Maintenance - Page 10 Aviation Articles

Use Caution When Comparing Aircraft Costs

When comparing aircraft costs, understand what costs are included, what costs aren’t, and how the costs are calculated. If you don’t take all three into account, you can end up with cost data, that although technically correct when viewed alone, is an invalid comparison.

Let’s take an easy one. Fuel How much do you spend on fuel? We did this for a benchmark client, asking what their cost per gallon was for fuel at home and on the road, as well as their annual fuel budget. Seemed straightforward until I started looking at the results. At home, several operators reported fuel costs of less than $2.50 per gallon. This was when then national average was over $5 per gallon. I was able to follow up with the operators and I found out two things:

1. These operators had their own fuel farms.

2. The cost of fuel to them was the wholesale cost when the truck pumped the fuel into their storage tanks.

These operators correctly and accurately reported that their fuel cost at home was less than $2.50 per gallon. The cost of the installing and maintaining the fuel tank and operating their fuel truck, as well as the taxes and fees were all excluded from their cost of fuel. Those costs were in the cost of the hangar and grounds throwing that benchmark off as well. So my intent was to arrive at the “Total cost of fuel inclusive of every cost of every item needed to get the fuel into the aircraft tank.” But without a lengthly definition and explanation, how is an operator to know exactly what I need?

When comparing costs, you need to be clear and consistent in what costs are included and how those costs are calculated.

Another area where costs can be reported in disparate ways is maintenance. “What is your cost of maintenance?” is such an open, and loaded question. Do you get your aircraft maintained at a service center? Do you have in-house maintenance staff? Do you have inventory and how/where does that cost get recorded? Did you record the costs as an accrual or as they occurred?

As an example, take a major airframe inspection due every six years on a large business jet. The cost of that inspection is $240,000. As an answer to “what is your cost of maintenance?”, it could be:

1. $240,000 this year as the inspection was done this year ($600 per hour if flew 400 hours)

2. $40,000 per year accrual for six years (or $100 per hour is flying 400 hours each year)

While in our costing we look at the $100 per hour as the cost of the above inspection, neither accounting is incorrect. When comparing costs, we stress using an accrual method. This way the cost of something is allocated over the time it took to accrue that cost.

If budgeting, then you need to look at the timing of the cost. Comparing costs by looking at a budget can be helpful as it shows not only what the costs are expected to be, but when they are likely to occur. If you are evaluating the acquisition of a used aircraft, when the major airframe inspection is next due can be important. So while Both Aircraft A and Aircraft B can have a similar budget, Aircraft B may face that major inspection sooner than Aircraft A. This information is good to know.

Comparing aircraft costs should be done using a fair and consistent method. The timing of major costs should also be considered. While no one method is the best method, the comparison should be done on an “apples-to-apples” basis and then relative differences are what adds meaning to the comparison.

May An Inspector Return An Aircraft To Service As Airworthy If The Aircraft's Registration Has Expired?

According to the FAA, the answer is "yes." This question was discussed and answered in a recent  Legal Interpretation issued by the FAA's Office of the Chief Counsel. The issue arose after the FAA amended 14 C.F.R. § 47.40 to mandate that failure to renew an aircraft's U.S. registration at the end of the three-year registration period results in the expiration of the certificate. Apparently at least one Flight Standards District Office ("FSDO"), and other individuals, had taken the position that an aircraft could not be returned to service as airworthy after an inspection if the aircraft's U.S. registration had expired.

The Interpretation initially observed that an aircraft's airworthiness certificate is not "effective" if the aircraft's U.S. registration is expired. It also noted that 14 C.F.R. Part 43, which contains the FAA's general maintenance regulations, applies to a U.S. registered aircraft whether or not it has a current registration certificate and "[n]othing in the regulation indicates that a failure by the owner to renew the registration is a type of discrepancy contemplated by part 43."

The Interpretation concluded that "no current FAA regulation proscribes an approval for return to service of a U.S.-registered aircraft following an inspection required by parts 91, 125, or 135 if the aircraft's registration certificate is not current." As a result, an aircraft may be approved for return to service as airworthy as long as the aircraft

  1. has an airworthiness certificate (regardless of whether or not it is effective);

  2. conforms to its type certificate (including any applicable supplemental type certificates (STC) and is in compliance with all applicable airworthiness directives (AD)); and

  3. is in condition for safe operation.

What can we learn from this situation, beyond the obvious interpretation of the regulations? FSDOs don't always interpret or apply the FARs correctly. As a result, if you disagree with a FSDO's interpretation and application of the FARs, you should definitely pursue relief up the FAA food-chain to the regional or national level. Although you still may not get the relief you would like, at least you should be able to get the correct answer.

Learjet 85 Jet Gets its Wings

 

MONTREAL, QUEBEC--(Marketwire - Nov. 19, 2012) - Bombardier Aerospace announced today that the first wing shipment for its Learjet 85 jet has arrived at the Wichita assembly line and is now in the process of being readied for mating to the fuselage of Flight Test Vehicle one (FTV1).

Alongside the arrival of the first complete Learjet 85 aircraft wing, the fuselage for FTV2 has successfully completed its integrity inspection. Installation of the nose, bulkheads, floor, windshield and door surrounds are scheduled to begin in the coming days. Once complete the main fuselage will be shipped with the aft fuselage to the final assembly line.

Wings for the complete aircraft static test article are expected to arrive from Queretaro by the end of November as preparations for static ground testing continues. Elsewhere, the program is soaring along as all system supplier safety of flight test rigs been commissioned.

"Seeing the wings arrive for our first Learjet 85 test aircraft is a wonderful moment. A moment that could not have happened without the hard work and dedication of every single person involved in this project," said Ralph Acs, Vice President and General Manager, Learjet. "This development program is gaining ever more momentum as we tirelessly work towards first flight and the first customer delivery."

Learjet 85 aircraft: The Learjet 85 aircraft lives up to its nomenclature with its sleek Learjet lines, legendary performance, and blends the newest technology to deliver an aircraft that will redefine the midsize segment with the largest, fastest and longest range Learjet aircraft to date. With its stand up cabin and superior design this jet can seamlessly fly 3,000 nm (5,556 km) and speeds up to M0.82 (470kts 871km/h). It can link Montreal with Caracas, and fly Montreal to Los Angeles(i). And with its Bombardier Vision Flight Deck offers pilots the most sophisticated cockpit in its class.

Last Flying B-29 Grounded, Faces Costly Repair

Keep FIFI Flying Campaign Launched To Get B-29 Back in the Air

Midland/Odessa, Texas (November 14, 2012) - During the last airshow flight of the season, the world's only flying B-29 Superfortress, FIFI, experienced an engine problem. The crew returned the airplane safely to the ground, but it was soon determined that FIFI's number two engine would need major repairs. In response, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) launched a major fund raising campaign to raise money for one of the world's most famous World War II bombers.

At nearly $10,000 and 100 volunteer hours per hour of flight, keeping FIFI in the air is no easy task. And the cost for repairs to the number two engine and the purchase of a spare will top $250,000. The Keep FIFI Flying campaign's goal is to raise those funds, ensuring continuous future operation and flight.

"The number of World War II veterans is dwindling every day," said Neils Agather, Commander of the B-29 Squadron of the CAF that operates the aircraft. "Our mission is to preserve the living legacy of the Greatest Generation and we intend to do all we can to preserve their story of sacrifice and honor."

FIFI is a traveling piece of military history. The airplane flies to air shows and tour stops all over the country demonstrating to young and old the sights, smells and sounds of history. These personal experiences perpetuate the spirit in which these aircraft were flown in defense of our nation - honoring the courage, sacrifice and legacy of the greatest generation.

"But the continued flight of FIFI is at risk," Agather continued. "We need your help, each one doing a little bit, to continue to spread the message."

For more information about the campaign, visit www.KeepFifiFlying.com.

In 1957, a small group of ex-service pilots pooled their money to purchase a P-51 Mustang, beginning what is now called the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). With the addition of a pair of F8F Bearcats, the CAF became the founders of the Warbird Movement, an effort to preserve and honor our military history with the rallying cry to "Keep 'Em Flying!" Now, 55 years later, the CAF is the premier Warbird organization, operating 156 vintage aircraft in Honor of American Military Aviation. A non-profit educational association, the CAF has more than 9,000 members and its fleet of historic aircraft is distributed to 73 units located in 27 states for care and operation. For more information, visit www.commemorativeairforce.org or call (432) 563-1000.

Boeing Starts Building First 777 at New Rate

Article by: Gregory Polek
Brought to you by: AINONLINE

Boeing on Tuesday began building the first 777 at the highest rate ever for any of its twin-aisle models, the company said today. The rate of 8.3 airplanes per month amounts to a nearly 20-percent increase over the previous rate of seven per month.

Assembly mechanic Ryan Hoover monitors 777 drilling progress of the Flex Track on his laptop computer. Flex Track fuselage drilling equipment consists of numerically controlled drill machines riding on flexible tracks that attach to the exterior of the fuselage skin with vacuum cups. (Photo: Boeing)

Workers loaded into position the first part—the lower lobe of the 777’s aft fuselage—for assembly under the new rate in its factory in Everett, Washington.

“The preparation the team has done for this historic rate increase has been comprehensive from floor to ceiling,” said Scott Fancher, 777 vice president and general manager. “We’ve hired and trained hundreds of additional employees and the efforts of the team to get us to this point have been simply outstanding,” he said.

Boeing has applied new technologies to achieve the highest production rate the Everett plant has seen. Flex-track drilling machines in the 777 body and wings area along with automated spray-painting equipment have increased productivity and improved quality and safety, according to the company.

Boeing plans to deliver the airplane, a 777 Freighter, to Korean Air in February. Since the program’s inception, 62 customers from around the world have ordered 1,380 of the airplanes, 1,049 of which have entered service.

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