An Aircraft Detailer’s Dream – No Bug Stick Wings
It seems like a thousand years ago when I started my first real business washing aircraft at age 12. It turned out to be a very astute business decision in hindsight. Still, as a 12-year old it was really hard work, and I can remember scrubbing the bugs off the leading edge and wings of small light aircraft and business jets. Then I’d have to wax them really good to help me get the new bugs off next time I washed the same aircraft.
That was then, and this is now and there may be relief on the way for future young aircraft cleaners. Let’s talk, let’s discuss some new future technologies in Aerospace.
There is a great video on YouTube talking about NASA wing research for modern aircraft. The title of the video is: “The Super-Efficient Future of Air Travel” and it is well worth watching. Fast forward the video to: 16:00 on the video.
This video discusses the drag, both induced drag and parasitic drag, from dead bugs and how this affects a wing’s performance, which is another reason why aircraft detailers are constantly washing and waxing the wings of aircraft.
Now then, just imagine in the future specialized coatings that prevent dead bugs (smushed ones) from sticking – wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing, yes, I agree totally. Wow, looking back, all I can say is; I sure wish they had such coatings back then, I’d have certainly saved myself so work, or would I have – maybe not, because if those coatings existed my aircraft washing, cleaning and detailing services may not have been needed.
Well, either way, these new technologies will be a complete game-changer for the Aircraft Detailing Industry, much like no-stick Teflon pans changed things for cooking bacon and eggs. Material Science has come a long way, and it is amazing just how much it will reshape the world we live in the future, even for those sub-sectors of our economy, things like aircraft washing and cleaning.
Sometimes I feel as if our industry doesn’t stay up on all the new technologies that affect us, and yes, it is a relatively simple business sector to participate in, nevertheless a prudent operator or owner of such a business needs to stay up with the leading edge of aerospace tech to stay ahead of the competition, thus, I thought you might like to hear about this. After all, we don’t want any of our workers getting carpal tunnel while scrubbing off all those obliterated and baked on bugs do we? Please consider all this and think on it.
Aircraft Upgrade: Sentinel R Mk 1
In order to maintain the Sentinel R Mk1 aircraft in its fleet, the Ministry of Defense (UK) together with the Raytheon Group (UK) have signed a contract for IRP (Improved Radar Program). The IRP is an upgrade which helps to merge the receiver and the processor while providing saving on size, weight as well as power.
In 2016, Raytheon has also signed a separate Integrated Support Services (ISS) contract with a net value of USD 170 million under which the company will be providing engineering, maintenance, and training for the Sentinel fleet including C-checks which is done to the airframe every 10 years. Raytheon Airborne Solutions shall be providing all the services to the Sentinel Fleet at their hangars at Broughton airfield in North Wales
About the Aircraft: Sentinel R Mk 1
The Sentinel R Mk 1 is based on a Global Business Jet and is manufactured by Bombardier and modified by Raytheon UK. The Sentinel R1 aircraft was intended for conventional war-fighting operations as well as to track armored formations and to carry out strategic reconnaissance tasks. By making use of the aircraft’s powerful radar the mission crew can identify as well as track numerous targets over greater distances, passing the information in near real time to friendly forces.
The mission crew is backed up by a team of intelligence specialists who conduct an in-depth forensic analysis of data collected by the aircraft and further generate intelligence that is passed to commanders and the decision makers and thus enabling them to plan for future operations.
The Sentinel R MK 1 aircraft, which entered service in December 2008, is the most advanced long-range, airborne-surveillance system of its kind worldwide. Additionally, the aircraft has been deployed operationally in Afghanistan since 2009 and has provided vital intelligence during the NATO operations in Libya in 2011, and French operations in Mali, in 2013.
Sentinel R Mk1: Operations and Features
The aircraft, Sentinel R Mk 1 is a vital C4ISR asset for UK’s military and is being operated by the Royal Air Force’s No5 Army Cooperation Squadron. The Sentinel R Mk 1 comes equipped with Airborne Stand-off Radar (ASTOR) system and ground components with the aircraft’s powerful Active Electronically-Scanned Array (AESA) “dual mode” surveillance radar which helps in combining the best in Ground Movement Target Indicator ( GMTI) as well as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imagery for providing unparalleled situational awareness.
The image captured by the aircraft is sent to the ground stations at all levels of command and control through secure networks. The aircraft is able to remain over safe territory while providing an outstanding “look-down” angle of the target area owing to its high altitude operational capabilities.
Sentinel: “Operation Shader”
Since March 2015, more Sentinels have been deployed to RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, for “Operation Shader”, the British contribution to the US-led coalition of nations aiming to evict the so-called Islamic State from Iraq and Syria. The aircraft has been flying eight-to 10-hour missions, with its three onboard radar operators using satellite communications (Satcom) for relaying urgent intelligence on the ground situation in the UK and coalition commanders.
Furthermore, Raytheon is marketing a different version of the Sentinel aircraft to other countries. The aircraft named the Multi Mission Aircraft (MMA) houses additional sensors and communications options. These include a long-range electro-optical camera, an EO / IR tactical surveillance video turret and upgraded Satcom.
Aircraft Lap Joint Modifications Keep An Aircraft Flying
Specialist teams embody lap joint modifications and aircraft structural repairs on fleets of 737-200’s and and 737-200 cargo aircraft and also 737-300 with increasing frequency.
Determined by the Lap Joint SB 1177, only Licensed EASA AND FAA structures engineers can oversee this type of project. SB737-53-1179 and SB737-53A-1210 have also been applied to these aircraft.
Unforeseen defects can be found on inspection during this modification. Aircraft structural repairs for this same reason can also be required outside the scope of SB737-53A-1177.
Airwothiness directives for all Boeing 737-100, -200, -200C, -300, -400, and -500 series aircraft, have become prevalant for the unsafe condition of fuselage skin cracks adjacent to the skin lap joints due to scribe lines. This damage can be a hidden problem, often hidden under resealed or repainted surfaces.
Cracks develop after the aircraft has returned to service, can initiate at any point, or at multiple points, along the length of the scribe line. Established cracks in the wing structure can link up. The damage is caused by using the wrong tools for removing paint or decals.
Scribe line damage can also occur at many other locations, including butt joints, external doublers, door scuff plates, the wing-to-body fairing, and areas of the fuselage where decals have been applied or removed. Rapid decompression of the aircraft can be the result of fatigue cracks resulting from scribe lines on the pressurized fuselage structure.
The remedy consists initially of inspection for cracks in the fuselage skin at lap joints, butt joints and external repair doublers. Detailed inspection is defined as an intensive visual examination to detect damage, failure, or irregularity. Intense lighting, surface cleaning and elaborate access procedures may be required.
Wings On Aircraft Landing Gear Make Aerodynamic Sense In Our Pre-Morphable Wing Age
The new business jet by Bombardier, the Legacy 500, has a small airfoil on the front landing gear. When I first saw this, I was intrigued because it is a concept I’ve always considered worthy. Specifically an airfoil on the landing gear is a perfect concept because the landing gear is attached to the aircraft’s frame. Therefore you could push up on the landing gear with an incredible amount of force without hurting the airplane. It is the absolute perfect place and structure for and airfoil.
The only problem is that when you get into higher performance airplanes the landing gear retracts, and therefore the airfoil must do the same. Still, consider if you will that when an aircraft is taking off it needs more lift, therefore it needs a greater camber on the leading-edge of the wing or more airfoil surface to lift that weight off the ground. Once airborne and moving at higher rates of speed it needs less wing, a lower aspect ratio to the leading-edge, and a more streamlined and aerodynamic shape.
In the future all this will be solved by morphable wings, but we don’t have those materials designed yet allowing a wing to change shape significantly for high weight takeoffs, and then later high-speed cruise (supersonic for instance). Until we get there, an extra airfoil on the landing gear does make a lot of sense. Further, it could also turn vertical and used as a speed brake once the aircraft has landed.
Or it might be used for deflecting the airflow pushing the aircraft’s nose into the air during take-off. Using simulation software we could figure out exactly the shape and size that such an airfoil might need to be to serve those functions, and what settings it would take during the take-off and landing phases of the flight. Then engineer it so it could retract with the landing gear into the landing gear bay.
There are many safety features that come with this such as lower landing speeds, more stability at lower speeds, more efficiency and low fuel use, and greater takeoff weight. These are all important things for aircraft, and it also saves wear and tear on the tires, and allows a safe margin for error on shorter runways. Why shouldn’t all high-performance aircraft have this? And, why wouldn’t it be possible for some of the landing gear doors to also serve as a dual purpose and shaped like airfoils, or vertical fins?
Why wouldn’t we use those components sticking out into the slipstream to our benefits, rather than our detriment? Remember, when we are talking about aircraft everything is a compromise, and we want the most efficient design possible for all the characteristics we need within the envelope of flight which serve that aircraft’s primary functions. Indeed I hope you will please consider all this, and accept my challenge to design such new technologically advanced aerospace and aerodynamics strategies.
Aircraft Hydraulic Hose And Hydraulic Hose Fittings
Carefully inspect all hydraulic hose and fittings at regular intervals to ensure airworthiness. Investigate any evidence of fluid loss or leaks. Check metal tubes for leaks, loose anchorage, scratches, kinks, or other damage. Inspect fittings and connections for leakage, looseness, cracks, burrs, or other damage. Replace or repair defective elements. Make sure the hoses do not chafe against one another and are correctly secured and clamped.
1. Replacement of Metal tube. When inspection shows hydraulic hose to be damaged or defective replace the entire line or, if the damaged section is localized, a repair section may be inserted. In replacing aircraft hose, always use tubing of the same size and material as the original line. Use the old tubing as a template when bending the new tube, unless it is too greatly damaged, in which case a template can be made from soft iron wire.
Soft aluminum tubing (1100, 3003, or 5052) under half-inch outside diameter may be bent by hand. For all other tubing use an acceptable hand or power tube-bending tool. Bend tubing carefully to avoid excessive flattening, kinking, or wrinkling. A small amount of flattening in bends is acceptable, but do not exceed 75 percent of the original outside diameter. Excessive flattening will cause fatigue failure of the hydraulic tube. When installing the replacement tubing line it up correctly with the mating part so that it is not forced into alignment by tightening of the coupling nuts.
2. Hose couplings and Tube Connections. Many tube connections are made using flared tube ends with
standard connection fittings: AN-818 (MS 20818) nut and AN-819 (MS 20819) sleeve. In forming flares, cut the tube ends square, file smooth, remove all burrs and sharp edges, and thoroughly clean. The tubing is then flared using the correct 37-degree aviation flare forming tool for the size of tubing and type of fitting.
A double flare is used on soft aluminum tubing 3/8-inch outside diameter and under, and a single flare on all other tubing. In making the connections, use hydraulic fluid as a lubricant and then tighten. Overtightening will damage the tube or fitting, which may cause a failure. Under-tightening may cause leakage which could result in a system failure.
CAUTION: Mistaken use of 45-degree automotive flare forming tools may result in improper tubing flare shape and angle; causing misfit, stress and strain, and probable system failure.
Repair of aircraft hydraulic Metal Tube Lines. Minor dents and scratches in tubing may be repaired. Scratches or nicks not deeper than 10 percent of the wall thickness in aluminum alloy tubing, that are not in the heel of a bend, may be repaired by burnishing with hand tools.
Replace lines with severe die marks, seams, or splits in the tube. Any crack or deformity in a flare is unacceptable and cause for rejection. A dent less than 20 percent of the tube diameter is not objectionable unless it is in the heel of a bend.
A severely-damaged line should be replaced; however, it may be repaired by cutting out the damaged section and inserting a tube section of the same size and material. Flare both ends of the undamaged and replacement tube sections and make the connection by using standard unions, sleeves, and tube nuts.If the damaged portion is short enough, omit the insert tube and repair by using one union and two sets of connection hose fittings.
Replacement of Flexible Hose. When replacement of flexible hose is necessary, use the same type, size, part number, and length of hose as the line to be replaced. Check TSO requirements. If the replacement of a hose with a swaged-end type fitting is necessary, obtain new hydraulic hose assemblies of the correct size and composition. Certain synthetic oils require a specially compounded synthetic rubber hose, which is compatible. Refer to the aircraft manufacturer’s service information for the correct part number for the replacement hose.
If the fittings on each end are of the correct type or sleeve type, a replacement may be fabricated. Before cutting new flexible wire braided hose to the proper size, tape the hose tightly with masking tape and cut in the center of the masking tape to prevent fraying. The use of a mandrel will prevent cutting the inside of the hose when inserting the fittings. Install hose assemblies without twisting.
A hose should not be stretched tight between two fittings as this will result in overstressing and eventual failure. The length of hose should be sufficient to provide about 5 to 8 percent slack. Avoid tight bends in flex lines as they may result in failure. Never exceed the minimum bend radii.
(1) Teflon hose is used in many aircraft systems because it has superior qualities for certain applications. Teflon is compounded from tetrafluoroethylene resin which is unaffected by fluids normally used in aircraft. It has an operating range of -65°F to 450 °F. For these reasons, Teflon hose is used in hydraulic and engine lubricating systems where temperatures and pressures preclude the use of rubber hose.
Although Teflon hose has excellent performance qualities, it also has peculiar characteristics that require extra care in handling. It tends to assume a permanent set when exposed to high pressure or temperature. Do not attempt to straighten a hose that has been in service.
Any excessive bending or twisting may cause kinking or weakening of the tubing wall. Replace any hose that shows signs of leakage, abrasion, or kinking. Any hose suspected of kinking may be checked with a steel ball of proper size.The ball will not pass through if the hose is distorted beyond limits.
(2) If the hose fittings are of the reusable type, a replacement hose may be fabricated. When a hose assembly is removed, the ends should be tied, so that the preformed shape will be maintained.
(3) All flexible hose installations should be supported at least every 24 inches. Closer supports are preferred. They should be carefully routed and securely clamped to avoid abrasion, kinking, or excessive flexing. Excessive flexing may cause weakening of the hose or loosening at the fittings.
Aircraft Ground Support Equipment And The Environment
US Airlines have signed an unprecedented agreement to purchase up to 1.5 million gallons per year of renewable synthetic diesel fuel for use in ground service equipment at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) beginning in late 2012. This is a sign of the times.
Over time, to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve local air quality through the use of greener fuels, is an ongoing commitment. The fuel will be produced primarily from urban wood green waste such as clippings. The fuel is expected to have a low carbon footprint and minimal particulate and other emissions while meeting fuel standards. Synthetic jet fuel was recently approved for commercial airline use.
As the industry closes in on compliance deadlines for a variety of rules and regulations, how can we comply with rules while not impeding operational demands? Ground support equipment design will play a key role where new equipment is concerned.
However, the major contributors of emissions in GSE are older units and larger heavier equipment, such as pushback tractors, container loaders, ground power units gpus, air conditioners, cargo loading ramps, catering vehicles, etc. There have been examples of conversion of some of these types to electric. But also newer, cleaner burning gas and diesel engines could comply.
Conversion in the short-term puts a burden on the OEMs. There is not sufficient time. Electrification of ground support vehicles and equipment is part of a global effort toward cleaner airports. It is estimated that of the thousands of units currently in use in the United States, a mere 10% are electric; but the opportunities to go electric are everywhere.
From tugs, tractors, baggage handlers, cargo loaders, belt-loaders, personnel carriers to mobile stairways, ground power units and free-standing generators, all ground support equipment and infrastructure will ultimately be involved in the changeover.
Electric GSE vehicles are 90% cleaner and 75% less expensive to operate.
The retrofitting option from diesel to electric means maintenance, repairs and equipment downtime are minimized, because electric motor technology is more efficient and produces less wear and tear. There is less heat and vibration generated and fewer moveable parts. Zero emissions creates measurable air quality improvements.
There will be a set-up cost with power lines for charging stations, traffic routing to and from chargers, the removal of airport fuel tanks that have been superceded. Rapid-charge power stations need to be positioned so equipment operators can conveniently plug in whenever the vehicle is not in use.
The switchover to electric GSE is underway. Starting the switch to electric technology for GSE demonstrates an airport’s commitment to a cleaner environment. It’s good public relations and good business, too.
De Deicing/Anti-icing Equipment
Aircraft entering today’s fleets are 70% more fuel efficient than they were 40 years ago, and the industry also boasts much higher occupancy rates than other methods of transport, with figures in excess of 75% compared to 40-50% for trains and 30% for cars.
Add to this the fact that over the last 40 years hydrocarbon emissions from aviation have been reduced by 90%, and also, 15% of aircraft and engine manufacturers’ turnover is devoted to research, and you could be forgiven for thinking we are making progress.
The European Union’s commitment to cutting its emissions by 8% from the 1990 levels by 2012 under the Kyoto protocol, will require that chemical deicing with glycols, for example, improve its green credentials.
In summary, there are plenty of opportunities for enterprise in the field of ground support equipment design.
Aircraft Hangars Are Perfect For Water Collection
The wings of airplanes are quite large, and the more people and baggage the aircraft holds the larger the wings have to be in order to lift that weight off the ground. This means that the hangers in which the aircraft is parked must be quite large to fit the wing span of these planes. A hangar that holds just a handful of corporate business jets is large enough to collect over 100,000 gallons of water in a storm that merely drops 2 to 3 inches of water.
This water should be collected and prevented from running off the property or onto the flight line where it might encounter petroleum distillates from spilled jet fuel or aviation gas, or even mixed with hydraulic fluid and other chemicals used in the aviation industry. By collecting this water in advance of its runoff into nearby clarifiers, storm drains or tributaries, it can be used as clear and fresh water for a number of things.
For instance with a little bit of filtration the water could be used to clean aircraft, and although it may not be good for the aircraft in the final phase of the aircraft cleaning exercise, it could be used during the soap cycle. How do we go about collecting the rain water off of large hangar surface areas?
Well, I’m glad you asked because it just so happens that there are some highly sophisticated and very well engineered rain gutter collection systems, like the Gutter Guarder rain gutters, which can be attached to a collection container. Using these systems hangar owners can collect that hundred thousand gallons of water during any given storm.
One architect that is designing aircraft hangers in San Antonio Texas is looking into just such a concept of collecting rain water from aircraft hangers. His client, a major national fractional jet company, wishes to build two very large hangers and to do the environmentally proper thing by collecting the water, and then reusing that water for landscaping around the facility, as well as filtering some of the water to be used in the washing of aircraft.
This is definitely something to consider, for anyone who wants to collect the rain water in order to conserve water and prevent droughts from becoming serious. Please consider this.
Aircraft Acrylic Window Refurbishment
Repairs are more manageable when they are repairs to plastic windshields, enclosures, and windows in non-pressurized aircraft. For pressurized aircraft, replace or repair plastic windows in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation.
When acrylic aircraft windshields and side windows are damaged, they are usually replaced, unless the damage is minor and a repair would not be in the line of vision. Windshield repairs usually require a great deal of labour. Replacement parts are readily available, so replacement is normally more economical than repair. You can appreciate from this that ground support equipment design has long sought a solution for aircraft acrylic window refurbishment.
There are times when a windshield may be cracked and safety is not impaired. In that case, repairs can be made by stop-drilling the ends of the crack with a # 30 drill (1/8 inch) to prevent the concentration of stresses causing the crack to continue. Drill a series of number 40 holes a half-inch from the edge of the crack about a half-inch apart, and lace through these holes with brass safety wire and seal with clear silicone to waterproof. Diamond cutting head machines have also been developed to cut and remove crazing.
Temporary repairs too are possible. One way to make a temporary repair is to stop-drill the ends of the crack, and then drill number 27 holes every inch or so in the crack. Use AN515-6 screws and AN365-632 nuts with AN960-6 washers on both sides of the plastic. This will hold the crack together and prevent further breakage until the windshield can be properly repaired or replaced.
Ground support equipment design.
Permanent repairs using a special purpose diamond cutting head machine are now feasible. Aircraft windshields or side windows with small cracks that affect only the appearance rather than the airworthiness of a sheet, may be repaired by first stop-drilling the ends of the crack with a # 30 or a 1/8-inch drill.
Then use a hypodermic syringe and needle to fill the crack with polymerizable cement such as PS-30 or Weld-On 40, and allow capillary action to fill the crack completely. Soak the end of a 1/8-inch acrylic rod in cement to form a cushion and insert it in the stop-drilled hole. Allow the repair to dry for about 30 minutes, and then trim the rod off flush with the sheet.
Polishing and Finishing can be achieved in the following manner. It is possible, within certain limitations, to remove scratches and repair marks from acrylic plastic. Sanding that might adversely affect the plastic’s optical properties and distort the pilot’s vision should be avoided.
If there are scratches or repair marks in an area that can be sanded, they may be removed by first sanding the area. Use 320- or 400-grit abrasive paper that is wrapped around a felt or rubber pad.
Use circular rubbing motions, light pressure, and a mild liquid soap solution as a lubricant. After the sanding is complete, rinse the surface thoroughly with running water. Then, using a 500-grit paper, continue to sand lightly. Keep moving to higher grit paper and sand and rinse until all of the sanding or repair marks have been removed. After using the forest abrasive paper, use rubbing compound and buff in a circular motion to remove all traces of the sanding.
Acrylic windshield refurbishment.
Acrylic windshield refurbishment can be nicely finished and aircraft windows may be cleaned by washing them with mild soap and running water. Rub the surface with your bare hands in a stream of water. Follow with the same procedure but with soap and water.
After the soap and dirt have been flushed away, dry the surface with a soft, clean cloth or tissue and polish it with a windshield cleaner especially approved for use on aircraft transparent plastics. These cleaners may be purchased through aircraft supply houses.
A thin coating of wax will fill any minute scratches that may be present and will cause rain to form droplets that are easily blown away by the wind.
Acrylic windshield protection.
Acrylic windshields are often called “lifetime” windshields, to distinguish them from those made of the much shorter-lived acetate material. However, even acrylic aircraft windshields must be protected from the ravages of the elements.
When an aircraft is parked in direct sunlight, the windshield will absorb heat and will actually become hotter than either the inside of the aircraft or the outside air. The sun will cause the inside of a closed aircraft to become extremely hot, and this heat is also absorbed by the plastic windshield.
To protect against this damage, it is wise to keep the aircraft in a hangar. If this is not possible, some type of shade should be provided to keep the sun from coming in direct contact with the windshield. Some aircraft owners use a close-fitting, opaque, reflective cover over the windshield.
In many cases, this has done more harm than good. This cover may absorb moisture from the air and give off harmful vapors, and if it touches the surface of the plastic it can cause crazing or minute cracks to form in the windshield. Another hazard in using such a cover is that sand can blow up under the cover and scratch the plastic.
Aircraft Cleaning And Washing Basics – The Do’s And Don’ts Of Air Craft Wash Procedures
If you are in the aerospace industry and have been laid off, then you might consider starting your own business and perhaps you want to start a business that has to do with aircraft cleaning. Aircraft washing can be a very rewarding business and if you do it right, you could in fact, make some money at it.
Of course, like any business it is not that easy. So, let’s discuss some of the issues you will need to address. In the short interview below you will hear the words of an expert aircraft washer, so let’s begin; What questions do you have?
For starters, I was wanting to know the basic do’s & don’ts of aircraft washing?
Well, I’d recommend you call Jet Stream Products in Dallas, as they have manuals and training and they also sell supplies, soaps, and equipment as well. When learning how to wash and clean airplanes, there are many things that are quite different than the cleaning of other objects like cars and trucks for instance.
What about actual washing or spraying of aircraft; for example, not spraying directly on the aircraft windows?
If the pressure is low it’s not such a big deal, but most of the little aircraft do leak. Under no circumstances should you use 180 degree steam cleaner settings on Plexiglas side windows of small private little aircraft.
Is this for all aircraft, or just pressurized cabins?
These are entirely, two different animals. Little Cessna’s and Piper’s leak around the windows, and there is nothing worse than getting water and moisture inside of an aircraft, it stinks them up pretty badly. Pressurized aircraft do not leak, but that does not mean you want to go full pressure on the windows to get them to leak either. Also the more high performance the front windscreens are no longer Plexiglas, so it’s more like a car.
Aircraft Management & Acquisition – What to Know Before You Own?
Whenever I assist a potential aircraft buyer with an acquisition, my first step is to do all I can to talk them out of it. If I throw every possible hurdle at them to convince them it is a bad idea, and they still want to move forward, I know they were meant to be an aircraft owner. Before I explore those hurdles – and then discuss the benefits of aircraft ownership – let’s briefly review your alternatives. Perhaps one of these options is a better choice for you.
Fly commercial? Are you serious?
First of all and I say this only partly in jest you should at least consider the commercial airlines, especially for international travel. Yes, I know what you are thinking: long delays, bad service, no privacy, limited airports, inedible food, and all the things that make us want to avoid airlines like the plague. However, for international trips the service on many first class airlines has gotten much better and actually rivals what you will experience on a private aircraft.
Sure, you have to arrive several hours early, go through TSA, have your bags X-rayed, and possibly take connecting flights. On the plus side, though – and it’s a big plus – there is an order of magnitude cost differential between international commercial flights and flying on a private jet. You can easily save many thousands of dollars on every trip. Okay, now that I have made my plug for the commercials, let’s talk about your private travel options.
Option 1: Jet Charter
There are many ways to access a private jet – the simplest is to call a charter company and request a quote. They will provide you with a charter quote so you can review pricing, flight times, and other details. You can then determine if it meets your requirements and your budget. Chartering a jet is the easiest way to enter the world of private aviation. There is a downside to charter, however.
A charter company will often charge you for the reposition time on an aircraft to fly to your departure location, as well as the deadhead time to return the plane to its base of operations. In other words, you might end up paying for two flights that you are not on. Also, many charter companies offer aircraft that are under their management yet privately owned.
Once you decide to book a particular flight, the charter company often must seek owner approval to conduct the trip. If the owner elects to pass, you will not be able to complete the booking process. This owner approval process is the most common complaint that I hear from our charter clients. Some charter operators seem to be better than others at shielding clients from this process, but in general most companies do not have unlimited ability to pick and choose the flights they accept or reject.
Option 2: Jet Card Programs
The next option is what is commonly referred to as the jet card. This is typically a prepaid block of hours on a type of jet, or possibly a particular category of jets usually light, mid-size, or heavy. The issue with card programs is that they charge a much higher hourly rate than charter companies. On the other hand, they do guarantee availability of an aircraft and they charge you only for the time you are flying on the plane.
The problem with jet cards is that they can be expensive. The typical hourly rate will be twice that of a chartered plane. However, if you generally fly on longer trips where it is not practical to keep the plane waiting for you, a charter company will usually charge you for the deadhead, or at least a minimum usage fee of two hours per day to keep the plane at your destination until you are ready to return home.
Since the jet card company will only charge you for the actual flight time, it may end up being a wash depending on the economics of each trip. Quite often our clients will choose a mix of charter flying and card flying based on the length of their flight and the number of days of their trip. This can be the most cost-effective way to meet all of your travel requirements.
Option 3: Fractional Ownership
The final alternative to ownership is the fractional business model. I call this an “alternative”, though in actuality you do become an aircraft owner – typically buying 1/16th of the plane. This 1/16th ownership usually allows you to fly 50 hours per year on that type of aircraft and pay only the direct operating costs for each flight. Similar to the card programs, you pay for the time you are in the air, while the fractional operator absorbs the deadhead and reposition costs.
The major difference between the card program and fractional ownership is that you must make a sizable capital investment: usually 1/16th of the approximate retail value of the airplane. Your membership generally lasts five years, after which you will allow the fractional company to sell your interest at the prevailing market value. The fractional model allows you to depreciate your share just as you would any other asset.
Often, that depreciation is valuable enough to make fractional ownership more desirable for certain individuals. Whether the value of the depreciation offsets the capital costs and potential risks of selling your share at a low value is up to you, your tax advisor, and perhaps your fortune teller to determine.
One last point to note is that while you own an interest in a particular serial number of aircraft, it is rare that you will ever fly on that specific aircraft. Not that it really matters, though, as most fractional companies intentionally outfit every airplane to look exactly the same, so that owners are unaware of which aircraft they are actually on.
Four Great Reasons Not to Buy an Aircraft
Now that you’ve looked at your options, let me try one last time to talk you out of buying a plane. Here are four very good reasons to choose an alternative.
1. Ownership is very expensive. An aircraft is likely one of the most costly assets you will ever own, and there may be better investments for your money. Remember that the purchase price is only one component of your total cost of ownership. For example, you will also have substantial ongoing fixed costs such as property taxes, hangar fees, crew expenses, and insurance.
2. Repairs and maintenance can ground your plane. Your plane may not always be available to you. Parts can break, requiring you to charter an alternate aircraft while yours is being returned to service. You also may need to charter another plane if yours is down for routine maintenance and planes require a lot of maintenance. Plus, if your plane is off warranty, scheduled maintenance costs can easily run to six figures.
3. Expenses can be unpredictable. Particularly with older airplanes that are not under warranty, one mechanical failure could result in an unanticipated expense of $50,000 or more. Are you prepared for that phone call from your mechanic letting you know that a part has just failed and a new one will cost $50,000 to purchase and install?
4. You could lose lots of money. Aircraft ownership can be a risky investment. We are generally considered to be in a strong aircraft market now, but all markets have cycles. You could possibly end up buying high and selling low. Can you afford to lose perhaps millions of dollars if you need to sell your plane in a down market? Have I talked you out of aircraft ownership yet?
For many of you, the answer will be no. In spite of all of these issues, I receive phone calls almost weekly from individuals and companies wanting our help in buying an aircraft, so there is clearly a market for individuals who want to take the plunge. What drives their decision to buy? Let’s discuss that now.
Why People Choose to Own
With all of the alternatives to aircraft ownership: charter, jet card, fractional – why do people still buy airplanes? Most of our clients tell us that they want to fly on the same aircraft all the time, with the same flight crew, and the same mechanic or maintenance team caring for the plane. More than any other reason or justification, this seems to be what pushes people toward ownership.
Another significant reason is the economics of flying, based on the number of hours you usually fly in a year. When you purchase an airplane, you have substantial fixed costs: interest expense, property taxes, insurance, hangar fees, crew expenses, and maintenance.
These expenses exist whether you fly five hours per year or five hundred. However, when you fly on the aircraft your only incremental cost is what we refer to as the âEURoedirect operating costs or the direct cost of fuel and maintenance expenses for flying one extra hour on the aircraft.
Depending on the type of plane, these expenses can often be half or less than the charter rates for an identical aircraft. The more hours you fly, the more you can balance the fixed-overhead expenses with the savings of paying only direct operating costs for each flight. There is no universally accepted number for how many hours you need to fly before the economic equation tilts in favor of ownership.
However, one rule of thumb is that you need to fly at least 200 hours per year to make ownership worth your while. If you fly less than that, you cannot spread your fixed costs over enough flight hours to make the total flight cost competitive with the charter, card, and fractional alternatives.
In general, the more hours you fly, the more outright ownership becomes a viable economic solution for you. If you fit this profile or if you simply want to own a jet regardless of your first step is the acquisition phase.
Step One: Aircraft Acquisition
During the acquisition phase, we sit down with our clients and ask lots of questions about their travel requirements. For example, how many hours do you fly? What are your typical destinations? How many passengers? How much luggage? How large a cabin do you need? The list goes on. Next we begin building a travel profile showing anticipated routes, flight times, and costs. From there we can identify a range of potential aircraft types that may meet their requirements.
Then we develop approximate capital and operating budgets for each plane. Aircraft are generally categorized by size: light, midsize, or heavy. A typical light jet will have a cabin in which you cannot stand up. It could hold anywhere from 5 to 8 passengers and usually fly between 1400 and 1800 nautical miles. A midsize jet will be roomier inside, often have more luggage capacity, and a cabin that you can (almost) stand up in.
Typical ranges for midsize jets are between 1800 and 2600 nautical miles – most hold 6 to 9 passengers. Finally, a heavy jet will have a very roomy cabin, hold up to 14 passengers, and often fly 4000 nautical miles or further. There are planes in each category that fall outside these general parameters, as well as super-lights, super-mids, and super heavy jets which can offer additional cabin space, speed, and range.
Another important decision is whether to buy a new aircraft or one that is used. New planes generally come with a five-year, tip-to-tail warranty. You will still need to pay for inspections, but most other expenses are covered under warranty. Also, you will need to pay an hourly fee on top of the warranty to cover many parts that fail through normal wear and tear.
To keep a lid on your costs, you can pay an hourly rate for an engine program. These programs cover the very expensive mid-life inspections and overhauls that are required years down the road. With an engine program, you will be relatively well protected from unexpected expenses associated with maintenance or parts failures.
Naturally, brand new aircraft usually cost much more than resale planes, and because our industry is doing so well, many manufacturers report backlogs of two to five years. This makes new aircraft ownership unrealistic if you want to buy a plane right away. Your only option is to buy a position for a new aircraft held by another individual, typically at a substantial premium over the price they agreed to pay to the OEM.
The resale market is where you can often find the best values. While private planes are generally holding their values right now, there are soft spots with certain types of aircraft – possibly due to a glut on the market. This can offer you an excellent opportunity to get a better deal. Once we identify the specific type of aircraft that meets your requirements, our next step is to research the market and identify every one of those planes that is or may be for sale.
We will look at current listings, as well as recently closed sales, to determine a fair purchase price. As we work together to identify opportunities, we will eventually select the best one on the market and work to negotiate the right price.
If you are buying a used aircraft, it is critical to perform a thorough pre-buy inspection prior to purchase. How does that work? Typically, you pay for the inspection cost, but the seller pays for any airworthy items that are identified during the inspection. At the conclusion of the inspection, you should be ready to take ownership of an airplane that is in sound condition and ready for first flight.
However, you still have more decisions to make and the first is to select an aircraft management company. What Does an Aircraft Management Company Do? What? You say you don’t know the first thing about flying or maintaining an airplane?
Not to worry. An aircraft management company handles everything for you. Your management company will get to know you and your passengers, identify a crew to fly your airplane, take care of accounting matters associated with paying expenses, oversee aircraft maintenance, and coordinate all your trips.
Typically a management company will be involved during the acquisition process, or they may be the company that is helping you with the acquisition. They will likely know a lot about your requirements by the time you are ready to take your first flight.
A management company can also help you to determine whether it makes sense for you to place your aircraft on a charter certificate. Charter can be a great way to offset your operating costs. The way it works is the management company will place your aircraft on their FAA Air Carrier Certificate, and they will advertise it to the public as available for charter.
While the profit associated with charter can vary depending on the type of aircraft, most owners find that by accepting a few hundred hours per year of charter it can cover a portion of their fixed ownership costs, making the ownership alternative even more attractive.
There are pros and cons to making your plane available for charter. We’ll discuss those issues shortly, but first let’s address the most important question: selecting the best aircraft management company for your needs and personality.
Choosing the Right Aircraft Management Company An aircraft management company is a critical component of operating your newly acquired jet. Choosing the right management company requires careful consideration. All aircraft management companies have the same overall responsibilities, but how they go about it is what differentiates each company. Let’s review the main responsibilities of a management company.
1. Crew selection. Your management company will help specify your crew requirements. Most jets require two pilots. Each management company will have their own standards for crew members. Among other factors, the company will look at each pilot’s total flying time, the time they have in your particular type of aircraft, and their time as a captain in charge of any aircraft.
Generally speaking, the more experience the better, but the management company should help you to evaluate all the factors and make the best selection. You will also need to consider how many crew members you will have. Crew members require personal time off, as well as training, vacation and sick time.
Hiring a third crew member allows the management company to provide guaranteed time off for each crew member, but it raises the cost of operation. Some management companies will have ‘floater pilots’ who can provide relief when needed.
2. Maintenance oversight. Aircraft require constant maintenance oversight. Planes should be inspected prior to and just after a flight, especially when departing from or returning to their base of operation. Some management companies will recommend a dedicated mechanic for your airplane.
Others will have a team of mechanics and charge hourly for their services. Either way can work, but the important thing is to make sure your mechanics are familiar with your plane – and properly trained to work on it. If parts or systems break on the road, the management company should have a procedure in place to request off-site maintenance support and determine the best way to return the aircraft to service as quickly as possible.
3. Accounting. Your management company will purchase fuel, employ pilots, secure insurance and hangar facilities, purchase parts, and pay all invoices related to aircraft operations. They will ensure that the bills are being paid are appropriate and the best prices negotiated.
They will generally consolidate these expenses into a monthly management report that details each month’s worth of activities into one invoice so you will have only one monthly check to write.
4. Flight planning. Each time you take a trip, the flight planning department will coordinate all your activities, including hotel and ground transportation, weather briefings, fuel arrangements, crew assignment, and passenger TSA screening. Should your itinerary change during your trip, the flight planning department will rearrange details as necessary and ensure a smooth travel experience.
When searching for a management company, I recommend that owners sit down with three companies before making a selection. Management companies come in all sizes, from single-aircraft operators to national firms. While the basic responsibilities of the management company are the same, how they approach these responsibilities can vary greatly.
How much experience do they require for their crew members? How often do they send their pilots through simulator training? How experienced are their mechanics on your type of aircraft? How much turnover do they have in their crew, operations, and management teams? What is their reputation within the industry? Do they have a solid credit history?
Once these questions are answered to your satisfaction, the decision should be relatively easy to make. Go with the company that you would most enjoy working with, and which runs it operations the way you would if you were running the business.
Each management has its own unique personality. Owners have the best experience when they find a good match between their personality and that of their management company.
Earning Charter Revenue
Some management companies also have an FAA Air Carrier Certificate that allows them to offer your aircraft for charter when you are not using it. Charter revenue can provide a reasonable cost offset to your operation. For example, a Gulfstream GIV typically earns you a profit after expenses of approximately $2,000.
With 200 charter hours on your plane, you can generate a profit of $400,000. This could pay most or even all of your crew, insurance, and hangar fees.
Planes are built to fly at least 500 hours per year. If you plan to fly 300 hours of personal use, the 200 hours of charter can be a good way to leverage an otherwise underutilized asset. You can put your plane to work for you and generate some profit to reduce the overall operation cost.
How does the charter process work? As clients call in potential itineraries, the management company will put together quotes and present them to their charter clients. If the client wants to book the trip, the itinerary will be presented to you and you can then accept or reject the trip. You will be reimbursed for the trip, typically based on a percentage of collected revenue, allowing the management company to deduct a fair commission for their services.
There may be favorable tax consequences to placing charter on your aircraft as well. Each state has its own set of rules and regulations, so this topic is far too complicated to cover here. Check with your local tax and legal advisor for any state laws that favor placing your aircraft into a charter operation. What are the negatives? Placing charter on the aircraft does mean that strangers will be flying on your airplane.
They will spill drinks, their kids may create artwork on your leather seats with their crayon kits, and the plane will generally experience more wear and tear than if it sits idle when you are not flying. This must be considered when deciding whether to allow charter on your aircraft. In general, most owners tell us that the cost offset more than justifies the wear and tear, but this is a personal decision owners must make for themselves.
So, Are You Ready to Own an Aircraft?
As I said at the outset, aircraft ownership can be a very rewarding experience. It is not for everyone, and there are private travel alternatives: jet charter, jet card, and fractional ownership that might be a better fit.
However, if ownership does make sense for you whatever your reasons an aircraft management company can serve as your trusted adviser, help you acquire the right new or used aircraft at a fair price, oversee management and maintenance, and perhaps help you offset your costs with charter revenue. There are hurdles, to be sure, but for many companies and individuals it’s absolutely worth it and a decision they never regret.
Aircraft Custom Kitting Services
Aircraft custom kitting services is all about providing a range of options to meet a range of requirements, using worldwide sourcing experience to provide a single source of supply. Certified quality management under an as9120 quality control system when providing aircraft spares preload kits means that a customer is billed from one single source but can choose a variety of solutions to an unpredictable eventuality.
Assembling Base and Line Station Kits and preload consumable kits to satisfy the end user is a skill, clearly more than just second guessing, but it does control the price and provide a level of accuracy essential for customer satisfaction with automated cost efficiency. It removes the expense of inventory management, logistics and documentation.
– Quick Engine Change QEC kits are a collection of components and accessories installed into a bare engine to reduce the time required for installation of the entire powerplant onto an aircraft.
– QEC kits are one of three things, basic neutral or full.
– Basic QEC kits include all major parts and accessories required for an engine test.
– Neutral QEC kits are in-between and comprise the basic kit plus sufficient parts and accessories to allow installation on an airframe. They are not airframe specific.
– Full QEC kits are the neutral kit plus airframe specific items.
On wing component replacement
Engine maintenance has evolved. On-wing component replacement or in situ repair constitutes a huge saving.
Monitoring data has made it possible to anticipate a fix that can be done on wing before a problem causes engine removal. Damage can be environmental or unexpected and techniques referred to as diagnostics and prognostics are in development to further support identification of timely on-wing intervention.
New techniques are coming along all the time which make the work to certified standards more practicable on wing. The use of advanced composites for engine components, for example, requires a different set of repair techniques to those used on traditional materials in the workshop environment.