Maintenance - Page 11 Aviation Articles

Kentucky Institution For Aerospace Education - Reaches For The Sky

MISSION: to improve student learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and create career pathways in aerospace throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

         Albert Ueltschi, born in 1917 and was raised in Franklin County, Kentucky. Ueltschi attended high school in Franklin County and eventually developed the school’s first ever aeronautical course in 1946.

         Decades later, a man by the name of Tim Smith is teaching an algebra mathematics course in this very same high school. Since algebra is often as mentally straining as rocket science, one might presuppose that this subject does not typically come as natural to the average 15 year old. Mr. Smith recognized a potential problem as he watched his students struggle. With this, he began to generate a brilliant solution!

         Mr. Smith began studying; he was searching for a way to reach out to his adolescent peers. He longed to find a method of teaching that would allow room to engage in fun, yet educational activities; both inside as well as outside of the classroom. According to Mr. Smith, students always ask where they will use what they have learned in school throughout their real lives. Without a reason for learning, these students are likely to approach important topics with a lack of motivation and according to Mr. Smith; this lack of motivation creates poor learning habits in students. “Mathematics and science are tough enough for kids as it is. So why not give them what they are asking for?” says Mr. Smith. The STEM program was developed to reach out to these students, providing hands-on training in aircraft technology with hopes of making difficult school subjects more relevant and fun for students, while quietly boosting state test scores as well. He intends to show his students how subjects such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics are relevant in the world and he intends to teach these skills through aviation. “Why not restore and rebuild old aircraft?” He says. With that, The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education was developed.

         As Mr. Smith continued with his research he discovered and learned of Albert Ueltschi and his achievements in aviation at Frankfort High School. “During Ueltschi’s time, the aviators were the rockstars!” Mr. Smith exclaims. “Everyone wanted to grow up to become a pilot, and when people looked up to the sky what they saw were heroes. Now, it seems our students don’t look up at all, growing up to become a pilot is not even considered an option.” He states. Educators hope to use the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education hand in hand with the STEM program to change this theory. Aviation is in fact a very attainable goal; especially for high school students who have been offered the opportunity to jump start their careers through programs such as the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education. An event such as “Aviation Day” out of Capital City Airport is just one of many events that this Institution is reaching out to; all with high hopes of inspiring young adults in our community. According to Mr. Smith, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education simply wants to show young adults how aviation can be a very real opportunity for them. “This is definitely an opportunity that has the potential to change their lives” says Mr. Tim Smith.

         During the first 3 years, the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education maintained their program out of Frankfort High School. Only one other school in the area had caught on so they simply worked together. However as more of Kentucky educators began hearing about and sharing this fantastic opportunity, the program grew immensely. Today, a mere 7 years later the program has expanded to include 15 different high schools throughout the state of Kentucky. They have acquired and built a total of 8 aircraft, 2 of which are airworthy and now in use for student training. Recently the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education was offered a generous donation of land from the Capital City airport of Frankfort (FFT) as well as the Kentucky Department of Aviation for the production of their program’s soon to be hangar. Through the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education high school students are able to examine and experience firsthand what it may feel like to work in multiple fields, while receiving college credit to do it. If a student chooses piloting for example, they are given an opportunity to acquire a private pilot’s license completely free of charge to them. If that is of no interest, other programs are offered including Aeronautical Engineering, Space Systems as well as Operations and Maintenance.

         The Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education is currently in the process of building a hangar for its students to get more involved. Eventually, the program would like to have an entire facility specifically for the education of its students. This is a 501(c)(3) non-profit program, but with the help of generous donations and grants, Mr. Smith says he would eventually like to see this program offering not only a full staff of teachers, but also specially designed classrooms, aircraft and tools. This is a fantastic opportunity for high school students today. Overall there are a total of 60 programs similar to this one throughout the United States. Of that 60, 15 of those programs are based out of the state of Kentucky thanks to this very program. This is a part 61 training course and there are currently over 600 students involved.

For more information please contact: [email protected]
Or call: (502)320-9490


Above are photos of a Cessna 195 that the high school students of the Kentucky Institute for Aerospace Education are currently in the process of rebuilding. All of these parts have been salvaged and will be refurbished entirely. Mr. Smith says the objective for this aircraft (as for many others) is air worthiness and eventually student training.

Dutch Mid-Air Collision Caught On Video

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Both Airplanes Manage To Land Safely After Being Briefly Stuck Together

Two airplanes chartered by Dutch political parties were briefly stuck together after they collided in mid-air ... and the incident was captured by a cameraman aboard one of the aircraft.

The two aircraft were flying over a beach in Wassenaar in the Netherlands. One was towing a banner for the Christian Democrat political party, the other had members of the country's Socialist Party on board. A person on the Socialist's plane was taking video when the two airplanes collided, and the tow plane's landing gear became embedded in the other aircraft's wing.

The planes were flying at an altitude of about 450 feet when the incident occurred, according a person who was on board one of the aircraft. In the video, which appeared on Netherlands television NOS and has been posted on YouTube, the planes are seen briefly out of control before they separate.

Both planes reportedly landed safely, according to a report appearing in the U.K. newspaper The Mail. The airplane with the damaged wing landed on the beach, the other made it safely back to Rotterdam airport. No one on board either plane was injured. The incident is under investigation by Dutch aviation authorities.

(Image from YouTube Video)

Time to make the Budget!

Unfortunately, many of us see budgeting as a fruitless exercise and a waste of time. But, budgeting is a very important tool for planning an organizations use of its most limited resource - cash. Managing the cash is critical for any business, or individual. (Please, no replies about governments!) Failure to plan for the incoming and outgoing cash has ruined many a business. And it can negatively impact your flight department.


A budget is just estimate of the future showing the peaks and valleys of cash flow.  A budget can also serve as a benchmark for evaluating actual versus planned for expenses.  Every organization must budget whether it goes through a formal or an informal process.


As an aviation manager, the budget is more than just filling a square for your upper management reporting. It is a very useful tool that can enable you to track the effectiveness of your aviation operation. It can also alert you to the future peaks in expenses, such as scheduled major maintenance or an aircraft upgrade.In fact, for an aviation operation, maintenance is one of the largest expenses, and one in which the aviation organization can have the most control.


As part of your budgeting process, I’d like to offer three tips to help you get started.


Tip 1. Ask for Information. This information flows two ways. Ask upper management about their intended aircraft usage for the next year, or ideally, several years. Will there be more or less flying, any new destinations, etc. If you are budgeting any optional maintenance items or upgrades, ask if next year or the year after works better for the financial goals of the company. 


Tip 2. Document Your Assumptions. Things are different in January than they were the previous September and they will be changes as you go through the year.  Your budget is a best-estimate of the future costs for your aviation operation. As flight activity occurs, are you ahead or behind in the hours flown? How will that change when major maintenance is due? Did you correctly anticipate the magnitude of parts price increases, fuel costs, training costs, etc?


By documenting your assumptions, it will refresh your memory when the actual costs do not equal what was predicted. If and when conditions change, these recorded assumptions will better guide you on revising the budget better than relying on your memory.


Tip 3. Explain the Nature of Maintenance Costs. These costs can occur in significant amounts (engine overhaul) and be unpredictable (unscheduled maintenance). These are often difficult for a financial manager or CFO to understand. These folks tend to favor stable, predictable cash flows - hence the popularity of a guaranteed maintenance program. You may not be bale to change the behavior of your maintenance costs, but you can explain how the engine overhaul expense took 2,500 hours over five years to accrue. Remember, most non-aviation people have automobile maintenance as their reference point.


As a bonus tip, try to visit with the person that you submit your budget to. Try to understand how your aviation budget fits in with the overall corporate budget. Help them to also understand the process that you went through to come up with the budget. 


Budgeting is important to the health of your organization. However, to be truly useful, all parties involved need to understand the process. Best of luck to you!


Keep Those Older Business Jets Flying

EAA AirVenture 2012 has just wrapped up. If you were fortunate to have gone this year (sorry to say I was not), and I asked if you saw any antique airplanes, you might mention seeing a Waco, a DC3 or Ford Tri-Motor. But what about a Learjet 35A, Citation II or Hawker 700? Early serial numbers of these venerable business jets are well into their golden years as they all were in production during the late 1970s. These and many other business jets are well past age 30.

In our aircraft cost databases, we assume that all the business aircraft are maintained more or less the same way with new parts replacing old, worn out parts. As many operators of long-out-of-production aircraft are finding out, this is not the most cost effective way to keep these aircraft flying.

First off, availability of new parts for older aircraft is becoming harder to find. Some non-OEM vendors are no longer in business, or they have been acquired and merged into different entities. They do not keep production lines open year round or may only build spares as needed.

Overhauling of serviceable components is also getting harder to accomplish. Sure, you can overhaul a generator multiple times, but what about the holes for the mounting bolts? Over time, you can only use "oversize" bolts so often before the component case is no longer serviceable.

To say that avionics have evolved since the mode 1970s is an understatement! Many of these older aircraft use what we euphemistically call steam gages. And relative to today’s technology, that statement is not too far off. Repairing these older instruments is becoming more costly, as are replacements. Glass cockpit upgrades are available, but at what cost?

Perhaps the toughest choices come with the engines. The first and second-generation business jet engines are all into their second, third or fourth overhaul cycle. Guaranteed engine maintenance program rates reflect this with rates much higher than current generation engines. The cost to overhaul a pair of these engines can run to more than the cost of the aircraft itself. Even with fresh engines, a 35-year old business jet will not double in selling price.

Look at the very popular Citation II. According to the Aircraft Bluebook Price Digest (Summer 2012), the selling price of a 1978 Citation II is $650,000. The basic overhaul price is about $350,000 per engine. Add in some cycle-limited items like rotor disks and impellers and the price jumps to over $500,000 – each!

Overhaul a pair of run-out engines on your 35-year old business jet and you will be lucky to get 50% back if you sell it. There are just too many of theses aircraft available for sale and at very low prices.

I have talked with more than one operator of aircraft like these who will not, and cannot, pay for an engine overhaul. Instead they look for a similar model year aircraft with engines in good condition with maybe 1,500 hours remaining until overhaul. They buy the second airplane, swap engines and part the rest out. This recycling method is more cost effective for many of these older business jets.

I doubt values on these “vintage” jets will ever recover. So it looks like we will see a steady dwindling of whole aircraft as we see two aircraft make one flyable aircraft and so on. Keeping these older business jets flying is becoming more of an exercise of scrounging and cannibalizing versus one of replacing/overhauling.

Maintaining older aircraft in this manner requires time, and decreases the aircraft availability. You need to have two or three aircraft to keep one in flyable condition! It can be done, but it is better suited to a flier that can live with low utilization and decreased availability. So enjoy these aircraft now, because it won't be to many more years at Oshkosh before a Learjet 35 is parked next to the Staggerwing!

Real World Impact on Aircraft Performance

Falcon 900EX Easy

The aircraft OEMs and sellers always seem to haver a war of words going on over “maximums.” Who has the fasted aircraft, the most range, the biggest cabin, the most headroom, etc?  When evaluating aircraft, you need to take the maximums into account, but critical is understanding the real world limits on those maximums.

Aircraft performance maximums can be very useful in comparing aircraft. Especially if you know the conditions they were assuming for the calculation. But be wary of translating the maximum to the "real world." This is especially true of range. Too many buyers get an aircraft that they believe can do the trip nonstop only to discover that "nonstop" has restrictions. They get quite upset when they end up with a fuel stop en route.

As pilots, we know and understand these restrictions, but many of the folks in the back fail to understand these, until after the sale. Better to educate them upfront than be accused of backpedaling after the fact.

The first thing that impacts the real world range is winds. In the Northern Hemisphere, prevailing headwinds run on a West-to-East pattern. So trips from Europe to the US have headwinds while trips from California to New York have tailwinds. Those winds vary seasonally and by altitude. 

Boeing publishes wind probability data for many of the common air routes in the US and worldwide. A common wind data point is the 85% Probable Wind. That means that the wind on that route will be no worse than that value 85% of the time. Here in the US, flying from the East Coast to the West Coast can have an 85% probable headwind of around 70 knots at 39,000 feet. So flying east to west, you should have 70 knots or less headwind 85% of the time for example.

Hawker 900XP

Last winter on an airline trip, we hit 135 knots on the nose for much of the Baltimore to Phoenix trip. Not sure, but think that was a 99.9% “Probable” wind leg. No aircraft can do the trip 100% of the time, but make sure the maximum range is suitable for your typical maximum trips. Here is a conservative shortcut that gets the job done.

When looking for that non-stop airplane, you factor in those probable winds as a reduction in cruise speed. If the route is 2,100 Nautical Miles (NM), that is across the ground. Headwinds effectively increase that required distance. If the aircraft cruises at 430 knots in a 70 knot headwind, its ground speed will only be 360 knots. Fly into this headwind for five hours and your trip has effectively increased by 350 miles - almost an hours' flight time. Looking at this another way, to fly that 2,100 NM trip in a 70 knot headwind requires an aircraft with about 2,450 NM range (with no wind).

Other things that reduce the fuel efficiency and thus maximum range of the aircraft:

  • Payload - heavier aircraft burn more fuel at a given speed and may require a lower initial cruise altitude until they burn off enough fuel to reach a higher, more fuel-efficient altitude. How many bags does the boss bring?
  • Temperature - on very warm days the aircraft may take longer to climb to altitude, or even require a lower initial altitude. Temperature may also effect engine-out departure restrictions.
  • Circuitous air routes - while airways routes typically add no more than about 3% to the straight-line distance, some routes may add more due to airspace restrictions or transoceanic routings.
  • Long, over-water trips may require alternate airports that are a significant distance away from your destination. This will reduce the available fuel load for the trip.
  • Poor weather over a large area may mean a circuitous route and may also require an alternate airport a significant distance away.

Factor in headwinds, heavy passenger loads, and a warm day and that 2,100 NM trip may not be non-stop anymore. So if you are looking for 2,100 NM nonstop trip with high-probability, you may be looking for an aircraft that has 2,600 NM range with your anticipated payload. In this case, a 2,600 NM maximum range is a valid requirement. 3,000 NM range is nice, but 2,600 NM will do the trip 99% of the time.

When evaluating aircraft, the maximum ranges, maximum speeds, payload capability, etc. can all be important considerations. But when you are looking at specific trips, you need to factor in some real world considerations appropriate for your trip conditions.


Gulfstream G450

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