Time is Money

If ever there were a four-letter word spelled with just three it’s AOG. Accursed though it may be, regional airline operators, MROs, and manufacturers have to deal with it.

Reaction time, of course, depends on just what put the aircraft on ground in the first place.

 

Parts and expertise

“If you’re talking just parts, we can dispatch it via truck,” says Chris Kilgour, CEO of Bangor-based C&L Aerospace, a provider of heavy maintenance for propjets and new-generation RJs. “We’ve used aircraft before … We use one of these freight forwarders that gets stuff there quickly.”

If the AOG necessitates particular expertise, “We can dispatch a mechanic with parts, with the tools, within a couple of hours. Now we have to have a bit of time to prepare, to understand the task.”

Bangor is about a three and one-half- hour drive from Boston Logan, and from Logan you can get to most of the rest of the planet fairly fast — even out-of-the-way places. Case-in-point was when a Saab 340 “got stuck in Oman,” Kilgour says. “They called us up. We went through some trouble-shooting with them and they couldn’t work it out. We had a mechanic with a couple of parts and some tools on a flight within three hours. He was over in Oman the next day. Got it flying within a couple of hours and continued with the plane to Thailand.”

Kilgour contends more operators are calling upon third-party MROs to provide AOG services, rather than dispatching teams themselves. The trend is in keeping with the sort of one-stop, turnkey ethic that’s driving the MRO business as a whole. “I think [operators] look to us for support,” says Kilgour. “People want to do more with less, and that very much goes for the airlines when they’re on slim margins.”

 

Customer care

Embraer understands that time is money for its customers. That’s why it opened a new customer care center (CCC) back in 2011. Among other things, it can handle AOGs.

“On average, we are seeing technical disposition times of one-and-a-half hours,” says Johann Bordais, Embraer’s vice president for services and support, commercial aviation. He says for 90 percent of the inquiries the airframer receives the CCC can provide a technical disposition within 90 minutes, telling an operator how to accomplish the fix. “We’re talking about repair procedures, structural repairs, which can be complex. Imagine one aircraft needs [repairs on] the winglets for instance,” Bordais says, “We’re telling the maintenance providers what they should be doing. But, of course, we do also have the option, if an airline asks, to get a team out there to do the maintenance ourselves.”

 

Organizational structure

Structural repair is often the aim of an AOG intervention, but to accomplish that you’ve got to have the appropriate kind of organizational structure.

To better minister to its far-flung fleet of 72 Cessna 402Cs Cape Air & Nantucket Airlines has “two separate departments within our maintenance organization.” says Jeffrey Schafer, the operator’s director of MRO and fleet programs. One is the Airline Maintenance Group; the other is the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Group, based in Hyannis, MA. “Managed separately, they allow us additional flexibility in supporting the fleet,” adds vice president marketing & public relations Trish Lorino.

In practical terms, here’s what that means. When this AMT writer talked to Schafer he was working on an incident in St. Thomas in which a 402C was struck by another aircraft while parked on the ramp. Cape Air dispatched a team from the Maintenance Repair and Overhaul Group specializing in “AOG situations [relating] to airframe structure, either damage or defects,” says Schafer. That freed up the already on-site airline maintenance group technicians to continue doing their job: maintaining and inspecting other airplanes. This clear division of labor pays off. “We pulled from the bench … to relocate some of our specialty resources into that region to effectively return an aircraft that’s AOG into service, without taking away from the rest of the operation,” says Jeffrey Schafer.

That’s precisely the kind of approach that renders the acronym ‘AOG’ a little less awful.

 

Jerome Greer Chandler is a two-time winner in the Aerospace Journalist of the Year competition’s Best Maintenance Submission category; he won in 2000 and 2008. His best-seller ‘Fire and Rain’ chronicles the wind shear crash of Delta Flight 191 at DFW. Chandler’s passion for aviation safety is more than professional. It’s personal. Two of his relatives have perished on commercial airliners, one of them in the infamous Braniff Electra crash of 1959.

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