Maintenance - Page 2 Aviation Articles

The Speedtwin and Upset Prevention & Recovery Training (UPRT)

No matter which sector of the aviation industry you work or play in, you will know the feeling upon seeing an aircraft type you just cannot put a name too. Well, I grew up assembling plastic Airfix kits, studying each new addition of The Observers Aircraft Guide, reading every new issue of Air Pictorial, Aviation News and countless other magazines to keep up with the latest developments. As I got a bit older regular visits to the big aviation show cases at Farnborough (UK) and Paris (France) helped keep me up to date with developments across the industry.

Nowadays it’s easier, it’s all on the internet, just Google or Wikipedia it or search YouTube. Except it isn’t, not always.

I was recently invited to oversee ramp operations at an air show support airfield. On looking at the list of acts I noted something new to me, a Speedtwin. Just what the hell is a Speedtwin? This led to much head scratching!

Further investigation via the web turned up a very limited amount on Wikipedia, and nothing on YouTube.

At the show I meet the demonstrator pilot and Managing Director of Speedtwin Developments Ltd., Malcom Ducker and fired off a barrage of questions about this unusual twin to which he gladly responded in detail.

The Speedtwin is a British designed and built light, twin-engine, 2 seat, tandem configuration aircraft that has superior performance, strength and flexibility when compared to other similar aircraft. Its superior maneuverability and twin-engine layout make it uniquely suitable for the soon to be introduced EASA and FAA requirement for all airline pilots to undergo Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT), as loss of control in-flight has become the No.1 single cause of air transport accidents.

The Speedtwin is the only fully aerobatic, civil, multi-engine aircraft around and is stressed to +6G and -3G, meaning it is tough and highly manuverable aircraft making it ideal for the UPRT role.

The Speedtwin’s short, rough field performance, twin engine configuration and economy make it highly suited for many other roles including maritime surveillance, border patrol and protection of remote industrial sites such as oil and gas installations.

It is specifically designed to operate from short, grass or desert strips hence the tail-wheel configuration, giving the operator great flexibility as it can be based anywhere there is 100 metres of dirt!

Visibility from the cockpit is superb and is an outstanding feature of this aeroplane. It is probably the best performing and safest aircraft in its class.

The example I examined is a prototype, made of aluminium with 2 x 205 hp engines and fixed pitch propellers, which is a bit like driving a car stuck in 3rd gear. Even so it has a good single engine performance, which means it is suitable for any over-water or other hostile terrain flying duties such as maritime surveillance, fisheries protection and other coastguard type duties. The production version will have constant speed props, which will enhance the aircraft’s performance significantly. It will be able to loiter on one engine while in the search area giving an endurance of more than 8 hours. The 400 litre fuel tanks give the aircraft a range of over 1000 miles or 1700km.

The aircraft has received UK CAA Permit certification and continues to be used for development and demonstration flying. Further investment is now required in order to achieve full EASA certification, which once received will enable the Speedtwin aircraft to enter commercial production.

Due to the relatively low cost of manufacture, (it is of all aluminum construction), the Speedtwin aircraft can be both competitively priced and highly profitable. It is estimated that the aeroplane can be manufactured for US$240,000, and sold for US$480,000.

Interest in putting the Speedtwin into serial production is mostly coming from China and the Middle East.

Malcolm Ducker flew Hawker Hunters in the Royal Air Force and was a training captain with Cathay Pacific Airways, flying Lockheed Tristars and Boeing 747-400s before seeking new challenges in aviation by taking on Speedtwin Developments Ltd

Malcolm says that the Speedtwin is a delight to fly and he enjoys flying it even more than the big Boeing and even the supersonic Hunter! No surprise for me there, as I walked up to him following one spirited demo flight I could not help but notice that he was grinning from ear to ear like a Cheshire cat!

The manoeuvres Malcolm make during his display included ½ Cubans, loops, barrel rolls, aileron rolls, Derry turns, wingovers and steep turns.

Photographs: courtesy of Frank Grealish,

What does it cost, really?



I had a call from a customer who's flight department flies a popular mid-size business jet. He was looking at the variable cost we publish and comparing it with his own. After adjusting for fuel cost, his variable cost was almost double what we publish. He called me to try and figure out the cause of the diffrence.

My company specializes in understanding and explaining the costs associated with owning and operating an aircraft. One of our published databases calculates an average hourly operating cost. Many in our industry and in Government use these numbers as benchmarks or as should-cost figures. We do publish an explanation of terms defining the ground rules we use, and I've spent many a phone call like the one above  discussing and explaining what we did it that way, or how to adjust them for your situation. 

My call that day led to a fruitful discussion that identified the discrepancy in costs as the maintenance costs. After a couple questions, we figured it out. His aircraft has predominantly calendar based inspections. Much of the scheduled maintenance inspections were based on the number of days since last accomplished and not the hours flown. For our costs, we were showing about 380 flight hours per year. His utilization was about 130 to 175 hours per year - less than half of our assumption. A quick bit of math showed his maintenance cost average per flight hour were more than double what we published. He was also on a parts by the hour program that also had hourly billing minimums. Knowing how much he flew and the fact the jet's maintenance was calendar based  led us to understand that there can be significant variability is the cost to operate that aircraft.

When did you last ask the question, “How much does our aircraft cost to operate?” The answer will vary in relation to where you are between scheduled inspection and maintenance work. Sometimes significantly.

Required maintenance schedules vary, but a typical one might look like this:

- Routine airframe & engine checks every 500 hours or 12 months.

- More complicated airframe checks every 1,500 hours or three years. 

- Engine mid-life inspection every 2,500 hours. 

- Airframe heavy maintenance every eight years. Often, while undergoing heavy maintenance, the aircraft gets paint and interior refurbishment, maybe some new avionics and cabin upgrades. Costs can be $500,000 to $1.5 million depending on the “extras” added.

- Engine overhaul at 5,000 hours. Cost could be $500,000 per engine unless engines are on a guaranteed maintenance program.

- Aging aircraft inspections once the aircraft reached 12 years of age or older.

If you fly the above aircraft under 500 annual hours, much of your scheduled inspections will be determined by the calendar. Fly 500 or more annual hours and the hours flown drive the maintenance.  Where the aircraft is in age and hours will also impact its costs.  What if at age eight the aircraft just had a major maintenance inspection, avionics upgrades, and refurbished paint and interior adding to the cost of an additional $1.0 million? Due to the downtime to accomplish all that, the hours flown that year might have been only 250 hours. That cost for this one year will have just consequently ballooned to $2.25 million, or $9,000 per hour! If the CFO were doing a cursory review of your aviation costs with an eye to reduces expenses, you'd better be prepared to explain all this!

Answering To answer the question "How much does the aircraft cost" really depends on who you ask and when you ask. Give someone a very broad question and you will get a wide range of answers depending on the individual's perspective and timeframe.  You need to track these costs at a level of detail that leads to understanding. You need to be able to communicate these costs, in plain words, to the management or financial executive.

None of the answers are "wrong" or "right," only they are merely different. Knowing this, when you are talking about aviation costs with various professionals, you should keep in mind who you're talking with (and their unique perspective) so that you can understand their needs when they ask "What does the aircraft cost to operate?"


Using Your Skills to Overcome New Challenges

By Greg Feuerbach – Jet Service Crew Chief
Elliott Aviation

A quality maintenance team has experienced and reliable technicians who have the knowledge to understand the basics of aircraft maintenance. The challenge comes when you transfer these fundamental skills to a new airframe. Just like basic car components are similar in all makes and models, the way a manufacturer assembles them and the types of parts they use and tools required could be dramatically different. The same idea applies to airframes. As a good car mechanic can learn a new make and model, with proper training, a quality technician can understand the fundamentals while applying his skillset to a new or different aircraft.

We recently completed our first Challenger 300 96-month major inspection and delivered it squawk free. A major reason we were able to do so is because we have a solid base of good mechanics, but have key team leads that have substantial experience with the airframe. For instance, as team lead for the project, I have extensive knowledge of the airframe, spending 15 years at a Bombardier Challenger Service Center. In addition, one of our Customer Support Representatives, Andrew Nicewanner spent 18 years with both the 300 and the 600 series. This allowed us to prepare our technicians who had never touched a Challenger. In preparation, we sent many technicians to be factory trained before the inspection.

To help technicians who did not have Challenger experience, we set clear and precise instructions with illustrations for the tasks assigned each technician, along with time for review and periodic checks of their progress. In addition, we also held a five-day onsite training with Global Jet Services before the aircraft arrived.

A quality maintenance team can learn the many differences in a new airframe. Having key members with experience on that airframe, preparation before any inspections with added training, schooling, and constant communication was key in a successful inspection.

Greg Feuerbach, Elliott Aviation’s Jet Service Center Crew Chief has 38 years of maintenance experience with 21 years in the Air Force working on F-4E Phantoms, F-16 A,B,C,&D Fighting Falcons, and the A/OA-10A Warthog. Prior to joining Elliott Aviation, he worked for 15 years at the Bombardier Challenger Service Center in Tucson, Arizona on all models of the Challenger 600 and 300 series aircraft. Thirteen of those years were as Lead Technician. In addition, he is also qualified to perform engine operations and taxi all models of Challenger aircraft.

The New & Improved Student Pilot Certificate

As a student pilot or Certified Flight Instructor (CFI), you might have heard about the new changes for the student pilot certificate process.  With any change in aviation regulations, it is important that we examine them carefully.  


So, let’s start with the basics of obtaining your student pilot certificate.  As a student, you would have taken a trip to the aeromedical examiner to obtain your 3rd-Class Medical Certificate which then meant you could now solo – your 3rd Class Medical also doubled as your Student Pilot Certificate (SPC).  The rules are changing as of April 1st, 2016 to a new and improved process that I will break into the following sections: the application, flight privileges and future impacts.


The Application

According to, a student pilot certificate is not needed until you fly solo – you can start your flying lessons right away.   While this is not different than the previous rule, the medical certificate and the SPC are now two separate documents.  According to the, AMEs no longer will issue a combination medical certificate and student pilot certificate or accept an application for a student pilot certificate. An applicant must appear in person to apply for a student pilot certificate at a FSDO, through a DPE, with an ACR associated with a part 141 pilot school, or with a CFI.  While you do not have to obtain your medical certificate in order to start flying, you are still required to obtain it separately.  It is important to note that if you already have a paper SPC, you can use that until it expires – you are “grandfathered” into the process.

Once you, or your student, has applied for the certificate, it will take about 3 weeks to arrive in the mail – the IACRA application online should minimize the time it takes to arrive.  The IACRA application is vetted by the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and when approved is sent to the student through the Civil Aviation Registry.   In addition, instead of a flimsy piece of paper, new applicants will now receive a plastic certificate, very similar to the ones received for Private Pilot and beyond.  If something happens to the certificate, a student can request a new certificate for a $2 fee.  There is speculation on how long it will take the TSA to vet applications, but the FAA still predicts an average of 3 weeks.


Flight Privileges

As I mentioned earlier, students are allowed to start flight training without having the actual piece of plastic, however, CFIs and students are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.  Additionally, “Receipt of a student pilot certificate is required prior to exercising the privileges of a student pilot certificate” (  In other words, you need the certificate to fly solo.

Another point of interest is that under this new rule, CFIs are only required to endorse the students’ logbooks – instead of certificates and logbooks.  For you seasoned students or pilots, you might remember the scribbled endorsements on your Student Pilot Certificate in addition to those in your logbook.  Now, all endorsements will be in one place near all of your own flight hour entries. 


Future Impacts for the Industry

Recently, I inquired about the effects of this new rule with a Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE), Woody Minar – Minar is based out of Osceola, WI and has been giving check rides for the last 3 years in addition to being a seasoned pilot with several thousand hours.  Woody points out that “From a homeland security standpoint, the student pilot gets vetted by TSA at the beginning of the process instead of at the end. While the days of getting a private pilot through accelerated training or soloing on their eligible birthday are over, it shouldn't hinder their training process as long as TSA and FAA come through with their promise to get the plastic student pilot certificate in the mail in three weeks. The flight instructor will no longer need to endorse the logbook AND medical certificate, just the logbook which will simplify things.”

Additionally, Mark Baker, President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), states that “AOPA will continue to monitor the implementation of these new regulations and work with the FAA to ensure students are not being held back from soloing and completing their flight training.”

As this rule is only a few weeks old, it’s hard to say what effect it will have on the industry and the number of new student pilot applicants.  However, I believe that allowing a student to receive dual training while waiting for the certificate to arrive is a great benefit.  As for a CFI, only endorsing logbooks makes the paperwork significantly easier without having to keep track of endorsing the medical certificate.  Additionally, not having to renew your student pilot certificate means you are able to finish your training without having to reapply.

Overall, I believe this new process for the SPC will allow students to navigate their first few months as a student pilot in a more efficient manner – CFIs will also appreciate few steps in giving endorsements to their students.  While this rule is very young, it will be interesting to see if any additional facets of Student Pilot rules change and evolve. 

Images courtesy of GoogleImages and the writer.


Will You Pay More in the End?

By Adam Doyle – Paint and Interior Sales Manager
Elliott Aviation

Customers should shop around for the best deals, best customer service, and best quality of work. Sometimes when a customer has a particular need, they try to look for the specialty shop that does just that one thing instead of a shop were they execute more than one discipline. On certain products that may work, although when it comes to repainting an aircraft or getting an updated look to the interior, customers may see these people as experts since they focus solely on one discipline; the inverse, in fact, is true. Let’s take a look at some situations that would call for a one-stop shop compared to a single trade shop.

Elliott Paint PAINT

A quality paint job should last at least six years but can sometimes last longer. We recommend that customers look at paint as a maintenance event. Even if you don’t think you need new paint in six years, you should seriously consider it because paint is the first line of defense and you never know if there is corrosion underneath until you strip the paint completely. We have all heard stories about paint shops where it’s one guy and a paint gun on unfinished floors, not to mention zero controlled atmospheric conditions and absolutely no dedication to quality procedures. This example may be extreme, but there are qualities to look for in a paint shop while there are others you will want to avoid.

You want a facility that is adequately staffed to address an issue if something goes awry in the process. Items like flight controls and other critical elements to an aircraft, for example, can follow strict guidelines that may require maintenance manuals. If the shop where you take your aircraft does not have the manuals because they don’t generally deal with this type of aircraft, this could compromise the customer’s service. Paint that has been on an aircraft for years may be hiding some issues and, once you strip it, there is no going back and those issues must be dealt with.

When searching for a paint facility, look for one that will provide quality work and technicians who will pay attention to the details so that the aircraft is safe and will have a paint job that will withstand the years. Paying a little more now for a quality paint job that will last for many years, will, in the long run, save money because there wouldn’t be further downtime or paying for paint again in just a couple of years. Find a facility with a clean booth because even a speck of dusk landing in the paint can cause problems. As we stated, paint is the first line of defense and, when flying and changing altitudes, pressures and climate conditions at 500 miles an hour, the paint should hold up and not have any reason to crack.

If the aircraft is within a warranty period and the scope of work failed, understanding when and where the aircraft will be repaired along with verification of the warranty and knowing who exactly will be paying for it can be a cause of concern. Look for companies who will provide that information in the original contract. In some circumstances, a company that wants a satisfied customer who will return when work is needed will most likely make exceptions and see that the issues are resolved in a timely manner. If these paint and interior only shops do not have the adequate equipment and manpower or even the proper manuals for the specific airframe, it may potentially cost more downtime and more money out of pocket.

Quality takes time and a good facility is likely to be booked weeks in advance, which means it will be extremely difficult to take drop-ins. Planning ahead is the best option when needing quality work done.


A quality shop understands it is more than just finishing and moving on to the next project. It is about knowing the product and its limitations. For example, how a part is prepped can make all the difference. Does the panel need to hold its flexibility or can we repair it to be more rigid? Is there a certain way to seam a panel or a seat to extend the wear and longevity of the panel or seat? That is precisely what a customer should look for in a shop: some place that is going to take the time to look at each section of the interior and determine how to make it last longer to increase the value they are putting into the aircraft.

When prep work is not done properly, the materials will not wear as well as they should. If you are unsure about the origin of the work or the quality a particular shop provides, beware of an aircraft advertised with "new interior." Some shops just re-dye seats and use pre-cut carpet kits that may not fit well and show loose surging/threads, possibly unfinished edges and those solutions won’t hold up as well. It will have the new carpet and new leather smell but time will tell how long either will stand. Some shops take shortcuts; for instance when seats are re-dyed and not done properly, they can become sticky and even pull layers of dye off when conditions are right.

While refurbishing an aircraft, a quality facility should have the solutions to every detail, no matter how small. For instance, if doing partial refurbishment, will all the hardware match? Will they make sure there is a full set of throw rugs? Will the shop go above and beyond to create an excellent customer experience? Even the smallest of things will go a long way.

It may seem complicated but we have said this time and time again when doing an interior refurbishment; even a small change to an aircraft interior can affect a lot more than you think. Find a shop that focuses on the smallest of details, one that takes the time to really look at an aircraft to figure out what is best for that specific aircraft and airframe.

Having a facility that can handle any issues that arise, mechanical or otherwise is critical when repainting or refurbishing an aircraft. A shop with one trade may not be capable to handling issues that arise that aren’t in their field. Also keep in mind a facility that can do everything will have adequate "specialists" already on hand for each specific situation. Quality work that will lasts over time will pay for itself in the long run.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation, Adam has earned many different promotions on the shop floor including Install Team Lead, Soft Goods Team Lead, Assistant Interior Shop Manager and Seat Shop Manager. Adam’s most recent promotion has been to Paint and Interior Sales Representative for Elliott Aviation. He uses his experience with various vendors, products and processes to educate our clients by providing direction and helping plan for future investment with realistic and accurate figures.

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