In-House DOMs vs. Third Party Total Care Providers

by Dale Smith

MRO251It’s no news to anyone reading this that the last 10 or so years have not been kind to business aviation. The reasons? Well, that depends on whom you ask. But, the bottom line is that even steadfast B&GA aircraft owner/operators have had to look for ways to cut costs and “streamline” their operations.

And while I don’t have any facts to prove it, from talking to so many people in the industry I’d say one of the hardest hit groups have been the in-house directors of maintenance. (Funny or sad, it seems that when aircraft owners try to save money one of the first things they cut are the folks that are responsible for the safe operation of a valuable asset.)

Of course, even the most dollar-conscious owner/operators can’t leave their aircraft with no maintenance support. Their decision to cut DOM overhead is often directly related to the availability of a variety of “contracted” maintenance providers. “Why pay someone on staff to do something I can get a contractor to do for less…?”

And, the fact is, whether it’s from the aircraft OEM or a third-party provider, you can get high-quality maintenance support for “less” than it costs to have a full-time DOM on your payroll. Or, at least, that’s what you think you’re going to get.
I’m not saying that these maintenance alternatives don’t have their upside. For many operators they can be the ideal solution. You just have to do your homework and be clear as to what these provider contracts do and don’t provide.

“It really all depends on the flight department itself,” explained George Kleros, senior VP, Strategic Event Management and Fleet Support, Jet Support Services, Inc., (JSSI). “If you’re talking about an owner/operator/entrepreneur—a really hands-on kind of person who basically carries the whole flight department around in their briefcase, then there are fantastic options for these types of owners.”

“If they take their aircraft to a factory service center or a large MRO then someone in their QC department is going to go through the aircraft’s records to see what’s missing or not up to date,” he said. “They will construct a list of items like Service Bulletins, ADs, updates that need to be covered. But that level of detail only happens when the airplane is in a larger shop.”
“What happens between those times? What happens if there is an emergency AD note that is a Do Not Fly or Before Further Flight You Must…?” Kleros said. “The typical owner/operator may not see that, which could lead to a violation or something worse.”
“The basic issue is you just don’t have the level of aircraft care or aircraft history knowledge with these types of contracted programs,” stated independent aviation safety consultant, John Goglia. “You are often just an account number. They don’t have the time or manpower to get to know what is happening with that aircraft every day.”

“When the airplane actually goes in for work, tough questions come up and their representatives don’t have all the maintenance information available,” he said. “So the decisions they make are not always the decisions the operator would have made.”
Too true. When was the last time you took your car to the dealer for service and left all the decisions up to them? Probably never. But to be fair, I really can’t see any reputable aircraft maintainer making repair decisions without first consulting with the owner. Now, whether or not the owner would know what in the world the MRO representative is talking about is a whole different set of challenges.

Airplane Spoken Here
The fact is communication is one of the biggest hurdles these contracted types of maintenance providers have with so many smaller, individual owner/operators. (Honestly, it’s a problem every maintainer has with an aircraft owner, but that’s another story.)

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