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Budget Tips for your aircraft

As 2014 rolls into the Northeast with a big snow storm, this is as good a time as any to look ahead while waiting for the snow plow. A big part of looking ahead is your aircraft's annual operating budget.

If you operate on a calendar budget, you should have already completed your aircraft operating budget for the year. If this is the last time you look at your budget until the end of the year, you are not taking advantage of the work you have done.

A budget is a best estimate looking forward at what you think expenses will be. As such, you made a number of assumptions regarding things like utilization, fuel costs, etc that factor into those costs. As you advance through the year, you will learn how accurate those assumptions were. Is your budget capped? If you were planning on fuel prices remaining stable, what happens if they increase? Where does the money come from if you exceed your allotted budget amounts?

Maintenance costs will depend on the utilization. What if, having planned on 360 annual hours, which puts the next major inspection into 2015, you end up flying 400? If a major maintenance bill comes due earlier than expected, will you be ready for this? You should be plotting major, know expenses, forward at least two to three years. Things like engine overhauls, paint & interior, major checks, hangar rents, even training and insurance costs are coming on a predictable schedule. 

Your budget should be reviewed and updated as the year progresses. Planned versus actual should be a standard metric. If you have a tight budget with little room for overages, you'd better know early if there will be unforeseen issues. As you start seeing variances in your budget, have the explanation ready as to why. No one really knows what the price of fuel will be next month, let alone at the end of the year. When that cost of fuel changes from what you anticipated, note it and any possible explanations if you know of them.

The key thing is to track and report your costs in detail. Then when there are small variances in the budget actuals, you can see them (hopefully) before they become a major event. Save for a significant unscheduled maintenance event, this is doable. Then  you need to communicate to those with the money what is going on, and what actions that you recommend. If at 360 hours, the major inspection would be due in January 2015, but flying jumps to 400 annual hours: (1) major expenses in outlying years should already be noted and (2) the inspection costs need to be planned for well in advance. Tracking, reporting and understanding your costs are necessary to avoid financial surprises.

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.

Jetcraft Corporation Introduces HUD Vision Access™ – Based on Kollsman Technology – for Bombardier Challenger 604

FAA STC approval and US dealer network established – sales and installation now available through West Star Aviation

RALEIGH, NC, July 23, 2013 – Jetcraft Corporation and its subsidiary Jetcraft Avionics LLC, today announced that their HUD Vision Access™ system is now available for sale and installation on the Bombardier Challenger 604 (CL604).

Last month, Kollsman announced that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had awarded a “lower landing credit” approved supplemental type certificate (STC) for the Kollsman enhanced flight vision system (EFVS) for the CL604. As a major Kollsman EFVS distributor to the business aviation aftermarket, Jetcraft has commercialized this offering and branded it as HUD Vision Access.

Fully integrated with existing avionics, HUD Vision Access makes the CL604 a more flexible and valuable aircraft by allowing pilots to safely taxi, take-off and land in total darkness, fog, rain, snow, smog and other reduced visibility conditions. Under FAR 91.175, HUD Vision Access permits pilots to descend below decision height (DH/DA) at most airports, reducing the need for ground-based infrastructure. For owners and operators of CL604s, the principal benefits include additional operational credit at more than 4,000 runways across the country, during straight-in approaches with ILS or WAAS-LPV.

Implementation of the HUD Vision Access is a value-adding retrofit for CL604s in-line with the FAA’s new ‘NextGen’ initiative, which places increasing importance on cockpit-based (vs. ground-based) guidance systems.

West Star Aviation, a leading US provider of maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services with multiple authorized locations, has been selected by Jetcraft for system installations. West Star will sell and install HUD Vision Access as an integrated system, provisions or as separate components.

“Jetcraft’s HUD Vision Access system makes the CL604 a more valuable aircraft,” says Chad Anderson, President, Jetcraft Corporation. “Based on our extensive experience in the remarketing of previously-owned business aircraft and independent analysis, we estimate the resale value of HUD Vision Access to be approximately 70% of new. Additionally, HUD Vision Access is a significant differentiator at resale, compared to a similar aircraft without this upgrade. Previously, EFVS was only available on new aircraft sold directly by OEMs. With HUD Vision Access now STC approved on the CL604, we look forward to continuing to work with the Kollsman team to pursue EASA approval and comparable retrofits for aftermarket Bombardier Challenger 605 and CRJ conversion fleets. Working with West Star Aviation to access this game-changing technology enables clients to derive more value from their aircraft investments,” adds Mr. Anderson.

“We are pleased to be the leading installation facilities of Jetcraft’s HUD Vision Access system for CL604s,” continues Greg Byrnes, Senior Vice President, West Star Aviation. “We have considerable expertise with Challengers, specifically including avionics installations. The HUD Vision Access represents a major value-add for aircraft owners and operators. With recent FAA STC approval now established, we are ready to serve the more than 150 CL604 operators registered in the US,” concludes Mr. Byrnes.

About Jetcraft Corporation

Jetcraft Corporation is an international leader in new and pre-owned business aircraft sales, acquisitions and trades. Headquartered in Raleigh, NC, Jetcraft has sales offices/representation in five US cities; Basel and Zurich, Switzerland; Dubai, UAE, Moscow, Russia and Hong Kong, China. The company’s 50-year-plus track record in aircraft transactions has earned it a world class customer base and one of the strongest global networks in the industry. Jetcraft Avionics LLC, a subsidiary of Jetcraft Corporation, provides distribution of enhanced flight vision systems (EFVS) for aftermarket business aircraft using Kollsman’s state-of-the-art EVS-II and AT-HUD. For more information, please visit www.jetcraft.com.

About West Star Aviation

West Star Aviation, Inc. specializes in airframe repair and maintenance, engine repair and maintenance, major modifications, avionics installation and repair, interior refurbishment, paint, parts, surplus avionics sales, window repair, landing gear overhauls and accessory services. The company also provides complete FBO services for transient aircraft at its East Alton, Illinois and Grand Junction, Colorado facilities. For more information, please visit www.weststaraviation.com.

Tips To Maintain Your Aircraft's Value

It is a process, not an event.

First off, maintain the aircraft.

A well-maintained aircraft will always have a higher residual value than one that is not. Well-maintained in this case refers to an aircraft that is maintained beyond what the minimum regulatory standards require. Airworthiness is related to safety, not value. 

Being well-maintained means more than keeping up with the required inspections and component overhauls. It means the aircraft has its equipment in functioning order, non-critical wear and tear items are taken care of, and cosmetics are recognized as important, too. There may be optional service bulletins that add to the functionality and maintainability of the aircraft. These optional service bulletin items should be chosen with maintainability and mission effectiveness in mind.

The aircraft exterior should be kept clean and polished. Interior comfort and convenience items need to be maintained in good working order and updated as required. A clean aircraft is not only more appealing, but problems and issues are spotted earlier and thus, may be easier and less costly to remedy. Paint and interior should be kept in good condition continuously, not just in the week prior to putting your aircraft up for sale.

The best ones to maintain the aircraft, if possible, are your own in-house maintenance staff. A well-trained, dedicated maintenance staff is your first and best opportunity to keep the aircraft in top condition. Your choice of a major MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) facility is important as well. Picking an MRO is more than just going with the lowest bidder. The MRO must have the knowledge and skills to perform the required maintenance, and when necessary, troubleshoot and repair your aircraft. They must do so in a manner that inspires confidence in their work. They do this by meeting schedules, communicating regularly, and by returning your aircraft in such good condition that follow-up work is minimal, if at all required. In-house maintenance plus an MRO with a top reputation for your aircraft type is a one-two combination for maintaining your aircraft value.

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Aircraft Maintenance Costs Can Sting!

A friend was recently stung by a wasp. He was doing some yard work and apparently disturbed the wasp who took umbrage at his summer nap being interrupted. The sting hurt and caused several days of uncomfortable swelling. I was joking with him that aircraft operating costs can be like that. They seem small at first compared to the big amount of the aircraft acquisition, but ignoring them can sting and cause you discomfort.

We find this in two areas when we review costs with operators. The first is failing to understand the cyclical nature of maintenance costs. Things like fuel are very stable and predictable. The more you fly the more your annual fuel cost grows. Maintenance tends to come in chunks. Yes, brakes and tires come at a predictable pace, but those inspections and component replacement/overhauls do not. A heavy maintenance inspection that occurs at infrequent intervals can have a high cost. More...

An engine modification that may change your aircraft's fuel usage


Above: A 250 hp, 6-cylinder engine modified by Sonex 

A tip of the hat today to AvWeb, who interviews Dr. Andrew Pouring of a company called Sonex. He and his staff developed a process called Sonex Controlled Auto Ignition.

By tweaking the pressure in piston cycles, one can modify an engine to burn most any type of fuel. AvWeb gives the example of burning Jet A in a piston aircraft, but it also could be used for other forms of diesel or even palm oil.

Listen to a podcast on the AvWeb site here. Read more from Sonex web site here.

According to the company, it wants to commercialize the process and is actively seeking investors to further the process to be used in UAVs and other military craft, in addition to private uses.