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The Right Tools to Build Your Aircraft Maintenance Powerhouse

From ladders to lifts, finding the right equipment is crucial to conducting an aircraft maintenance powerhouse.

Building an aircraft maintenance facility is a logistical business challenge like few others. You have to find the right amount of space, assemble the best team, and ensure they have all the right tools and equipment. Of these, the most critical and challenging steps to complete is to source the best equipment for the daily maintenance activities you will soon be tackling. We will identify the equipment you need, the equipment you want, and where to source said equipment. The goal is to give your team the right tools for the job without breaking the bank by getting everything from equipment vendors brand new. So, let’s jump into equipment and tools Needs, Wants, and Sources! Before we get into the Needs, Wants and Sources it is most important to note a complete and thorough understanding of 14 CFR 145.103 -145.109 is the first step in properly identifying said Needs and Wants. Part 145 does not apply to everyone, but it is good to familiarize what is customary industry wide.

The “Needs”

The necessary equipment will often depend on the types of aircraft you plan on maintaining. Here, we will address the necessary pieces of equipment and tools no matter what size and type of aircraft are in your fleet.

Scissor (or Man) Lift

Scissor lifts are essential pieces of equipment to have on hand to reach the tallest, most hard-to-reach areas of any jet in your fleet. Scissor lifts allow maintenance personnel to bring a whole assortment of tools and replacement parts with them when they go to work on tall sections of the aircraft. Tall sections are typically the vertical and horizontal stabilizers and even the engines on certain types of larger jets. Having one scissor lift in your arsenal of equipment is good, but two are better if there is a chance more than one aircraft will be in your shop at a time.


Getting your hands on a reliable forklift is essential for everyday maintenance shop tasks. Whether you’re storing heavy parts on shelves or moving them from delivery trucks to the shop floor, a forklift helps your entire team maximize the speed at which they can move the heaviest objects that move in and out of your facility. Forklifts are daily use pieces of equipment. Having one in your shop will pay dividends in the long run.

Aircraft Jacks

Aircraft jacks are specifically designed for their respective airframe weight category and sometimes airframe type. For most business jets, we’re mostly concerned with having an aircraft jack appropriate to the weight and height of the various airframes that will enter our shop. You will use these pieces of equipment together during inspections in addition to the routine replacement of landing gear components such as tires.

Fall Protection

Fall protection is not only smart but in some instances, required. Our repair stations are required to meet the standards of many agencies. Not the least of which include the FAA, OSHA, the Fire/Rescue, the Airport authorities, Landlord, Wyvern, Argus, and whatever other entity has jurisdiction at the location you will be working.

It is good practice to familiarize yourself with the requirements at the location where you will be working. Consider fall protection even more important than a good fire suppression system.


Ladders are second only to Fall Protection! No matter the size of the aircraft, it’s important to have ladders on hand. Too many preventable accidents occur from people standing on boxes and chairs or whatever makeshift device we use to reach the top shelf in a cabinet.

The “Wants”

Depending on where your maintenance facility is located, whether it’s at a busy airfield or not, will play a part in this next segment, where we shed light on desirable equipment that is nice to have on hand. The equipment we’re discussing here is not necessarily required to get your shop up and running, but it does maximize your operational efficiency. Borrowing tools from time to time is normal in this industry.

However, if you find yourself borrowing constantly, it can be viewed as unprofessional. Renting the same equipment time after time often becomes more costly than buying what you need.

Aircraft Tug

Aircraft tug vehicles come in various shapes and sizes, and if you don’t have access to one from a nearby FBO, this piece of equipment moves into the “necessary” category discussed above. Certain tugs are drivable, while others operate remotely. Some run on gas, and other tugs are electric.

What you choose depends on how big your airframe are, what your budget is, and how much space you have to store the tug. An airframe tug serves the simple and limited purpose of moving aircraft into and out of tight spaces where utilizing the aircraft engines is not practical or safe. Most maintenance facilities that opt out of this investment use the services of a nearby FBO to move their aircraft for a nominal fee.

Turbine Engine Wash System

Some shops opt for this piece of equipment to mitigate the buildup of engine compressor contamination, which results from normal aircraft use. If you’re serious about promoting the longevity of your aircraft engines, then TEWS is a good place to start. Some systems are quite small and easy to store as they aren’t everyday use tools, while others are quite large and take up space. An alternative to having this tool on hand is outsourcing the job to professionals who can provide the service for you.

“Wants” that really should be considered “Needs”:

Clean and Well-Lit Work Surface

Working on components removed from the aircraft are not always “on the floor” type project. Workbenches with adequate space and overhead lighting assist with ergonomics and safety.

Storage Shelving

Stacking items vertically saves precious shop space and industrial shelving solutions are very nice to have. It is typically recommended that you build up at least a small stockpile of wearable components, such as tires and brake pads, that your aircraft will go through over the course of a year. Having an adequate means of storage will ensure that your shop doesn’t become overcrowded.

14 CFR 145.103 (a) (2) states that maintenance facilities must include:

(i) Sufficient workspace and areas for properly segregating and protecting articles during all maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alterations.

(ii) Segregated work areas enabling environmentally hazardous or sensitive operations such as painting, cleaning, welding, avionics work, electronic work, and machining to be done properly and in a manner that does not adversely affect other maintenance or alteration articles or activities;

(iii) Suitable racks, hoists, trays, stands, and other segregation means for the storage and protection of all articles undergoing maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alterations, and;

(iv) Space sufficient to segregate articles and materials stocked for installation from those articles undergoing maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alterations to the standards required by this part.

(v) Ventilation, lighting, and control of temperature, humidity, and other climatic conditions sufficient to ensure personnel perform maintenance, preventive maintenance, or alterations to the standards required by this part.

A conversation with your local FAA FSDO or PMI will help you determine what is acceptable.

How to Find Equipment and Tools

Your aircraft maintenance powerhouse budget plays a large role in how you should go about sourcing the pieces of equipment we just talked about. We are proponents of lean operating strategies, and buying high-quality used equipment helps us achieve that. Companies like American Surplus Inc., Pilot John International, and GlobalGSE are good starting points to price pieces of equipment you might want to have on hand. Searching the local area for used industrial equipment is a strategy that has saved many maintenance facilities tens of thousands of dollars in start-up costs. A discussion with your go-to parts provider also sometimes yields good results.

A membership program is another method to source the maintenance equipment you need at the best possible price with its built-in parts watch feature. If buying brand new equipment is what you’re interested in for reliability or warranty concerns, however, then going directly to industrial equipment vendors is the best bet.

An important aspect of finding the right equipment is that it takes time, sometimes months, to assemble everything you need to get started in aircraft maintenance. However, hunting for equipment in your local area is a creative way to expedite the entire process.

Contact Global MX for all your Aircraft Maintenance