Maintenance - Page 6 Aviation Articles

Having an AMT on Staff makes Financial Sense

Having an Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) on staff can be invaluable to a business aviation flight department. Some operators will whole-heartedly agree with this, and others may not be so sure. Lets take a look at the numbers.


Reduction in unscheduled maintenance. Prior to trips, the AMT can perform a more thorough pre-flight than the pilot can do. When the aircraft is not flying, the AMT will be doing minor tasks and cleanup items versus waiting to have them done during a scheduled check. A little TLC can help keep an aircraft reliable.

Higher rates of dispatch reliability. The response time of an in-house AMT is immediate. A flat tire or burned-out landing light can delay a trip by many hours when waiting for the local FBO to send someone over to look at the plane. Plus, they may not have the tire or bulb needed.

What is the cost of a delayed or missed trip? It isn't easy finding a last minute charter. A minimum delay needed to find, book and have a charter aircraft on hand may be four to eight hours, if you are lucky. If there are three senior executives cooling their heels in the pilot lounge, how much is their time worth? If they have a combined salary of $1 million, their worth to to corporation can be 5-10 times that. So $5 million annually could be costing you $2,500 per hour in waiting time for those executives! A four-hour delay can cost $10,000 in lost productivity of the passengers.

The cost of the charter itself is not inconsequential. Assuming $3,500 per hour for a mid-size business jet, and an 8-hour round trip, the charter cost is $28,000. You avoid the operating cost of your own aircraft. Accounting for that variable cost, assuming $2,000 per hour, still results in an increased cost for the trip of an added $12,000 (more if an overnight and waiting times are needed).

What if the trip is cancelled? What if the cancelled trip results in a delayed opening of a new factory, or a lost opportunity to land new business? There is no way to easily calculate this lost opportunity cost, but it can be huge. It was important enough to have an aircraft and schedule the trip.

It isn't too hard to see a single lost or significantly delayed trip can easily cost a company $100,000 or more. One trip saved by your in-house AMT can be the break-even point!

Other areas the AMT is well worth having around is in the ability to save money on scheduled maintenance. Turbine aircraft maintenance facilities charge around $85 to $125 per hour shop labor. The AMT typically has the tools and facilities to do much of the minor, routine checks. If that capability is outsourced to a facility an hours' flight time away, the travel time and costs are higher.

When major maintenance is being performed, the AMT can monitor the progress of the tasks and represent the aircraft owner. This "babysitting" of the aircraft can result in an on-time, on-budget completion of the maintenance task. A great service center will make every effort to get the job done right, and having your AMT on hand will enable them to do just that.

Lastly, a good AMT knows his or her aircraft better than anybody else. I've seen maintenance manuals with pages of handwritten notes in them. Those notes represent the knowledge of your AMT with respect to your aircraft and are much more valuable than the manuals themselves.

If your flight department has more than two aircraft, the decision to hire an AMT is an easy one. Even for a small, turbine flight department, the AMT can make sense from both a financial and effectiveness perspective. When considering hiring an AMT, look at the benefits and you will likely agree the cost is worthwhile. 

King Air Parts Obsolescence Solutions

Mark Wilken
Director of Avionics Sales

www.elliottaviation.com

A CRT with phosphor burn-in – common with older CRTs due to the screens only displaying non-moving images at high-intensity.

In the first article we published related to this topic, we discussed the overall concern of parts obsolescence in aviation. Due to ongoing changes in consumer electronics, avionics are highly susceptible to obsolescence. This makes many airframes vulnerable to expensive upgrades or potential grounding. However, manufactures and service centers are creating solutions and developing products to keep your airplane flying indefinitely.

The first article mentions unlike consumer electronics, airplanes are built to fly for many years. This especially holds true for the Beechcraft King Air. The King Air was first introduced in the 1960’s and continues to be assembled to this day using the same airfoil. Many of these later models King Airs are still in circulation around the world. However, many owners and operators are beginning to feel the effects of parts obsolescence.

When King Air operators face this challenge, they have two options: source out pre-owned aftermarket parts that have been removed from the same airframe, or invest in a new avionics package. Each option has pros and cons. If you decide to replace your avionics with pre-owned aftermarket parts, sourcing can be very difficult. You also run the risk of investing in a part that has an unknown part life before it too needs to be replaced.

The next option is to install a new avionics package in your King Air. The most popular retrofit for the King Air is the Garmin G1000. The G1000’s popularity stems from the high cost of maintaining current avionics, the reasonable cost of the G1000 installation and the value added back into the aircraft.

For instance, take the cost of traditional King Air avionics upgrades vs. the G1000. A traditional upgrade would include WAAS LPV at $95,000, ADS-B at $45,000, RVSM at $83,000 and five year maintenance and upkeep at $100,000 for a grand total of $323,000. With the traditional upgrade, you add no resale to your aircraft. With the G1000, your average base install is $325,000 and you add an average value increase to the aircraft of $275,000. In addition, the system is safer, lighter, more reliable, requires significantly less maintenance and the aircraft is down for only 15 working days.

Deciding which route to take can be a daunting task. At some point you will be faced with this predicament that will have you searching for additional information. Regardless of what you decide, our avionics retrofit teams and aftermarket avionics department can help your aircraft flying.

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).

Beechjet Landing Gear Overhaul

Beechjet landing gear requires overhaul every 5,000 cycles. In between overhauls, a Beechjet operator is likely to need unscheduled maintenance items such as brakes, wheels, tires and other items as required. Components like brakes can be turned in as little as three days and wheels as little as two.

A total Beechjet landing gear overhaul is an extensive event that requires many man hours to complete. If a repair is needed to the airframe, such as a trunnion repair that is becoming more common, AOG support is required to complete.

During the total landing gear overhaul, everything is inspected and repaired to FAA regulations including seals, bushings, wheels, brakes and overall condition of structural components. The time-lapse video below gives you a behind-the-scenes account of the process of a set of Beechjet main landing gear being overhauled with a complete AOG repair of the trunnion.

Aircraft Bailment And The Duties Owed By A Maintenance Facility To An Aircraft Owner

A maintenance facility recently asked me to explain what duties it may owe to an aircraft owner when the owner leaves his or her aircraft with the facility for service, other than the responsibility for performing repair or maintenance services on the aircraft as requested by the aircraft owner. This situation creates what many states refer to as a "bailment" and it does impose certain additional duties upon the maintenance facility.

So, what is a bailment? Well, the bailment relationship is created when:

  1. the aircraft owner (the "bailor") delivers the aircraft to the maintenance facility (the "bailee");
  2. the aircraft owner/bailor does not transfer ownership of the aircraft to the maintenance facility/bailee;
  3. the maintenance facility/bailee accepts the aircraft based upon an agreement with the aircraft owner/bailor that the aircraft will be returned to the aircraft owner/bailor; and
  4. return of the aircraft to the aircraft owner/bailor, the aircraft must be in at least the same condition it was in when delivered to the maintenance facility/bailee.

Once the bailment relationship is created, as a bailee of the aircraft, the maintenance facility has a duty to exercise reasonable care with respect to the aircraft based upon the maintenance facilities acceptance of possession of the aircraft and its subsequent exclusive custody and control over the aircraft. The maintenance facility/bailee must ensure that the aircraft is in at least the same condition as it was when it was delivered to the maintenance facility/bailee.

If the aircraft is damaged while it is in the exclusive custody and control of the maintenance facility/bailee and it is damaged (e.g. the aircraft is lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed), the maintenance facility/bailee will be responsible for the damage unless the damage occurred in spite of the maintenance facility's/bailee's exercise of reasonable care. And, the maintenance facility/bailee will have the burden of proving that it was not at fault and the damage occurred despite its use of reasonable care.

To be clear, the maintenance facility/bailee doesn't become an insurer of the aircraft under the bailment relationship. However, the maintenance facility/bailee must use reasonable care; the type of care a reasonably prudent maintenance facility would exercise with respect to its own aircraft under similar circumstances which, of course, may vary depending upon the time and place or the custom and usage of maintenance facility.

Additionally, if the maintenance facility/bailee fails or refuses to deliver the aircraft to the aircraft owner upon demand, or if it uses or permits others to use the aircraft contrary to the aircraft owner's/bailor’s instructions, then the maintenance facility/bailee could also be liable for conversion. In that situation, the maintenance facility/bailee could be responsible for the value of the aircraft at the time of the conversion plus interest from that time.

However, the duty to return the aircraft is qualified: a maintenance facility/bailee may condition return of the aircraft upon the aircraft owner proving that the owner has title or right to possession of the aircraft, so long as the maintenance facility/bailee then does, in fact, provide an opportunity for the aircraft owner/bailor to present proof of title or right to possession. This rule is intended to protect the maintenance facility/bailee from being placed in the difficult position of risking a suit by the rightful owner of the aircraft for converting the aircraft when the maintenance facility/bailee gives the aircraft to another person who claims to be the owner of the aircraft. If the maintenance facility/bailee does not receive such proof, the maintenance facility/bailee will likely not be liable for conversion.

Unfortunately, this can potentially leave a maintenance facility/bailee in the unenviable position of having to decide to whom it should release the aircraft and to suffer the consequences if its decision turns out to be incorrect. In situations where the maintenance facility/bailee may be presented with multiple bills of sale or documents indicating security interests held by creditors, it may be difficult to figure out which party has the right to delivery and possession of the aircraft.

Another situation that may impact the decision to deliver the aircraft may arise if the maintenance facility/bailee has no been paid for its services. Depending upon the state in which the maintenance facility/bailee is located, it may be necessary for the maintenance facility/bailee to retain possession of the aircraft if it wants to assert a mechanic's or artisan's lien against the aircraft to secure payment of the amount owed for the work it performed. Retaining possession of the aircraft to perfect the lien would excuse the maintenance facility/bailee from complying with the aircraft owner's request for return of the aircraft and, as long as the lien claim was valid, the maintenance facility/bailee would likely not be liable for conversion of the aircraft.

So, what can a maintenance facility do to protect itself from potential liability under a bailment relationship? For starters, the maintenance facility should ensure that it is, in fact, exercising reasonable care with respect to the aircraft in its custody. Maintaining custody and control of the aircraft and taking reasonable precautions to minimize the opportunities for damage to aircraft will go a long way to avoiding claims.

Another option is to include language in the work order or service request signed by the aircraft owner that limits the maintenance facilities liability for negligent damage to an aircraft. This may include exclusion of damages for loss of use or diminution of value and it may cap or limit the total amount of damages for which the maintenance facility could be liable. Other language may be included to require that the aircraft owner carry certain minimum insurance and that the maintenance facility be protected by the owner's insurance.

In the end, when the maintenance facility accepts an aircraft owner's aircraft for service, in most cases a bailment relationship will result. Maintenance facilities should understand the duties and liability to which they may be exposed as a bailee in that relationship. With proper procedures and contractual planning, maintenance facilities can comply with their duties and limit their liability exposure in the bailment relationship.

The Reality of Parts Obsolescence – Avionics

Mark Wilken – Director of Avionics Sales with Elliott Aviation
www.elliottaviation.com

Cathode ray tubes are commonly found in the Electronic Flight Instrumentation Systems of Beechjets, like this 400A.

Parts obsolescence is inevitable in aviation. The longer the aircraft has been in circulation, the harder it can be to find parts. This especially holds true in avionics because of the parallels they have with consumer electronics. The components that make up the avionics found in the cockpit weren’t originally designed for aviation; they were actually made for the average consumer. To build an Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EFIS), avionics companies used technology developed for consumer electronics.

Unlike consumer electronics, airplanes are built to fly for many years. Consumer electronics on average have a life cycle of just a few years before something new comes out. As new technology is introduced into the market, old technology becomes obsolete. Consumer electronics have progressed rapidly, especially in the past ten years.

One example that is currently affecting many operators is the cathode ray tube, or CRT, most commonly found in Beechjets and airframes produced through the mid 2000’s. CRT’s were first introduced into airplanes around the 1980’s when microprocessors were coming of age. The simplified version of how the CRT works is that it uses high voltages to excite the screen phosphors within the tube and, in return, creates the picture. However, CRT’s are very susceptible to screen burn. If you can remember, old CRT monitors required screen savers as a preventative measure. If you left the same image on the screen for too long, it would burn the phosphor and leave a shadow of the image. When it came around to installing these CRT’s into the EFIS, specifically attitude and horizon, or HSI, level flights would show the exact same image for hours at a time, eventually burning the screen.

When CRT’s were readily available and plentiful, replacement wasn’t an issue. Consumers were still purchasing CRT TV’s and manufacturers were still producing replacement parts. In fact, Panasonic and Sony produced many of the CRT’s found in EFIS equipped airplanes. However, due to the rapid change in the consumer electronic market, CRT’s switched to LCD’s overnight. This caused the companies making the components for the CRT’s to shutdown and discontinue supporting the product. This is leading to obsolescence in replacement parts for all of the CRT EFIS equipped airplanes.

Avionics manufacturers predict that by the second half of the decade, replacement CRT’s will not be available to repair existing EFIS displays. Unfortunately, this leaves most owners and operators with little choice if they want to keep the same system. One option is to purchase a used EFIS display that was removed from a prior airplane, but that comes with the unknown of how long it will last. Another option is to spend a significant amount of money to send your parts to a specialist for repair at an increasing cost due to shortage of replacement components. Eventually, every CRT will possess significant screen burn. With performance standards gauging this, your airplane could eventually run the risk of being grounded.

Since there are a significant number of quality airplanes still flying, specifically the Beechjet, there will be a need for updated avionics. Engine parts should not be an issue because they don’t have a mass consumer market driving change. Current engine components work as designed and consumers aren’t forcing the need for new and faster components. But for avionics, there will be a point in time where you need to determine whether you want to keep flying the airplane and update the avionics or buy a new airplane.

Fortunately, there are several avionics retrofits available that will keep your plane flying long into the future. In fact, avionics manufacturers have been preparing for this by investing millions of dollars in research and development. For the Beechjet, Collins has updated their Pro Line series from the Pro Line 4 to the Pro Line 21. Additionally, Garmin introduced the G5000. Both of these retrofits are designed to significantly increase the capabilities of the airplane for the fraction of the cost it would take to purchase a new airplane.

Full implementation has yet to happen, but you can expect it within the next few years. The need hasn’t hit all owners and operators yet, but it’s beginning to trickle down. Inevitably, you will need to consider the available options.

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).

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