As another two aircraft disappear to enjoy a productive life in very different parts of the world, I am taking the opportunity to look at what went well and what could have gone better. The deliveries have got better and better over the time I have been supporting the airline, aircraft going on time or early! Not all my doing!
So what worked, there is, as in everything, no substitute for preparation, the more that can be done in advance of the Lessor arriving on-site, the easier that delivery process will be. Presentation of data in a clear, un-ambiguous manner, is key, if the data is confused, muddled and scruffy it just invites a closer look – that closer look usually means more questions than answers!
Know your Lease, and the End of Lease conditions! You can be certain that the Lessor does. You don’t have to say yes immediately, you can and should take time to respond, sometimes it is right to say no!
Set the ground rules at the beginning, let the Lessor know you have the process under control. Present your preferred query handling process and reporting format; your format presents the question in a format your team are confident with and it speeds the resolution process. At the same time as you set the ground rules with the Lessor, let him know, how you will deal with next customer queries; I am not a fan of the Lessor stating my customer’s questions are my questions! That is an abdication of their responsibility to accept the aircraft back before they deliver it to the next customer.
The concept of Maintenance Reserves (MR), as applied to engines, undercarriages and long-term scheduled maintenance items, is well understood; structural integrity inspections and corrosion control programme items. The airline and the Lessor agree a monetary value per flight hour, per flight cycle or per day and it is paid. The engines and undercarriage, may be removed for a shop visit to off-set costs, but it is a tried and tested model.
So what hasn’t gone as well, as usual it comes down to soft furnishings, seats, carpets and curtains. We are aircraft engineers, not interior designers, I am concerned with aircraft records, certification and traceability. What should be simple and straight forward process always seems to take far more energy and time! Tracking down burn certificates for cushions and covers fitted previously, have they been tested together to confirm there is no adverse reaction. Is the cushion or cover in or out of the flight deck? I know it should be simple, everybody should know the regulations, but it is not!
The last few days of the delivery process becomes a subjective discussion on subjects that most Part 66 B1 engineers, and me are not experts on; it is often after that seats/covers carpets etc have come back from an approved overhaul facility. Is that fair wear and tear? Is that modification acceptable? Is that burn cert correct? The questions go on and on!
I have come to the conclusion that the way ahead, is for the airline and the Lessor to agree an MR for the interior, it comes out of the delivery process, it is the Lessor’s responsibility to install an interior for the new customer. There is nothing more frustrating or wasteful than knowing an interior will be ripped out by the new operator before the next revenue flight, why not develop a model whereby the interior refurbishment is done once to match the livery and colour scheme of the new operator. There I go getting all interior design, me talking about matching colours!
I haven’t done the sums, but for a low cost carrier, with an operating day of 10 hours, 8 sectors and a load factor of 80% it is going to be pennies per pax place per sector. There are wider implications in that it removes a potential flash point, it is a green solution, it is particularly wasteful removing and junking a perfectly serviceable interior because it does not match the new operator.
As ever, I aim to stimulate debate and be shot at!