be covered by a GHMP.  Loaner engines alone can run several hundred dollars an hour to rent. Also, until you get a quote on your engine, the “typical average overhaul cost” is just that, an average. An engine GHMP will cover those items and pay the actual overhaul cost, even if those costs are over budget. Airframe parts are tougher to quantify. The GHMP may specify an exchange-overhaul versus a new part. Your Director  of Maintenance may want a new part. Labor, if done an an approved repair facility, is usually covered.

GHMP preserves the residual value

A GHMP will add value to your aircraft. Aircraft sale price sources such as Vref and the Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest either include the engine GHMP in their typical selling price and subtract for engines not on a program, or the program itself is a added value.  If you are selling your aircraft, and the GHMP transferring to the new owner has accrued $350,000 in its account, that is value added to the aircraft in three ways:


  1. The cash value of the GMP account itself. 
  2. The reduction of risk to the future buyer as to the risk for future maintenance, especially the engines. 
  3. A reasonable level of assurance that the maintenance is being done to standards.



One last possible advantage to a business is that the cost of the GHMP may be a tax deductable expense.  Cash accrual accounts are not “expenses.”  Consult with your tax advisor, but this can be a definite advantage for the GHMP.

Leases favor the GHMP

Many financial institutions may require that at least the engines be on a GHMP to help guarantee the value of the asset. It is common for an end of lease requirement that all major components have at least 50% of their life remaining and an adjustment (to the detriment of the lessee) is made for less than half-life remaining components such as the engines. Guess what dollar value per hour they may use in adjusting for engines nearing the overhaul at the end of a lease?

Why not go with a GHMP?

If you are purchasing an older aircraft not on a program, the typical buy-in amount is to pay the hourly rate times the total hours flown up front. Or, you may face a pro-rata share of the next overhaul. For example, if you place an engine on GHMP that is just completed a mid-life inspection, the GHMP will cover half and you will cover half of the next major event.

With airframe GHMP, it can be tough to calculate the accrued value versus the to-be-used amounts. If you are halfway to the C-Check or 96-month, will a buy-in cover all the costs at the event? Read the buy-in terms carefully.

Low utilization operations may not see the value. Some of the engine programs have minimum annual flight-hour requirements. If the GHMP requires 300 annual hours and your flying dips to 200, you may either face a rate-adjustment with much higher hourly costs or have to pay for 300 hours. Contracts vary, and most GHMP providers will work with you should your flying hours change.

GHMP are a good way to insure your aircraft value, provide stable budgeting and perhaps even save money over a pay as you go maintenance. You’d be wise to evaluate these programs for your next aircraft.



Drone Operators Beware: Drone Operations Are Subject To FAA Enforcement

So, you just purchased a fancy new drone (“unmanned aircraft system” or “UAS”) and you have been flying it around. About a week later, you receive a phone call from an FAA inspector in which the inspector tells you that you have been operating your drone in violation of the Federal Aviation Regulations (“FARs”). And now you are wondering what’s going on and what can you expect?

As you may be aware, the FAA considers both UAS and model aircraft subject to regulation (although two civil lawsuits are pending disputing the FAA’s position, at least as it relates to “model aircraft”). And with that regulation also comes the responsibility for compliance and enforcement of the FARs applicable to UAS and their operation.

With the proliferation of UAS operations within the United States, the FAA is concerned about the safety risk posed by UAS operations that may be contrary to the FARs. To address these concerns, the FAA has stated that it “will use its resources to educate UAS operators about regulatory compliance and, when appropriate, use administrative and legal enforcement action to gain compliance.”

How Does a UAS Operator Violate the Regulations?

What does this mean for UAS operators? It means the operator of a UAS is now subject to the FAA’s compliance and enforcement procedures in the event that the UAS operator violates applicable FARs or other statutory requirements when the operator is operating its UAS. For example, if the UAS is being operated for hobby or recreational purposes and the operation “endangers the safety of the National Airspace”, the FAA may cite the operator for violation of operational FARs such as §§ 91.13-91.15, 91.113, 91.126-135, 91.137-145, and 14 C.F.R. Part 73.

If the UAS is operated for commercial purposes (e.g. other than for hobby and recreational purposes) and the operator does not have FAA authorization for the operation in the form of a Certificate of Authorization (“COA”), an exemption or an airworthiness certificate and civil aircraft COA, then the FAA could cite the operator for lack of the appropriate authorizations such as pilot and aircraft certification as well as any applicable operational FARs. Or if the UAS operator does have a COA or exemption but operates contrary to the operational requirements associated with the authorizations then the operator could be cited for violating those requirements.

How Will the FAA Respond to Violations?

In order to determine what type of action the FAA will take to respond to violations by a UAS operator, the FAA will analyze

  • Whether the violation was a first-time and inadvertent violation;

  • Whether the violation involves repeated or intentional violations; and

  • Whether the safety risk resulting from the operation in terms of actual or potential endangerment to the National Airspace was low/medium/high.

If the UAS operator’s violation is a first-time, inadvertent violation and education or counseling by the FAA will ensure future compliance, then the case will be resolved as a “compliance action” using education or informal counseling. When a situation involves a first-time, inadvertent violation by a UAS operator that poses a low actual or potential risk to safety but the FAA determines compliance cannot be gained through education, then the FAA will pursue administrative action using a warning notice or letter of correction with possible remedial training. And if the FAA determines that a UAS operator’s violation poses a medium or high actual or potential risk to safety, then the FAA will pursue legal enforcement action through a certificate or civil penalty action.

So, when will a UAS operator’s conduct subject the operator to legal enforcement action? One example would be when a UAS operator’s conduct has a medium or high risk of endangering the operation of another aircraft or endangering persons or property on the ground. Another example would be when the UAS operator’s conduct involves repeated or intentional violations.

What Type of Sanction Will the FAA Impose?

Once the FAA decides that legal enforcement action is necessary or appropriate, it must next determine what sanction it should impose for the violation. The sanction will vary depending upon whether the operator is an individual or an entity and, if an entity, what size of entity. FAA Order 2150.3B, Appendix B (the sanction guidance table) identifies a range of sanctions.

If a UAS operator’s violation poses a medium actual or potential risk to safety then the FAA may seek to impose a civil penalty in the minimum to moderate range. Alternatively, a violation by a UAS operator that poses a high actual or potential risk to safety would likely result in assessment of a civil penalty in the maximum range. And, not surprisingly, if a UAS operator repeatedly or intentional violates the regulations then the FAA would impose a civil penalty in the applicable maximum range.

UAS operators who also hold airman certificates (e.g. a pilot, mechanic or other certificate) are at even greater risk. The FAA has stated “[f]or a deliberate, egregious violation by a certificate holder, regardless of whether the certificate holder is exercising the privileges of the certificate in connection with the violations associated with a UAS operation, certificate action, may be appropriate. Such certificate action may be in addition to a civil penalty.” So, not only could an airman operating a UAS be subject to a civil penalty, but his or her airman certificate could also be at risk if the FAA thinks the airman’s UAS violation was serious enough.


For the operator of the shiny new UAS I mentioned above, my advice is to proceed with caution. How the operator was operating the UAS as well as what the operator tells the FAA will have a significant impact upon how the FAA views the case and what action it feels is necessary to deal with any regulatory violations. Knowing what to expect can help UAS operators be prepared to respond to the FAA appropriately.

Top 5 Favorite Airports

Ever get that exciting feeling when you walk into an airport?  I know I do!  The excitement of jetting off to some other part of the country is often enough to keep me awake, despite that 5am flight.   Today I’ll cover my top 5 favorite airports and hopefully it’ll get you daydreaming about your next big trip.

#5:  Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK)

Nantucket Memorial Airport is situated on the beautiful Nantucket Island, about 30 miles from Boston.   Normally, I probably wouldn’t have ever been to the East coast except for vacation, but that all changed last summer.  The airport gets extremely busy in the summer due to airline and General Aviation traffic, so they hire many seasonal workers. 

UND put up the ad on their website and I applied to work full-time in the Fixed Based Operator (FBO).  It was a great job, and I lived in a beach house the airport owned while working there over the summer.  The beach was very picturesque and I got to bike to work every day.  I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything, and that’s why Nantucket Memorial Airport is #5!

#4: San Antonio Int’l Airport (SAT)

San Antonio holds a special place in my heart.  Located in southwest Texas, this little gem of an airport is like my second home.  If it weren’t for a special someone, I might have never been able to experience Texas.  It’s located conveniently close to downtown San Antonio and home to some notable corporate aviation departments like Valero, Pace Foods, and H.E.B. 

Photo courtesty of San Antonio International Airport

You know you’re not in the Midwest any longer when you walk down that jet bridge and feel the heat and humidity.

#3: Sydney Kingsford Smith Int’l Airport (SYD)

Sydney Airport is the one of the few international airports I’ve had the opportunity to visit and my favorite Australian airport.  Situated in downtown Sydney, this airport hosts some spectacular views of one of Australia’s most urban cities.  Oftentimes, if you’re traveling to Australia from the U.S., your first stop will be at Sydney where you will clear Customs and head over to the domestic terminal.

When I originally traveled to Australia about 4 years ago, I was on my way to Brisbane, a city on the Gold Coast (east side of Australia).  We had to clear Customs, pick up our bags, exit the international terminal and take a shuttle to the domestic terminal a few miles away.  It turns out that there were more than 1 jumbo jet that got into Customs at the same time and we ended up missing our domestic connection.  However, Qantas Airlines has some pretty amazing employees and they rebooked us on the next available flight. 

The terminals are very white and sleek looking.  The airport feels newer than most U.S. airports and the hustle and bustle is amazing.  Many Australians travel by air as it’s not exactly easy to drive between large cities.   In addition, most Australians live within 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) of the coast, so it’s often faster and cheaper to fly.  Security is a little different in Australia and when I asked if I should take off my shoes and belt, they laughed at me!  I’m guessing they don’t have the same security issues we have here in the U.S.

#2: Flying Cloud Municipal Airport (FCM)

#2 is the airport of many firsts for me.  My first flying lesson, my first solo, and where I earned my Private Pilot’s License.  I also got my first aviation-related job there working for a small flying school.  That flying school turned out to be a great place because I met a lot of my flying family there.  We still all hang out when we can – one of the couples in our group even got married in a hanger there! 

Flying Cloud is home to a lot of General Aviation and the pilots there are a pretty tight group.  It’s also home to the Wings of The North Organization that has an aviation museumand hosts AirExpo every summer on the airport’s property.  Viking Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol has a hanger there and many flight schools call Flying Cloud their home.  

#1: Minneapolis-St Paul Int’l Airport (MSP)

Minneapolis-St Paul is #1 because it’s the first international airport I ever traveled from.  I flew from there to Alaska with my dad, to Florida to visit my brother, to San Diego to connect to Australia, and many other destinations.   This airport is exciting and nostalgic all at once – it could mean a new adventure, or returning to home sweet home.  There is something special about being connected to the world through just one location – it never ceases to fascinate me… And that’s why Minneapolis will always be #1.  So, what's your #1 airport?

Top 5 Jobs in Aviation (That are not Professional Pilot)

Since I was a young girl and I took my first airplane flight, I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life associated with this wonderful world of flying machines. My immediate action after this flight was to decide I would be a professional pilot. After all, in my young mind that was the only job that would let me be around airplanes and airports all day. Since then, I have pushed on with single-mindedness towards earning my flight ratings. First private, then instrument, now I am building hours towards taking my commercial pilot checkride.

However, he more that I dig deep into the world of professional flight, the more I see that it is certainly not just the pilots that play an important role. In reality, they play just as important of a role of any of the hundreds of other personnel that run airports and flight operations daily. These jobs are not given the "rock star" persona that the general public tends to give pilots, and I believe that is a terrible misunderstanding.

In my Crew Resource Management class at my flight university we have been discussing a lot about what exactly the definition of "crew" is. Is it just pilot flying and pilot monitoring? Is it also ATC? If ATC is included, wouldn’t maintenance and dispatch also make the cut? A commercial flight operation could not possibly happen without the combined efforts of all of these resources.

I want to give a brief overview of what I consider to be five of the most important "crew" resources for every commercial flight. I would also like to encourage every young aviator out there to take a step back and appreciate all of the supporting people that work to make these operations happen. They are all "rock stars" in their own right and work very hard to keep the skies safe and efficient.

Air Traffic Controller

Picture this scenario: It is a sunny and beautiful day at a medium-sized airport that supports both commercial and general aviation traffic. Everyone suddenly gets the urge to stretch their wings and spend a few hours in the air. At the same time, routine commercial flights are coming and going at breakneck speed to accommodate travelers. As a controller, it is your job to perfectly orchestrate the dozens of aircraft that are in your airspace at any given moment. You also have to take into consideration the type, speed, altitude, and intention of each plane. Air traffic controllers have an extremely difficult job, that when done well is not noticed.


A dispatcher is in charge of organizing a large portion of the logistical information for a flight. In the U.S. and Canada they also share legal responsibility for any aircraft they are assigned with the pilot in command. Dispatchers are trained to ATP standards, and must have extensive knowledge of meteorology and aviation regulations in general. A dispatcher typically handles between 10 and 20 aircraft at the same time, and must monitor each of them to ensure safe flight operations.

Aircraft Maintenance Worker

If aircraft were not maintained to the high standard that they are today, there would be twice as many accidents happening during daily flight operations. Aircraft maintenance technicians are highly skilled in mechanics, computer systems, and a whole host of other practical expertise. They spend weeks memorizing the complex systems of each aircraft that they work on. They are not afraid to get dirty, and keep thousands of aircraft flying every day.


With all of these moving parts, there has to be some sort of management in place to assure that everything is running smoothly. That is where the managers, administrators, HR workers or "higher-ups" come into play. They know the business side of aviation, and often incorporate their personal aviation knowledge into their managerial methods. These are the people that help to keep the business going when things get tough.

Flight Attendant

No list of important aviation jobs would be complete without mention of flight attendants. These hard working crewmembers deal directly with the general public for hours every day. They travel the world just as much as the pilots do, and have to be wise and patient when handling any issues caused by passengers onboard. They must be friendly but assertive, constantly holding a professional demeanor. The life of a flight attendance is not glamorous, but it sure can be fun.

This list does not scratch the surface of all the types of jobs available in the aviation industry. I am sure that if you thought of almost any job, there is an equivalent job in the aviation industry. Keep an open mind when looking towards your future career endeavors, and always do what you love! We have a great list of job search resources available on the Aviation Directory.

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