Maintaining Executive Aircraft: Looks Matter!

Mechanics who work exclusively on business jets flown by high-powered executives, their friends, and clients already know this. But for those maintenance technicians who only occasionally work on these private jets, here are some lessons I was recently reminded of when doing some audit work for a bizjet owner. They may help you make a good impression the next time you have one of these aircraft in for maintenance at your facility.

Several weeks ago, I was conducting a maintenance audit for a private jet owner at a Midwest airport. In the course of discussing some maintenance that was being done on the aircraft, one of the pilots mentioned that since the aircraft was in for maintenance, the owner wanted the screws on an access panel replaced. It seems that the last mechanic that worked on the aircraft had damaged the heads on the screws. To my eyes — as a former airline mechanic — the screws were perfectly serviceable although clearly not in pristine condition. But serviceable is not what the owner wanted — he wanted the aircraft to be not just properly maintained but also left in pristine condition. The aircraft owner was not pleased with the appearance of these damaged screws and asked that they be replaced.

What struck me was that the pilot mentioned that the owner had instructed him never to use that FBO again — that’s how much the final appearance meant to him. The maintenance work itself was properly done but the mechanic had not taken care of the finishing touches, as the owner wanted. And now he had to incur the extra time and expense of getting the aircraft back into the condition that he wanted.

 

Maintaining an aircraft’s pristine condition

So this brings me to the following lessons for FBOs and mechanics who do not routinely work on executive aircraft. If the aircraft you get in for maintenance looks to be maintained in pristine condition, assume that the owner wants it returned that way.

1. Plan ahead when working on a private jet to ensure that you have not just the proper tools and equipment to do the job at hand, but also the proper protection equipment to maintain the aircraft appearance.

2. Never enter the cabin of the aircraft with dirty shoes. This means wearing protective booties or taking off your shoes. I have seen expensive rugs entirely torn out of a private jet because a mechanic walked on the rug with greasy shoes.

3. Always use protective equipment when using ladders or working around the aircraft exterior to protect the aircraft finish. Owners of these aircraft do not want to see any blemishes of any kind on the aircraft surface.

4. Be aware that many things can leave marks — not just tools — and take proper precautions to avoid doing that. Many owners want their aircraft to look as it did when they first bought it.

Working for business jet owners can be very rewarding and satisfying work. Taking a few extra precautions in doing that work can ensure a continued business relationship with these owners.


John Goglia has 40+ years experience in the aviation industry. He was the first NTSB member to hold an FAA aircraft mechanic’s certificate. He can be reached at gogliaj@yahoo.com.

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