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Best Aircraft Maintenance Strategy for Your Operation

Understanding the difference between in-house and outsourced aircraft maintenance strategy

We know from experience how challenging aircraft maintenance is for both seasoned and new aircraft owners and operators alike. Like almost everything, there is no one-size-fits-all answer for a cost-effective and realistic maintenance program, but there are some strategies that will certainly help. Understanding the long-term benefits of assembling your own in-house aircraft maintenance solution is a good place to start.

In-house vs. Outsourcing

If you manage multiple aircraft that are regularly flown under Part 135 regulations, bringing aircraft maintenance in-house is a wise decision that will ultimately trim the fat off your operating budget. You will experience more control over aircraft downtime and the bottom line on invoices.

This is a long-term investment that requires adequate hangar space, office facilities, equipment, and technical staff to accomplish.

Outsourcing, on the other hand, can often be the best long-term solution in situations with one or two aircraft that fly less than 100 hours each year. When you operate fewer aircraft, the timeline to realize any meaningful cost savings from doing maintenance in-house is significantly increased.

To recognize which strategy fits your operation, start by asking yourself these questions: How many hours will the aircraft be flying each year? Will they be flying under Part 91 or for hire? Who will be responsible for maintenance tracking to ensure regulatory compliance? Your answers will be critical in developing the aircraft maintenance strategy that’s right for you.

Creating a Blended Solution

If you have concluded that doing maintenance in-house fits your business strategy, knowing what tasks to outsource and which to do yourself is the most logical next step. Most in-house maintenance tasks start with completing the various inspections required by federal regulations.

Methods of inspection compliance vary based on the fleet size, and again, how many hours are flown annually. For small operations that fly fewer than 100 hours every year, it is not uncommon for this tracking responsibility to be delegated to the chief pilot. For larger commercial operations, a designated Director of Maintenance should assume responsibility for this function.

Sometimes, the most appropriate solution for inspection tracking is to outsource it to a management firm so your technical staff can focus on other day-to-day maintenance responsibilities. A blended solution of in-house and outsourced responsibilities is sometimes the best solution for operators who fly multiple aircraft for hire.

For major jobs that require airframe disassembly or engine overhauls, it is often more beneficial to outsource. The supporting infrastructure that makes major overhaul jobs possible is a costly endeavor and it requires adequate facilities and trained technical staff. This can be an unrealistic and costly standard to maintain for some in-house maintenance programs, so bear that in mind before choosing to invest significantly into your own maintenance tracking and repair capabilities.

Find the Right People

The most critical aspect of any in-house maintenance program is the technical staff that handles the type of work that fits your maintenance strategy. When building your team, experience matters, as does the certification(s) of your personnel.

Having a Director of Maintenance with manufacturer-specific training, operational experience, and robust knowledge of regulatory compliance will pay dividends. Over the past five years demand has been high for qualified professionals in aircraft maintenance, so expect to hunt for at least a few weeks as you build your team.

How many trained technicians one chooses to hire should be in line with the size of the operation. Some in-house maintenance facilities only need a Director of Maintenance and a technician. Large operations that fly for hire, as previously discussed, will require more staffing to minimize the risk and the associated financial loss of aircraft downtime.