If you’ve got it; flaunt it


by Andrew Drwiega

Aside from delighting motorists who have had a respite from escalating fuel costs over previous years, the current low in the price of oil has surprisingly resulted in many airlines getting back into profit.

“Airlines are making money through the low price of fuel. Airline employees getting pay rises for the first time in years and we are starting to attract people back into aviation,” said Jonathan Berger, vice president, ICF International who was addressing attendees of the opening conference at MRO Europe (18-20 October), in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Berger said that there was a commercial aircraft OEM production backlog of around 14,000 aircraft who are now focusing on rolling out new aircraft rather than fighting hard to sign up new customers.

However, cash rich(er) airlines also meant consequences for the MRO community. Airlines have quickly understood that the lower fuel costs have led to a reversal in aircraft retirement trends. “In the 1990s we were averaging around 200 aircraft retired, which escalated into the 2000s to around 400 aircraft retirees per year,” said Berger. “Now we are witnessing a 30 percent drop in retiring aircraft.”

Where the growing trend was to produce aircraft that could demonstrate improved fuel economy – and that is still important for airlines procurement policies in the medium to long term – Berger said that currently there has been a trend to keep older less fuel efficient aircraft in place as the low oil price allows them to keep returning a profit. The upside of that is an increased MRO spend on older airframes and engines.

But there is also a negative effect on the surplus market with a reduction of ‘feed stock’ parts for older aircraft. This is a benefit to distributors who can improve the sales margins on used part values and sales. Correspondingly OEMs also benefit from a up-kick increase in new part sales. So airlines are paying a premium out of their increase in revenues to keep those older aircraft in the sky.

Berger said that a good number of airlines are showing a return on invested capital (ROIC) which he said is clearly correlated with the drop in fuel costs stating a 20 percent drop in operating costs from the highs of 2008 to 2016.

An insider’s look at business jet cabin upgrades

by Dale Smith

When Sir Issac Newton penned his third law of motion in his Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy) – For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction – he obviously didn’t have business aviation in mind (how could he, airplanes had not yet been invented).

Today however this law is all too relevant. Take business jet sales for example. When sales of new aircraft go down (action), the sales of pre-owned aircraft go up (reaction). Isn’t physics amazing?
The recent uptick in pre-owned business jet acquisitions has also been accompanied by an increase in cabin refurbishing opportunities. In fact, Marketsandmarkets.com recently stated that the total aircraft refurbishing and repurposing market was projected to grow from “$16.87 billion in 2016 to over $29.16 billion in 2021”; that’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 11.5 percent.

While not all of that will be in upgrading the cabins of B&GA aircraft, it does indicate that business is getting better.

“It seems like there is a marked increase now compared to the last 18-months or so,” stated Gordon Ross, director of Interior Services, Pentastar Aviation. “A lot of people are getting into ownership through the purchase of pre-owned aircraft and want to personalize the aircraft to meet their specific taste and needs.”

Of course, the opposite reaction to the increasing business opportunities is the apparently decreasing profit margins.

“There is a lot of capacity in this industry so there is a lot of pricing pressure; some customers are purely focused on the lowest price now,” Don Milum, Director of Technical Sales, StandardAero said. “To keep prices low, many customers are focusing on what they consider the problem areas that they want improved.”

“Where we used to see customers saying, ‘Just pull it all out and redo the whole thing,’ today we are getting asked to quote just specific items or upgrades,” he said. “Of course, that changes a bit when the aircraft is a new acquisition.”

Yes, it seems that gone are the days of, “If you have to ask how much, you can’t afford it.” In today’s cabin refurbishment market it’s more like, “Just because I can afford it, don’t for a minute think I’m going to pay it.”

Tim Briscoe, interiors manager for Stevens Aviation shared a recent cabin refurbish project on a customer’s Bombardier Learjet 60.

“It’s operated by a transport business in New York and the woman who owns the company was shopping around for the lowest price she could find,” he said. “She wanted a good deal and she sure got one. The best part is when she saw it, she was ecstatic about the way the finished cabin turned out.”

Composites Care in Business Aviation

by Charlotte Adams

7h9a8816-251Composites are popular in business aviation aircraft. Equally important for aftermarket care is the fact that these materials are frequently found, not just in essentially cosmetic parts, but also in critical components such as flight control surfaces, tail assemblies, and even fuselages.

Composite materials are attractive to manufacturers and operators because of their light weight, corrosion resistance, and durability, compared with aluminium. Carbon composites boast high strength-to-weight and stiffness-to-weight ratios. And composites can be moulded into complex aerodynamic shapes. Their lighter weight, resilience, and durability mean fuel savings for operators and may translate to longer maintenance intervals and lower long-term ownership costs. Even large airframe parts such as the fuselage of the recently introduced HondaJet is composite.

Although older materials like Kevlar are susceptible to moisture ingress, modern composites are more resistant to moisture, corrosion effects, and cracking. “Pound for pound they outlast metallic structures,” said Raj Narayanan, accountable manager for Aerospace Quality Research and Development (AQRD), a company which combines both FAA designated engineering representative (DER) authority and repair station capability. If you know how to inspect and treat composite structures, they should provide lower life cycle maintenance costs, he explained.

Nevertheless these materials are susceptible to damage, including impact damage, ply delamination, punctures, erosion from wind and sand, water damage, and contamination from engine oil or hydraulic fluid. Problems can include damage to the skin or to the core or to both the skin and the core of a sandwich structure.

The tradeoff with composites comes on the aftermarket side. Composites can be two to three times as difficult to repair as their aluminium counterparts, said Narayanan. Composite repairs are very process-specific, he explained, and the process can differ from part to part, airplane to airplane. This multiplicity of unique processes is an additional challenge in designing repairs for these materials.

Furthermore, airplane original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are not supporting legacy aircraft as much as they used to do, According to Narayanan “their business model puts a premium on replacement rather than repair. Under its DER authority AQRD ‘develops repairs where none exist’.” (See sidebar on Reverse-Engineered Solutions.)

Big Engines: Big Data

by Andrew Drwiega

Airbus 320NEO visit
Airbus 320NEO visit

The volume of ‘big data’ that is increasingly flowing from the engines of commercial operators should result in less maintenance and increased profits. We talked to Pratt & Whitney’s Asia aftermarket director Kevin Kirkpatrick

When the public think about commercial aviation development, they envisage cleaner lines, better features to enhance their travelling experience and generally accept the messages that engine development may help them get to their destination more efficiently and perhaps at less cost (although today this is linked to the lower price of oil).

What is not so well understood is that engine development is moving to a completely new and higher level of complexity than ever before. Boosted by the awe inspiring ambition to develop ‘big data’ analysis, engine manufacturers are changing their position regarding how they can support their customers in this new data rich world.

“Aircraft now have a tremendous amount of data,” said Jonathan Berger, vice president, ICF International, addressing delegates on the first day of the MRO Europe conference and exhibition (18-20 October), at the RAI centre in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. “Transmittable data from a Boeing 777 has been around one megabyte; transmittable data from a Boeing 787 is around 28 megabytes.”

But what is really meant by this increasingly ubiquitous term, ‘big data’? Generally it is characterised by portions of data so large that tradition data processing techniques cannot keep up and analyse the volume that is being received. It refers to the whole processing chain from capture, to search, storing, transferring and analysing what you have on a continuous basis.

Where this becomes very relevant to the engine manufacturers and MRO providers looking after commercial aviation engine customers, is how the data can be used in predictive analysis
to improve the lifetime maintenance program for each engine type, from customer to customer.

That is not to say that the data for one engine may be applicable to all customers in the same way. Aircraft that are operated by different airlines that continually take-off and land
in geographically dissimilar locations, from the dry conditions of the Middle East to those flying in more temperate climates, and likely to see a change in data during peak performance.

OEM perspective
“When we look at big data we see that the parameters we are going to pull off this engine will be significant. That will help us understand trends about how that engine is performing and it can allow us to be more predictive and plan better for maintenance,” said Kevin Kirkpatrick executive director, aftermarket operations, for Pratt & Whitney (P&W) in Singapore.

Further Update from the Nondestructive Testing Forum: Emerging Topics

Airlines 4 America, or A4A, held the 59th annual Nondestructive Testing (NDT) Forum from September 26-29th in sunny San Diego, California this year. In a previous edition of Aviation Maintenance Magazine I wrote about the purpose of this forum. In this issue I will discuss the emerging topics and trends we learned about from the industry at this meeting.

To save you the trouble of digging out that old issue of Aviation Magazine I will describe what this event is all about again. The A4A Nondestructive Testing (NDT) Forum enables NDT professionals and industry leaders to meet each year and discuss current trends, issues and successes in NDT methodologies. The Forum draws participants from various disciplines, including equipment designers, technicians, vendors, regulatory authorities, OEMs, MROs and airline personnel. The Forum exhibit hall features displays, including the latest NDT and related equipment, processes and services.

This year over 125 of the top professionals from the industry participated in the forum. The key note speaker was Mr. Patrick Shcirmer who is the vice president of customer support for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services. On Monday, September 26th, the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) American Materials Society (AMS) Committee K (Nondestructive Methods and Processes) met in order to discuss revisions to standards that were needed in order to keep pace with evolutions in the industry. Also meeting on that day was the NDT network which is a community of NDT specialists who work together towards achieving the highest level of safety in maintenance, inspection, and repair.

Legal Spin: 8130-3 Tags on Your Parts

By Jason Dickstein

There has been significant hub-bub in the United States over recent changes to the FAA-EASA agreements. The gist of the changes is that US-based dual-certified repair stations must receive a Form One (from the EU or Canada) or an 8130-3 (from the US) for each part/component in order to be able to use that article in maintenance or alteration activities (there is an exception for parts recognized as standard parts under the bilateral agreement).

The problem is that there are many parts that simply do not get those documents. These are often the least safety-sensitive parts in the system, so they are the parts that shouldn’t be the subject of overly-much bureaucracy (in an ideal society). But under new documentation standards, these parts are exactly the ones that could hold-up an overhaul or other major MRO activity.

In the US, it is the responsibility of the installing repair station to assess the parts and find that they are airworthy at the time of installation. This can be accomplished in reliance on paperwork or in reliance on the results of other investigation designed to assess the airworthiness of the part. In the EU, a ‘safety valve’ in the regulations allows parts without necessary documentation to be described as unserviceable, accepted and segregated, and then inspected to confirm their serviceability.

Recent revisions to the FAA-EASA Maintenance Annex Guidance (MAG) created a new emphasis on 8130-3 tags.  The plain language of the MAG closes the safety valve of the EU regulations. Many FAA inspectors have required repair stations in the US to adopt receiving requirements that only permit receipt of aircraft parts with 8130-3, EASA Form One or TCCA Form One.  And repair stations are starting to recognize that they accept more minor parts than they realized without 8130-3 tags. Parts with traditional manufacturer’s certificates of conformity (for example) are excluded from the MAG guidance!

There are several activities that mitigate the effects of the agreement.

One of these steps is to issue a Notice that reopens the safety valve on a temporary basis (until August 26, 2017). This means that today, repair stations are permitted to accept parts without Form One or 8130-3, inspect them, and then use them if the part is in satisfactory condition. The temporary nature of this Notice causes some concern, but it provides more time to develop more permanent solutions.

What does the inspection consist of? There is an answer available! The Aeronautical Repair Stations Association (ARSA) has designed a comprehensive inspection procedure for assessing the airworthiness of new parts. They call it ‘E100’ and the procedure has been approved by both EASA and the FAA. The E100 procedure is available to members
of ARSA.

DAR-56 Currently
The FAA has also worked with the Aviation Suppliers Association to create the DAR-56 program. This is a limited program that allows employees of AC 00-56B accredited distributors to obtain DAR privileges to tag certain items in existing inventory. The temporary ability to obtain 8130-3 tags through the DAR-56 program permits some existing inventories of good parts to be tagged in order to meet the new standards created by the Maintenance Annex Guidance.

The program creates a new function code 56 (because of the association with AC 00-56).  This is a limited function code for employees of accredited distributors that permits issue of 8130-3 tags for parts with certain types of clear evidence of production under FAA production approval.

An applicant for the DAR-56 program must meet minimum qualifications, including age, employment (must be employed at an FAA-accredited distributor), independence of action, experience and training.

Opportunity Knocks

by Andrew Drwiega, Editor-in-Chief

The international MRO market has strong and sustainable growth ahead of it. Boeing has revealed that the Chinese market will need 6,810 new aircraft over the next 20 years, over 5,000 of which will be single-aisle aircraft. All those aircraft need maintenance and engineering expertise, not all of which can be provided to the level required internally.

The need for good engineers now has an added dimension. The Embry-Riddle story in this issue tells of engineers now embarking on degree qualifications, some of which are combined with (could it be true?) management courses. As the military has discovered over the last couple of decades, aircraft are a system of systems and the days of a few good men skilled in the use of their toolkit is growing smaller in the rear view mirror.

Look at most commercial aircraft: they boast digital avionics, heath and usage system (HUMS), passenger entertainment, satellite communications – they are akin to flying digital and electronics hubs.

The data collected by each aircraft runs into gigabytes for every flight. Multiply this by the amount of data collected by each airline across its fleet and add in the additional date scooped up by the MRO servicing that airline. The next step would be to share all that data among airlines and MROs (yeah – that’s going to happen) which would provide a substantial picture that could be beneficial to everyone. Even small advances in cooperation could provide significant advances for many.

Airlines might be able to benefit from best practice techniques when analysing flight and maintenance procedures and patterns, and perhaps refine optimum maintenance times that would be best suited for their own company’s strategic service offering.

Predictive maintenance has become very important for every airline looking to secure profits and ensure their aircraft keep flying. The economics or running airlines is hazardous enough, and keeping to schedules has been made difficult by having to deal with everything from terrorism and the necessary security checks, through to what seems to be an increase in adverse weather around the globe.

A College Education: Not Just For Pilots

by Doug Nelms

There will always be a need for a good, experienced A&P mechanic on the shop floor flanked by a large tool box on wheels and – in today’s world – a cart with a laptop computer taking the place of stacks of aircraft maintenance manuals.

But now MROs, aviation operators and major OEMs are looking as much at a mechanic’s educational credentials as at his or her experience levels. With the new incursion of more complex, digital technology into aircraft maintenance, “mechanics are now managing systems as much as maintaining those systems,” said Kenneth Witcher, Dean at the College of Aeronautics, Embry-Riddle Worldwide. “That has increased the desire in the industry to want some type of formal education.”

Witcher underlined the fact that over the past 30 years the aircraft industry has changed from analogue to digital. “If you think about today’s high bypass engine, such as a Trent 9000, that engine is part of the system that is interactive with all the components within the aircraft. All the skill sets we had years ago that involved turning wrenches and reading dials has been taken over by electronics, by technology that is managing the systems and integrating those systems into a larger system.

“So now your average maintainer doesn’t just have to know how to go out and take off a fuel control and put a new control on. The likelihood is that the maintainer now has to go out and understand how this system within the engine fits into the larger aircraft system. You don’t just need somebody who can identify what tools are in his toolbox. You need someone who can see the entire system and understand how the systems integrates into, and manages, those systems.”

Also impacting this growing need for a college degree is the number of multi-million dollar – or multi-billion dollar – aerospace programs. Military contractors such as Lockheed-Martin and Northrop-Grumman are demanding mechanics with college degrees simply because of the price for their products.

“The government necessitates (these companies) to require so much higher education before they can recruit anyone,” said Embry-Riddle’s Mark Kanitz, Assistant Professor College of Aeronautics Program Chair for the Master of Aviation Maintenance (MAM) degree program. “They can’t have people walking around with just a high school diploma when they are demanding top dollar.”
This is becoming more apparent as aerospace corporations start to see maintainers more in the light of problem solvers rather than just basic mechanics.

R. Eric Jones, Department Chair, Aviation and Transportation Studies at Lewis University in Illinois, said they have found “that a lot of the new aerospace companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origins or Virgin Galactic are not really pursuing engineers to the same degree as they are pursuing pragmatic, critical thinking practitioners.”

He noted that traditionally engineers and aviation maintenance technicians (AMTs) act independently of each other. An AMT would take a digital photo of some ramp damage to the aircraft’s structure, then send it to the engineer for evaluation.  They would then conference call and collectively evaluate the extent of the safest and most effective repair.  Then the AMT would perform the repair.

“So we’re now seeing more companies saying they want the best of both worlds, and are willing to pay for it.”

MRO Safety: Look Out Below

By Dale Smith

avmtools251As “safe” as today’s workplaces seem, simple slip and fall accidents still account for way too many injuries and deaths every year. In fact, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics an average of 3.3 out of every 100,000 workers will die from a slip and fall accident. And that’s not counting how may sprains, bruises and broken bones the other 99,996 workers suffer or the total cost of medical payments, OSHA fines and lost revenue due to these injuries.

“Overall, 41 percent of the accidents are slips and 11 percent are attributed to lost balance,” explained Adam Ballester, national sales manager for Rigid Lifelines. “It’s also interesting to note that the average height for a fatal fall injury is between six and ten feet.”

“I think the reason for this is typically when workers get up higher they are a lot more cautious and take more steps to prevent a fall. They want to be attached to something,” he said. “At six to ten feet or so they don’t want to be bothered with fall prevention equipment. That’s where they get into trouble.”

But you say, six feet isn’t that far to fall. Well, not distance wise anyway. But when you consider something called vertical acceleration, which is part of Newtonian physics: a little something Sir Isaac cobbled together after being bonked by an apple. Anyway even a fall from six feet can lead to a very quick and painful stop.

How? It’s all in the physics. As Sir Isaac explained it during a free fall, gravity accelerates you at 9.8 meters (32.15 feet) per second, per second. So, after two-seconds, you’re falling at 19.6 m/s (64.30 fps) and so on.

More simply put, let’s say you weigh 200 pounds and fall off a fuselage that’s 10 feet in the air. Well, in round numbers you’ll be traveling over 17 miles-per-hour when you hit the concrete. Ouch!
“At that height, you not only need fall equipment, you have to have the right fall prevention equipment,” Ballester said. “Many systems are not designed to react fast enough to stop you during a fall from those lower heights.”

While the OSHA regulations clearly require that workers must wear fall protection any time their feet are elevated above four-feet off the ground, they don’t specify exactly what kind of fall prevention equipment you have to use.

Assessing Fall Protection
The OSHA regulations require some kind of fall protection or restraint any time a worker’s feet are four-feet above the working surface. But they don’t specify what kind of protection you need. For that you need to do a fall risk assessment.

“The best way to start a risk assessment is to look at your facility and the typical types of jobs that are done at various elevations,” Kevin Duhamel, product sales manager for Gorbel explained. “Do your technicians need to be mobile to do the job or do the work in a specific area before moving around? Do they work indoors or out? Is it wet or slippery? At what heights do they work? Knowing these things is key to identifying what type of system you need.”

Duhamel also stressed that to meet OSHA requirements, your company’s risk assessment has to be preformed by a ‘competent person.’

“A competent person is someone who is trained and is capable of identifying hazardous or dangerous conditions requiring personal fall arrest systems,” he said. “They are also qualified in both the application and use of related safety equipment.”

If you don’t already have a such a person on staff, Duhamel said that OSHA approved training is available through a variety of online sources. Or you could hire someone to do it for you.
“The variety and quality of the training can be broad, so be sure to look for references or opportunities for hands-on training,” he said. “Once someone has completed an approved course, they can examine your facility for potential fall hazards and create a plan.”

AVM Tools Evolve With Every Twist and Turn

by Mark Robins

avmtools2AVM professionals are faced with a huge range of different tools to service, repair, over haul and maintain many a wide assortment of aircraft to ensure their structural soundness. The size and type of an AVM tool will differ from one aircraft to another because of differences in aircraft size. Engine and hydraulic AVM mechanics will have very large wrenches, while electricians and avionics technicians will have precision screwdrivers.

Regardless of their size or use, as any aircraft evolves, so must the tools that support it. Advances in AVM tools allow AVM professionals to work on the latest materials and newest application specifications while complying with regulations, and troubleshooting, diagnosing and correcting discrepancies. Some AVM tools like hammers and screwdrivers have remained unchanged with only slight alteration; others have evolved to become state of the art.

New advances in tools not only aid overall aircraft maintenance, but also worker safety and ergonomics. “Like any industry, there is a need to work quicker and more efficiently,” said Dan Riccio brand manager of hand tools & storage, Stanley Black & Decker. “At the same time, a premium is placed on worker safety to avoid unintended injury by not only jobsite dangers, but overuse injuries. To fill this void, many manufacturers are designing tools to be more ergonomic. By designing with ergonomics in mind, it helps any industry, including aviation, to improve worker safety, performance, and profitability.”

“Tools and tool management systems within aviation maintenance are developed to enable the technician to work safer, to improve the quality of the maintenance task, and to do the job with greater ease,” said Andy Lobo, director-produce management and development at Snap-on Industrial. “When these developments are adopted widely, the seconds of time saved on a task by using a new tool or system quickly add up to man-hours, man-days, man-months and even man-years (sic) of savings, collectively advancing the whole of the aviation industry.”

Ergonomic advances
Fundamental designs in AVM tools are being made to make them lighter and easier to use. For example, the basics of installing and removing rivets have not changed much in 50 years. However, newly designed tools make it easier and safer on the operator to produce better quality riveting more consistently.

“Tooling advancements help reduce the risk of injury for technicians who work on aircraft and can also help decrease the risk of damage to aircraft,” stated Paul Dellinger, director of environmental health and safety, Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation. “New and better tooling also helps to maximize work efficiency. Many of our advances in tooling come to us internally. This is, in large part, the result of our safety management system and continuous improvement culture at Gulfstream, which encourages technicians to improve a process or suggest the customization of a tool to make it better. We also look at a tremendous amount of data, which helps us identify an issue and gets us to the point where we can begin to design or select a better tool.”

Another example is socket usage. Sockets are often called upon to break loose very stubborn fasteners in some very access-restricted areas on aircraft. “For the socket to work in such a confined space, its walls have to be thin and strong,” said Lobo. “Thin and strong is a dichotomy unless you pick the right materials and have extremely tight tolerances on your sockets. Snap-on spline sockets are a good example of this, utilizing steel with up to 80 percent greater yield strength than most other tool steels used to make sockets.”