Maintenance - Page 4 Aviation Articles

The Hidden Costs of Maintaining Outdated Avionics

By Mark Wilken – Vice President of Avionics Programs and Operational Logistics
www.elliottaviation.com

King Air C90B

With many companies currently budgeting for 2016, it’s important to consider some of the hidden costs of maintaining outdated avionics, specifically old CRT (tube) EFIS displays. CRT display manufacturing is becoming obsolete and will inevitably become non-existent. This means that the pricing for these units is going to increase substantially and the availability is going to continually decrease. Let’s take King Airs as an example.

Avionics Maintenance Costs

By current market pricing, typical yearly costs just to maintain a Collins Pro Line 2 equipped King Air is about $20,000 per year. If you plan on keeping the aircraft for another five years under current market conditions and a traditional ADS-B mandate solution for about $75,000, you would be paying about $175,000 just to continue to maintain your current avionics package.

Traditional Upgrade

If you want to make additions to a Pro Line 2 avionics system, a WAAS/LPV upgrade would cost about $95,000 and RVSM would cost another $83,000. Combined with maintaining current avionics and ADS-B compliance, the total cost for five years of ownership with traditional upgrades is going to cost around $353,000. Not only are these costs high but these upgrades do not add value to your aircraft.

G1000 Upgrade

While an average base install of a Garmin G1000 in a King Air costs around $325,000, it adds an average value increase to your aircraft of around $275,000. In addition, it includes all of your upgrades like WAAS/LPV, ADS-B, RVSM and is safer, lighter, more reliable and can be completed in just 15 days.

Upgrade or Maintain

While some operators may choose to maintain their current avionics system, older avionics are becoming obsolete and will continue to increase in price and be less reliable. Your avionics system is critical to the operation and safety of your aircraft. An upgraded avionics system will ensure you are getting the most out of your aircraft.

Mark Wilken joined Elliott Aviation in 1989 as an Avionics Bench Technician. He was promoted to Avionics Manager in 1996 and joined the sales team in 2003. Mark has led many highly successful avionics programs such as the King Air Garmin G1000 avionics retrofit program. He recently led efforts for Wi-Fi solutions in Hawkers, King Airs and Phenom 300’s. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and is a licensed Pilot.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA).

When is the 100-Hour Inspection Due for Aircraft Used for Rental and Flight Instruction?

If you work for or operate an FBO or flight school that offers aircraft rental as well as flight instruction, whether Part 61 or 141, you know the timing for completing aircraft inspections can sometimes be confusing. Now, I'm not talking about the annual inspection that must be conducted on all aircraft every twelve calendar months or sooner pursuant to 14 C.F.R. 91.409(a). That requirement isn't particularly confusing. Rather, it is the 100-hour inspection under 14 C.F.R. 91.409(b) and its timing and limitations that are sometimes misunderstood.

Section 91.409(b) states that "no person may operate an aircraft carrying any person (other than a crewmember) for hire, and no person may give flight instruction for hire in an aircraft which that person provides, unless within the preceding 100 hours of time in service the aircraft has received an annual or 100-hour inspection." Thus, unless the aircraft is subject to a progressive inspection program, or is a large aircraft (to which 14 C.F.R. Part 125 is not applicable), turbojet multiengine aircraft, turbopropeller-powered multiengine aircraft, or turbine-powered rotorcraft which has selected an inspection program under Section 91.409(f), then that aircraft must receive an annual or 100-hour inspection if it is going to be used for flight instruction.

Keep in mind that the 100-hour limitation may be exceeded by up to 10 hours as long as that time accrues while the aircraft is enroute to reach a place where the inspection can be done. However, if that happens, the additional time used to fly to the facility performing the inspection must be included in computing the next 100 hours of time for the aircraft to be in service.

Now, in order to determine whether the 100-hour inspection is required for an aircraft that is used for both flight instruction and rental, and when that inspection is due, we need to look at how the aircraft is operated during a particular flight. And this is where some of the confusion occurs. If the flight is operated for the purposes of providing flight instruction, then the aircraft must have had an annual or 100-hour inspection within the preceding 100 hours of time in service. But if the aircraft is simply rented to a customer without a pilot or flight instructor, then the aircraft need not have had an annual or 100-hour inspection within the preceding 100 hours of time in service.

How does this apply in real-life? Here are some scenarios where the FBO or flight school uses an aircraft for both flight instruction and rental and how Section 91.409(b) may or may not apply to the example flights.

Example 1: A customer reserves an aircraft for rental only and anticipates flying approximately 10 hours. When the customer reserves the aircraft, it has a total of 95 hours of time in service since the aircraft's last annual inspection. If the customer's flight does not exceed 10 hours and a 100-hour inspection is performed upon the aircraft's return, does this violate Section 91.409(b)? No, because the aircraft is not being operated for hire or to provide flight instruction. In fact, when the customer returns the aircraft does not need an annual or 100-hour inspection unless it is going to be used for flight instruction, or 12 calendar months have elapsed since the aircraft's last annual inspection.

Example 2: The FBO or flight school dispatches an aircraft on a local training flight with a flight instructor and student pilot that is anticipated to, and does last one hour. At the time of dispatch, the aircraft has accumulated 99.9 hours of time in service since the aircraft's last inspection. A 100-hour inspection of the aircraft is performed when the aircraft returns from the flight.

Is this a violation of Section 91.409(b)? Yes, because the flight instructor and student pilot clearly intend to fly beyond the 100-hour limitation during their training flight. The 10-hour grace period does not apply because the aircraft was not being flown enroute to a location where the inspection will be performed. Rather, the aircraft was operated on a local training flight which does not benefit from the 10-hour grace period. As a result, Section 91.409(b) is violated after the first tenth of an hour during the training flight. If the FBO or flight school wants to continue to use the aircraft for flight instruction after this flight, an annual or 100-hour inspection must be performed and the next inspection after that must be performed before the next 91 hours of time in service.

Example 3: An aircraft is dispatched on a cross country training flight with a flight instructor and student pilot. The flight is anticipated to take 1.5 hours of flight time to the destination and also 1.5 hours of flight time on the return trip. When the flight departs, the aircraft has accumulated 97 hours of time in service since its last inspection. During the cross country flight, unexpected winds and ATC vectoring result in the trip taking a total of 3.1 hours flight time. Upon return, a 100-hour inspection of the aircraft is conducted.

This situation does not violate Section 91.409(b). Why? The flight instructor and student pilot did not intend to overfly the 100-hour limitation. Additionally, the 100-hour limitation was exceeded while the aircraft was enroute to a location where the required inspection will be performed (e.g. the original departure airport). When the aircraft returns, an annual or 100-hour inspection will be required before the aircraft may be used for flight instruction, and the next inspection after that must be performed before the next 99.9 hours of time in service in order to continue to use the aircraft for flight instruction.

Example 4: An FBO or flight school owns an aircraft that has accumulated 100-hours since its last inspection. Although the aircraft is used for flight instruction, an inspection cannot be performed within the next week. As a result, the aircraft's schedule is marked "for rental use only." During the next week the aircraft is rented to customers, without a flight instructor, who accumulate a total of 15 hours of flight time. Additionally, no flight instruction is performed with the aircraft during the week.

Similar to Example 1, this situation does not violate Section 91.409(b). The 100-hour inspection requirement does not apply to aircraft operated for rental purposes and the FBO or flight school is free to rent the aircraft to customers as long as it is not providing a flight instructor or pilot and the customer is not operating the aircraft for hire. However, before the aircraft is again used for flight instruction an annual or 100-hour inspection must be performed and the next inspection after that must be performed before the next 85 hours of time in service in order to continue to use the aircraft for flight instruction.

As you can see, in order to apply Section 91.409(b)'s 100-hour inspection limitation it is important to not only look at the purpose of a flight, but also the intention of the operator in conducting the flight. Further, as is the case with all areas of regulatory compliance, it is critical that you have documentation or other evidence to be able to prove the purpose and intention for the flight. Aircraft schedules and rental agreements should include the purpose of the flight (e.g. rental or flight instruction) as well as the intentions for the flight (e.g. local, cross country etc.). With an understanding of Section 91.409(b)'s limitations and documentation in hand, you will be able to prove that you properly performed your 100-hour inspections in compliance with the regulations.

Older Aircraft (revisited)

Fall of 2013, I wrote on the subject of what is old for a business aircraft. That article dealt with the issues regarding whether older business aircraft are easily sellable, and tried to put a number on what is old. I think it important enough to revisit again. 

At the recent NBAA regional meeting at Teterboro,  I sat in on briefings about the state of used aircraft sales and residual values. Much like with similar briefings at last two years' NBAA Annual Meeting & Convention, older business aircraft are still not selling. For financing, a general consensus for turbine airplanes is still this: the Aircraft Age + Length of Lease/Loan should not exceed 20 years. Age 15 allows for a five year financial deal. Some lenders are using a younger age than even 15! 

The factors I mentioned in 2013 are still valid:

- A good supply of relatively young, up-to-date, turbine business aircraft are listed as for sale.

- Future air navigation systems requirements such as NextGen and FAA 2020 are still making the ability to update older aircraft in question, both with the cost and timing.

- Markets outside of the US wanting new or nearly new aircraft.

- Increasing operating costs of older aircraft make them less desirable.

While the supply of used business jets is lower as a total percent of the market, the global market is sufficiently large that there is a good selection of aircraft to choose from across most categories. The FAA deadline for new navigation equipment is still January of 2020 and the FAA shows no signs of changing the date. The airframe manufacturers and third party companies are still trying to certify equipment for  the last 10 or 15 years' worth of models. With cheap oil and a strong US dollar, the non-US market is having a tougher time affording these new aircraft. But when they do purchase, they still look at the nearly new models. 

In this article I want to look at the operating costs again, from a different perspective.

You can buy a 30-year-old Gulfstream GIII for about $1 million. A 20-year-old GIVSP sells for about $4.9 million. A 10-year-old G450 sells for around $16 million (source Vref). According to AMSTAT, the GIII models offered for sale have been listed for an average of 491 days - about 16 months. The G450s listed for sale have been on the market about 6 months. So the average G450 is selling before the average GIII. 

Provided both aircraft have the range and cabin that fit your needs, why spend $16 million when you can spend $1 million? For much less than $15 million, you can buy a lot of maintenance and upgrades for the older GIII. It's relative, that's why.

An engine overhaul on a Spey or Tay can run to over $1 million each. Include all the other airframe and avionics maintenance and you can have a maintenance budget of from $3 million (G450) to $5 million (GIII) over five years' typical flying. The G450's maintenance budget is far less relative to the value of the aircraft:

Aircraft Value       Maintenance Budget (5 yrs) Maintenance as Percent Value

G450 $16 million $3 million                                      19%

GIII $1 million $5 million 500%

The maintenance quoted above is required to keep the aircraft in an airworthy condition. In other words, the GIII owner might spend $3 million to keep the GIII in a $1 million sellable condition. The math doesn't work from an investment perspective. A company called Asset Insight does this analysis on business aircraft to a far more detailed degree. Time and time again, their analysis shows that buyers are not willing to spend even close to the value of their aircraft for maintenance. 

If you are the GIII owner, you can shift your perspective about your current aircraft. First, accept that you are likely the last owner of the entire aircraft. Second, spend your maintenance dollars wisely. You may not want to do the engine overhauls, but instead might be able to secure a pair of Spey engines with a two or three years' life remaining for far less than the overhaul. Better yet, keep those engines on a guaranteed hourly maintenance program if they are on one. Or you may elect to sell the aircraft for salvage (keeping someone else's GIII flying for a few more years), and upgrade to the GIVSP or G450. 

I used the GIII as an example. The GIII is still a fine airplane and mechanically, most can be flown for many more years. You can replace the example of the GIII with any other business aircraft of its time. Aircraft buyers are not generally willing to buy low and pay for maintenance bills that equal or exceed the value in the aircraft. That is how the market works. 

 

Retrofitting a Hawker to Meet Your Mission

By Adam Doyle, Paint & Interior Sales Manager
www.elliottaviation.com

Hawker

When modifying an aircraft to meet your mission, there are many factors that must be considered. Recently, a customer requested their Hawker 800XP be retrofitted to a double club when it is currently designed with a standard divan. Though it may sound easy, this modification is anything but simple and includes a list of items that need to be addressed which will determine the possible solutions.

In this case, the floor plan requested was not available for the Hawker 800XP due to safety regulations. Though this option was impossible, the next best option is to add seven cabin seats instead of the eight. Eliminating a seating position when opting for seven over eight cabin seats allows for an upgrade to either a cabin seat with a cabinet or even a full berthing seat.

Although possible, changing the floor plan of the Hawker 800XP from a standard divan to seven cabin club seating is a significant amount of work. However, the average retrofit of this caliber may cost less than you might think. Each modification is specific in need and pricing will vary due to the amount of parts and work needed to complete each retrofit.

Since there is not currently a STC for the Hawker 800XP with a double club configuration, an STC will be required before the modification can be done. Next, proper burn documentation will be needed for all interior mods to be included in a 8110 package before the aircraft can be released.

Adding the new seating will affect many things. The left aft closet and the divan will have to be removed to make room for the new seating. By doing this, new up-wash lighting will be needed along with modifications to the headliner, window, lower cabin panels, and carpet since they are currently not there where the closet and divan once were. The headliner, window, and lower cabin panels will have to be extended while the carpet will have to be patched or replaced.

Changing the seating positions also affect the oxygen requirements. If the O2 boxes are positioned incorrectly for the new arrangement, they will have to be moved and in most aircraft, the masks are out of date or deteriorating which will require replacement. By moving boxes, the headliner will then need to be modified or unfurnished to accommodate the new box placements.

The lav door operation will be affected and will only be able to open a third of the way due to binding against the seat’s inboard armrest. The only option is to change the door style to accommodate the door movement.

When adding the new cabin seats, the new frames must match the original frames. If matching frames are unavailable, purchasing all new frames is the next option.

If a 7 place modified double club configuration is desired, the aft closet would need to be removed. The seat pictured would move back and the lav door would need to be modified. Lower sidewalls and window panels would need to be extended.

Additionally, new card tables will need to be constructed, as they were not originally there. If the aircraft has existing front card tables, the process can be smoother. It is possible to reconstruct new aft card table structures based on the original front under the stipulation that the floor plan is approved. If the aircraft does not have any existing card tables, then an STC must be obtained for a new approved floor plan.

Once having approval for the card tables, modification or refurbishment of drinkrails will be needed since the closet and the divan covered where they would typically be. Also because of this, relocation of the cabin switches, phone, and new outlets to match the rest of the aircraft will be needed. Lastly, if there are existing tables, plated accents from the front will need to match the new aft tables if they are available.

There will be further choices to consider when doing the Hawker 800XP retrofit to meet your mission. The above describes a small number of them that will arise with this type of modification of a standard divan to double club retrofit. Modifications can be done but proper information is needed to do it. A simple modification may seem easy, but nothing is simple in aviation.

The best time to do any modification is when a major evaluation is scheduled. This timing would allow the aircraft to be modified simultaneously instead of grounding the aircraft at two different times. A down aircraft could result upwards of $1K/day loss in revenue. We strive to maximize evaluation, maintenance, and modification schedules and minimize down time. Instead of an aircraft being down for eight or more weeks, maximizing the schedule for both the evaluation and the modifications to a possible six weeks is essential.

Standard divan in a Hawker 800XP

What may seem like a simple modification can be incredibly complex. Remember to think about having all the proper information before starting a modification. Think about what the retrofit could affect and if the floor plan is approved, what is the most cost effective option, when and how long is the downtime, and finally, would it be better to sell the current aircraft and purchase another with the desired floor plan.

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.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

 

 

Shedding Light on Advancements in Cabin Illumination

By Adam Doyle, Paint & Interior Sales Manager
www.elliottaviation.com

Lighting is one of the most important elements of cabin design. It serves multiple functions like providing safety, assistance in performing tasks, creating an atmosphere, and in general pulling together the overall design. Understanding cabin lighting technology can assist in making the right decision for your cabin.

At first cabin lighting choices may seem relatively simple, but with recent advancements there are a large amount of new lighting technologies to choose from. This is a great thing for aircraft owners and operators because lighting can make a big difference in the upgrade of a cabin and cost considerably less than other available upgrades.

The cost of upgrading lighting varies depending on the specific aircraft model and the choice of upgrades. Manufactures are providing multiple options for almost all different airframes.

LED Technology
The recent influx in lighting advancements is no surprise to the industry because consumer electronics drives what goes into an airplane. As new options are available in the consumer market they are adapted into the aviation market as well.

Recently in the consumer market there has been a rapid rate of Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology change being driven by the idea that the brighter, the better. This has created new advancements for aviation, too.

Most general aviation aircraft with any kind of up-wash or down-wash lighting come from the factory with Compact Fluorescent Lighting. The problem with CFL is consistency and long term cost for replacement bulbs and/or power supplies. Don’t forget about the labor involved and potential for damaging interior components that comes with replacement.

LED Lighting
Generally, when deciding to upgrade cabin lighting, the choice is more often than not whether to make the change to LED lighting. LED technology is typically the line between newer and older generation aircraft. Lamp brightness, color, power consumption, heat management, and lamp lifetime are a few of the main differences between the two technologies.

Problems with individual power supplies, hot ballasts and individual bulb replacement are nearly eliminated with an LED option. Also, when a CFL bulb burns out it is easily noticed, but when individual diodes fail at different times within an LED cluster, they contribute incrementally to illumination decline.

LED technology also offers an overall 50 to 75 percent power savings for an aircraft lighting system. This means problems with individual power supplies, are virtually eliminated with LED.

The technology has safety and aesthetics benefits, too. LEDs are shock resistant, emit low heat, and have no bulb breakage. Also, they emit color consistency and a brighter light. Prior to installation you can even pick different colors as several manufacturers are also beginning to offer optional colored lights.

However there are different LED options or upgrades.

Plug & Play
A major switch the industry is seeing is from incandescent bulbs for reading lights to LED plug and play. The major benefit is cost savings. This option allows you to retain the original fixture. When replacing the fixture don’t forget you’ll incur labor and plating fees along with light longevity.

With plug and play you can pull the face off the light, unplug one bulb and plug the new one in. Plug and play lights are also easy to replace. Once done, that’s the last time you will ever replace it. This means when converting to LED you don’t have to rewire the whole plane and you can do it as needed instead of all at once.

It typically costs anywhere from $300 to $600 to replace just one CFL bulb. On top of that, there is also labor. CFL bulbs have a much shorter life span than LED so it needs replaced when the LED typically does not.

Unlike CFL, LED lighting is relatively maintenance-free once installed. The technology has a considerably longer life than florescent bulbs. At about 500,000 hours, the useful life of an LED is roughly five times that of an incandescent light, according to IDD Aerospace.

This saves labor, materials, and downtime. There is more initial investment for the plug and play LED technology but when it comes to the overall life of the aircraft, LED out performs and will cost less.

Self-ballasted
Self-ballasted lights are another LED upgrade. Un-ballasted lights run off of the aircrafts power supplies while self-ballasted lighting provides its own power. The owner can get rid of extra power supplies because it has its own power.

The need for less power supplies creates a weight savings, which leads to less fuel usage.

Disadvantages of LED
While offering many advantages, LEDs also present challenges to operators. The rapid rate of LED technology change in the consumer market brings concern to the aviation industry. The idea that brighter is better is driving components to be replaced or updated at a rapid rate. This kind of change rate creates parts obsolescence for the future.

Choosing a source for a particular aircraft interior lighting task ultimately is not as simple as it may seem. Before making a decision it’s best to evaluate all of the options and pick which one is best for the specific aircraft and use.

Adam Doyle joined Elliott Aviation in 2000 as an interior technician after graduating from Wyoming Technical Institute. While at Elliott Aviation Adam has experienced 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.

Elliott Aviation is a second-generation, family-owned business aviation company offering a complete menu of high quality products and services including aircraft sales, avionics service & installations, aircraft maintenance, accessory repair & overhaul, paint and interior, charter and aircraft management. Serving the business aviation industry nationally and internationally, they have facilities in Moline, IL, Des Moines, IA, and Minneapolis, MN. The company is a member of the Pinnacle Air Network, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), National Air Transportation Association (NATA), and National Aircraft Resale Association (NARA). More information can be found at www.elliottaviation.com

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