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Be Proactive to Manage an AOG Situation
Aircraft on ground (AOG) situations are one of the most daunting challenges that flight departments face. But the problems of being stranded away from home due to a mechanical failure can be minimized if detailed response plans are in place before a breakdown occurs.
Planning begins with identifying all the resources at your disposal. For most perators, that means contacting the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), either through a dedicated hotline, a designated field service representative or a factory-authorized service center. Tech reps can help expedite delivery of replacement parts (especially overseas), as well as refer stranded crews to operators in the area that fly the same type of aircraft.
Plan Ahead – Even Just Minutes
Marlin Priest, maintenance director for a flight department in the Southeast, said that immediately contacting an OEM, even while an aircraft is en route, is important. In one case, his maintenance team was able to talk with the pilots and the manufacturer and develop a consensus as to what was the likely cause of the problem. “By the time the airplane landed, we had a plan in place, with a rapid-response team heading to the aircraft.”
An independent maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company can also help. “Prior to each trip, we look at the destination and consider our local contacts,” said Jim Sparks, director of maintenance for an aviation department in the Southwest. “The biggest part of our plan is to be proactive and establish relationships with MRO providers.
“We also consider how remote the location might be,” Sparks continued. If local support might not be readily available, tooling and test equipment are placed onboard the aircraft and a technician can be sent to the airplane if needed. Other operators simply carry one of their own technicians on each international trip.
Jon Haag, manager of maintenance at a midwest flight department, has contracted with an organization to provide technicians in numerous foreign countries, if necessary. For each international trip, he provides the support company an itinerary so it can be ready to help.
Use Your Maintenance Data
Being proactive also means identifying likely AOG causes through a review of fleet data. “We look at mean time between failure rates and get a feel for what might bite us,” said Priest. Sparks does the same, replacing certain components prior to anticipated failure.
“It might be as simple as putting a thrust-reverser lockout pinning kit on the airplane,” explained Priest, who said that the kit includes a logbook entry that details how the repair should be done, instructions on how to conduct the minimum equipment list (MEL ) process, as well as copies of current maintenance data.
Other maintenance managers also underscore the importance of having an MEL. Haag declared, “If you do it the right way, it’s a very powerful tool. It can get you home.”
Once an AOG situation occurs, the initial conversation with the flightcrew is key, said Priest, who said it is important that pilots share everything they think might be relevant to finding a fix. “We tell the crews, “Don’t think you are giving us too much information.’”
Obviously, a good rapport between the pilots and technicians is vital to dealing with an AOG. But Priest added, “You have to have a good relationship with your travelers, too. If an AOG situation occurs, our passengers understand we are always going to work as quickly as we can [to fix the airplane]. At the same time, we are not going to compromise safety or our operational standards. We always try to be their destination managers – to get them where they need to be as safely and efficiently as we can.”
Everyone understands that airplanes can break, said Sparks, “so having a plan to recover is the best investment you can make.”
For More Information
For more information on maintenance-related issues, visit www.nbaa.org/maintenance.