Contributed by Airframe Service Sales Representative Michael Brown
An properly funded maintenance budget will protect the value of your aircraft.
People who are not directly involved with aircraft maintenance can have a hard time justifying the necessary costs and downtime. However, it’s essential to understand that aircraft operate in extreme conditions, and a sufficient maintenance budget is necessary to perform adequate inspections, prevent damage and protect aircraft value.
Here are five factors to consider when establishing a baseline for aircraft maintenance costs.
1. Determine the fair market value of essential maintenance.
Fluctuations in the economy over the past few years have caused some organizations to expect lower maintenance costs for their aircraft. When negotiating with the owner on a maintenance budget, request historical, out-the-door inspection costs from several maintenance service providers for the past few years. Also, see if you can determine what the return rate is for workmanship issues from each provider.
2. Compare quoted costs vs out-the-door costs.
A service quote should provide a reasonable expectation for what the out-the-door costs will be for a project. Vague quotes won’t clearly identify what services are included in the price, and are open invitations for additional, undocumented charges. If a price quote seems attractive, ask for out-the-door costs on similar projects.
3. Evaluate the quality of hourly labor rates.
Be wary of low labor rates, as they can indicate a lack of technician experience. Newer technicians take longer to complete a task than experienced industry veterans, and any savings on the initial quote can be lost in the additional time required to complete a difficult issue. By choosing a highly experienced shop, labor rates may be higher, but efficiency will also be much better and result in better savings and quality. We’ve heard from more than one operator who went for a cheaper labor rate, only to receive a final bill that was significantly higher than competing quotes from more experienced service providers.
4. Ask about pricing & item flexibility.
Many times, after a price quote is accepted prices and items become locked and are difficult to change. One-on-one relationships with the representatives who quote work, will tend to improve item accuracy, work speed and pricing flexibility for changes down the road.
5. Cut costs in the right places.
Scheduling inspections well in advance of their due time will help save on cost of labor, sometimes by as much as 20%. This can allow operators to cut cost without cutting quality. Scheduling well in advance will secure labor for your aircraft, while scheduling at the last minute will allow vendors to drive up pricing to fit you into an already busy schedule, and extend downtime.
Additionally, if work is covered by warranty, have the work done before the warranty expires. Knowing when warranties expire will give you an idea on when inspections need to be done. Some service providers will help you work with the manufacturer to determine that.
Duncan Aviation provides complete maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), modifications, upgrades and support services for business aircraft. Our quotes are a fair representation of the final, out-the-door cost. Our techs are experienced and handle even the most difficult items efficiently. Our sales reps also work directly with operators to build proposals, and help coordinate warranty work with manufacturers.
For more information on comparing service quotes, please contact any member of Duncan Aviation’s Airframe Service Sales Team.
Michael Brown serves as an Airframe Service Sales Rep. at Duncan Aviation’s Battle Creek, MI (BTL) full-service facility, specializing in Challenger, Global and Learjet services. He began working in aviation in 1993.