August 2016 Aviation Articles

The Intern - Part 2

I’ve heard that some opportunities are once in a lifetime.  Like traveling half-way around the world to Australia which I did four years ago this summer, or interning with the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC).  I had always enjoyed airports, airport operations, and generally, just being an airport rat, but this summer was an eye opener and I’m grateful for the opportunity to observe the daily operations at a large airport like Minneapolis-St. Paul Int’l (KMSP).

Learning New Skills…

If I got into everything I learned here at the MAC and Airside Operations, I’d have a very long list with a lot of things that may or may not interest the average reader.  However, I will say that I got some invaluable training in new rules that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) publishes.  There have also been many new rules coming out of the FAA through the publishing of Advisory Circulars (ACs) that give recommendations for how different segments of the industry should do certain things.

The winter operations here at KSMP will be affected by these new regulations and Airside Operations will see a shift in the dynamics of staffing, field operations, and reporting to the FAA.  It’s interesting to see how one regulation can have such a significant impact.  Also, every airport is different, so watching how other, similar-sized, airports adjust to the new regulations will also be quite interesting.  Or maybe I’m just a huge nerd and I love reading about that sort of thing (haha).

Learning About My Department…

With any job, you always go through a phase of learning how your department interacts within itself, and with the rest of the organization.  It’s important to understand the big picture and this summer I had the chance to dissect each position in Airside Operations and then look at the big-picture view of how they integrate in KSMP as a whole.

This summer, I learned about many of the daily tasks that are done by the Assistant Managers (those who run the airfield inspections, manage wildlife, etc.) and aided them in doing these during the week.  I learned about the policies and procedures that drive everyday activity and the Duty Managers who keep the office running during the daily shifts.  I also learned about the important role that Operations Coordinators have in taking information and disseminating it to the entire airport all while watching weather and airfield conditions, managing the overflow parking, and keep the phone from ringing off the hook.  Lastly, I learned how Technical Operations is the glue keeping our systems together and how the Manager of Airside Operations, my boss, really has his hands full and juggles so many duties that they are too long to list here.

Learning About Job Opportunities

Throughout the summer myself and my fellow interns have had the opportunity to participate in many tours. They ranged from FedEx’s airport operations, Facilities, Terminal 2 – Humphrey, to the Airport Police Department.

The main goal of those tours was to network with the different departments, learn about their function within KSMP, but also see the variety of jobs that exist on a commercial airport.  I have come away with several different types of jobs in mind and now know that there are many options available.  Also, my coworkers at the MAC have connections at many different airports and have offered to connect with their contacts on my behalf in the future.

Overall, the MAC has opened my eyes to the possibilities of many different facets of aerospace at an airport.

Moving On...For Now…

As I’m sitting here writing this on my last day at the MAC, I can’t help but be sad that I’m leaving my favorite airport and will be soon turning in my badge and parking pass.  I’ve had so much fun and learned so much in the last 10 weeks that it will be hard to go back to school for the next nine months.  I am very grateful to have been at the MAC and appreciate the opportunity.

I enjoyed getting to learn alongside my fellow interns from my soon-to-be alma mater and from Metro State University.  We learned together all summer, learned from each other, and became a close team when working on projects and learning about the airport.

However, I’m so excited to be just two semesters away from graduating and all the possibilities ahead of me.  I love being at the MAC and I intend to come back in the future, in one capacity or another.  Until then, it’s time to put my nose to the grindstone.


In the meantime, thank you Airside Operations and fellow interns for a great summer & I’ll see you all soon!


Choosing The Right MRO For Your Pre-Buy Inspections

By Mike Saathoff – Director of Estimating and Paint and Interior Sales
Elliott Aviation

Whether you are buying or selling an aircraft, a pre-buy can be a hassle; but it shouldn’t be if you secure a solid, non-biased MRO. Just as you would when you buy or sell a house, pre-buy inspections are a must to protect both parties in the transaction. There are a few key items to help make the process smoother. Whether you are the broker, buyer, or the seller, keeping the sale moving forward is important. Paperwork, airworthiness, scheduled items and coming to an agreement are all part of the pre-buy process. Let’s discuss these key items and how to keep all parties in mind.

Choosing a Broker:
Be selective and do your research when choosing an aircraft broker. Do they have integrity? Can you trust them? Will they have your best interest in mind? Find a broker you are comfortable with and one you can trust. Look for someone with experience and knowledge of aircraft sales. This person should be able to see all sides and assists you with the best possible outcome.

Choosing a Maintenance Provider:
Ensure the facility that is performing the pre-buy inspection or any facility that maintains the aircraft has industry longevity, as well as experience in executing pre-buys for the type of aircraft you are purchasing. Make sure the facility has a history of working on the aircraft model. As a buyer or seller, competitive pricing plays a role in your pre-buy inspection. Always keep in mind that cheaper doesn’t always mean you are getting a deal. Make sure the facility you are working with is using solid quality standards to ensure they are keeping the aircraft airworthy but not going to extremes. Either extreme can be very costly to the buyer or seller. Trust in a company to do a thorough inspection in an acceptable downtime is key.

The Pre-Buy Inspection:
Keep the sale moving. To ensure a sale continues to move forward, reviewing logbooks is a meticulous effort. Having all necessary paperwork in order can help the process along and is highly beneficial. Knowing who maintained the aircraft, if the aircraft always stayed on schedule, how many hours the aircraft has flown per year, and has the aircraft sat idle or extended periods of time are all questions a pre-buy inspection addresses, and this helps to ensure airworthiness.

Other items to be completed during a pre-buy are any scheduled maintenance events. Next, the facility needs to determine if there are burn certificates for the interior, if new paint is due, if the aircraft is on a current inspection program; these are all questions that must be answered. If the current warranty allows, a thorough engine review is done both on paperwork and a boroscope. The facility should conduct an external review of the aircraft for any obvious defects, specifically windows and boots. Brake wear checks and fuel tank external leak checks are other items performed.

Most importantly, you want to find a non-biased facility who will ensure the aircraft is properly inspected and repaired in accordance with maintenance standards, but not one looking to “rebuild” the aircraft.

Lastly, it is up to the buyer and seller to come to terms on an agreement of who should pay for what necessary or optional items. A solid, non-bias broker will be highly beneficial in this process and assist with maintaining what would be fair to all parties.

Mike Saathoff has been with Elliott Aviation since July of 1996. He has performed various roles within the company, including Maintenance Team Leader, Assistant Chief Inspector, Maintenance Sales Manager, Director of Maintenance Sales and most recently Senior Director of Sales. Mike Saathoff is currently our Director of Sales Support and Paint & Interior Sales.

Budgeting - Tracking Costs Makes This Easier

My wife and I just made some changes in our investments for retirement. As part of the review was looking at all our expenses and estimated what we'll need to budget in our later years. Good news - I don't own a boat/airplane/antique car. Bad news, I do like my personal technology products and high-speed internet.  My new iPad is cheaper than a Waco UPF-7, even if less fun!

So with my recent financial planning exercise fresh in my mind, I'm visiting budgeting again. 

As a reminder: A budget is a best estimate looking forward at what you think expenses will be. At the corporate level, the aviation department budget may be buried deep within the Corporate HQ budget, or if attached to a group like Human Resources or Legal (I've seen both), then it is further down the visibility chain. One Fortune 100 company flight department reports their budget in three categories: Transportation, Facilities, Personnel. While that my be sufficient for a CFO to manage, you can't manage your flight operations on such broad data. You need to have more detail.

The key thing to having a usable budget from the point of view of the aviation manager is to track and report your costs in detail.  You need sufficient details in your costing and budgeting so that small variances in the budget versus actuals get your attentions before they become major financial issues. Tracking, reporting and understanding your costs are necessary to avoid financial surprises.

Many costs in your budget are outside your direct control.  While you can join fuel discount programs and negotiate a discount at home base, neither you nor the FBO can accurately state that the price per barrel of oil will remain at current levels for the next year. You can query your users to estimate how much flying there will be next year, but you can't control the Board's decision to aggressively pursue a merger opportunity that pops up. You need to make a number of assumptions regarding things like utilization, fuel costs, etc that factor into those costs. While guaranteed hourly maintenance programs make maintenance budgeting easier, the annual cost of those programs varies with utilization. 

Document these assumptions so that if fuel goes up $1 per gallon during the next year, our your utilization goes up 10%, that you can revise the budget accordingly.  Your budget should be reviewed and updated as the year progresses. Planned versus actual should be a standard metric. A Revising the budget with clear explanations should be allowed. If not, do it internally so that at least you maintain some sense of control.

As an example, take fuel. Just tracking a single fuel amount for costs and budgeting leave you with little insight as to what is going on. At a minimum, what is fuel at home verse fuel purchased on the road? Usage and cost per gallon, and gallons per hour per aircraft  type versus trip length are much more helpful. If a fuel farm is involved, does the cost of the facility fall under fuel or another account, such as facilities or hangar? 

Budgets should be a financial tool that you use to manage the fiscal resources of your operation. It should not be a once and done exercise. Used appropriately, a budget should provide you with operating cost metrics that you can use to measure and manage your aircraft throughout the year.

Start the budgeting process early, or better yet, keep track and keep a running budget that gets updated periodically. While the formal budget presented to management may be fixed for 12-months, your management budget for running the aviation department needs to change with your operational changes. 


Waiver of Emergency Procedures in an NTSB Appeal Will Not Cure a Missed Deadline

Since the FAA began implementing its new compliance philosophy last year, fewer case are being appealed to the NTSB.  However, it appears that the cases that are being appealed the most are emergency orders of either suspension or revocation.  As you may recall from past articles, when a certificate holder appeals an emergency order to the NTSB, emergency procedures apply to the case which require that a hearing be held within 30 days after the appeal is filed.  Other deadlines are also much shorter under the emergency procedures than they are under the procedures for a non-emergency appeal.  The purpose for the accelerated hearing and deadlines is to ensure that a certificate holder whose certificate has been suspended or revoked on an emergency basis (i.e. the order is effective immediately) receives a hearing and decision as soon as possible to minimize the impact of the suspension or revocation if the NTSB administrative law judge ("ALJ") ultimately reverses the FAA's order.

But in some situations, this expedited timeline can also be a problem for a certificate holder who may need more time to properly prepare for a hearing.  So, it is also possible to waive the emergency procedures in an appeal of an emergency order.  Whether the emergency procedures should be waived is a decision that will depend upon the circumstances of each case.  But the certificate holder must be sure to comply with the deadlines applicable to the case, whether under the emergency or non-emergency procedures.  Failure to comply can result in harsh consequences.  If a certificate holder is going to waive the emergency procedures, the waiver should occur before any applicable deadline has passed.  A recent decision by the NTSB illustrates the unfortunate consequences of an untimely waiver.

In Administrator v. Jimenez; the airman appealed an emergency order revoking his commercial pilot certificate.  The airman appealed the order to the NTSB, but failed to file his answer to the FAA's complaint within the five days required by the Board's emergency procedures.  As a result, the FAA subsequently filed a motion to deem the facts admitted and requesting summary judgment.  One day after the FAA filed its motion, the airman waived the emergency procedures and filed his answer which would have still been timely under the proceedures applicable to a non-emergency case.  In the absence of good cause for the late filing, the ALJ granted the FAA's motion based upon the airman's failure to timely file his answer.  The airman then appealed the ALJ's decision to the full Board.

On appeal, the airman argued that his answer was timely under the non-emergency procedures that were applicable to the case once the airman had waived the emergency procedures.  However, the Board rejected the airman's argument.  While the Board observed that Section 821.52(d) permits an airman to waive the the accelerated time limits applicable to emergency cases, it then referred to the rule's limitation that “such a waiver shall not serve to lengthen any period of time for doing an act prescribed by this subpart which expired before the date on which the waiver was made.”  Thus, the Board held that the express language of the rule precluded the airman's argument that the 20-day deadline, which would apply in a non-emergency case, was applicable because the airman did not waive the the emergency procedures until after the time to file his answer expired.

The rules for emergency and non-emergency cases can sometimes be confusing.  And, unfortunately, the consequences of failing to comply with the rules can be significant.  This case is yet another example of why it makes sense to have an experienced aviation attorney assist you with appeal of an FAA order of suspension or revocation. If you find yourself in this situation, make sure you get the help you need.

Top 5 Things that Happened at Oshkosh 2016

This year at Oshkosh was one of the biggest and most exciting yet. It seems that the world’s biggest airshow continues to get better every year. Unfortunately I was unable to go this year because of how close the date was to my upcoming wedding. However, this did not deter my groom and he flew his Stinson 10A up for the week and kept me updated on daily events.

Several major things happened at Oshkosh this year and I was able to live vicariously through my Facebook friends as they experienced them. So here is an outsider’s view of the most talked about events at Oshkosh 2016!

1. The Martin Mars Water Drop

If you have been following anything online from Oshkosh, I am certain you have seen the infamous video of the Martin Mars dropping thousands of gallons of water during an airshow. It dropped 7,200 gallons of Lake Winnebago water, to be exact. The Martin Mars is the world’s largest warbird ever built, originally designed to be a bomber for long-range missions. It was converted into the massive firefighting water bomber that it is today in the early 60s. There’s also good news if you are interested in owning the Oshkosh show-stopper – it is up for sale for a reported 3 million dollars.

2. Harrison Ford was Everywhere

I am a member of several discussion groups online for female pilots, both private and public. When I scrolled down my newsfeed and saw a woman in such a group post a photo of herself standing with Harrison Ford, it blew me away! I showed my mom and my friends and joked about how if I were there I would have met him. Little did I know that within the next couple days, dozens of people in my newsfeed would post their own photos with or of Harrison Ford. It seemed like he was everywhere, and there was plenty of photo evidence of this. It was a huge year for him, too, as he flew the 2 millionth EAA Young Eagle in his de Havilland Beaver.

3. The Canadian Snowbirds Routine

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds took to the skies over Oshkosh for the first time in over 30 years. By all reports, it was absolutely breathtaking. They flew several complicated maneuvers and were definitely a fan favorite. The team flew in Canadair CT-114 Tutors, keeping incredibly sharp formations. This was certainly a highlight for the week and I’m sure EAA is thankful to our friends up north for the amazing show!

4. Another Breathtaking Night Airshow

The EAA nighttime airshow is a fairly recent addition to the week. Guests are able to watch the unique combination of amazing aerobatics and dazzling lights. On Wednesday night this spectacular nighttime airshow entertained thousands as the airplanes and fireworks boomed through the darkness. This is always a treat, but EAA seems to always find a way to make it better each year.

5. EAA Drone Center Continued to Grow

An exhibit that has been steadily growing over the last few years is the Drone Center in Aviation Gateway Park. Catering to pilots who have a particular interest in drones, this large caged area was used for flight demonstrations of the latest models all week. It is fascinating how this would not have existed several years back, and how it is gaining so much traction nowadays.

What was your favorite Airventure highlight? We can only wait in anticipation for next year’s amazing week in Oshkosh!

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