Business aviation in Europe has an enviable safety record, and a rigorous regulatory structure to help keep it that way. One of the significant requirements of this is that AOC operators have nominated post holders in key jobs, and one of these is the maintenance manager.
This vital role might be carried out by a licenced engineer, but not necessarily. With responsibility for continuing airworthiness, engineering quality control, contracts with suppliers and compliance, the modern maintenance manager must, above all else, be a highly competent administrator.
For this feature we asked those responsible for the maintenance of their company's aircraft all over Europe to tell us about their work. We were slightly surprised to find that almost all those we spoke to had good relations with their local regulators, and very few problems with EASA's requirements aside from the sheer quantity of paperwork.
It is quite possible for the aircraft owner's maintenance manager to be the only staff member dealing with technical issues. The hands-on maintenance will almost always be carried out by contracted companies with appropriate approvals. However, those who do employ an engineering staff of their own report that there are plenty of worthy candidates available, with engineer shortages a thing of the past.
Meet the maintenance managers
Candas Erkan Özdogu is director of maintenance and accountable manager responsible for continuing airworthiness at Sky Line Transportation and Trade Co, part of the Kocoglu Group in Turkey.
Özdogu began his career with a degree in aeronautical engineering and an MBA in aviation. "This was followed by four years with MD helicopters as a technical rep and then I joined an airline for a year in quality. For the last three years I have been working here as director of maintenance for a fleet of 25 helicopters and one jet."
Sky Line employs its own technicians for maintenance and is one of very few respondents that reported being affected by a shortage of suitably qualified engineers. On occasion the company also uses third-party maintenance providers for different aircraft types.
It offers on-site support services to Kocoglu Aviation's fleet and to other AW109 Power and Grand operators in Turkey. Its main maintenance centre is located at Ankara Airport with line maintenance facilities in other cities. A second base maintenance hangar of 1,850 sq m is under construction at Ataturk Airport.
Özdogu is gradually upgrading his procedures: "We track our own maintenance schedules using Excel sheets and recently we've adopted Leitner LTB/400 software as well."
"Regarding LTB/400 I must say that I was very optimistic in the beginning and really believed that this software was going to create a miracle, but for various reasons the implementation process took way too long and even after 18-24 months we are not 100% using all the modules of the program.
"I am asking my colleagues to work harder on the project and complete the implementation and I hope by the end of the year we will benefit 100% from the program. The best benefit I see is the integration of all necessary modules (maintenance tracking, work orders, spare parts, labour, invoice and ordering etc.)"
Özdogu rarely gets time to work with the aircraft himself, and travel is not a feature of his days, but does he enjoy his job? "Yes, indeed, I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys plenty of stress."
Accountable manager deputy and maintenance post holder at Winair Aviation Marijo Bucina says that his company uses factory certified approved maintenance facilities.
"We have our own CAMO and tracking system, CAMP-CESCOM, but we have a big problem with spare parts and AOG support," states Bucina, adding that EASA regulations also cause complications with the amount of paperwork. But his work is assisted by the department's relationship with local authorities: "We have a perfect relationship with and support from the authority."
After aircraft engineering training and then working in the air force, Bucina had his own maintenance facility before finally taking his present position as maintenance manager. He finds time between the paperwork for a hands-on approach. "I am always with my aircraft. l enjoy my job – it is my profession and my hobby."
Sebastian Kulik is quality manager at General Aviation Sp zoo in Poland, operating fixed wing and helicopters carrying out business, patrol and recreational flights and aerial filming.
"We have our own technicians and call on third-party maintenance services for higher level maintenance needs, which vary depending on the aircraft type."
When deciding which maintenance company to use, Kulik lists factors in order of priority: "An appropriate EASA Part 145 certificate, the size of the company and its market position, and its proximity to our home station in Goraszka."
He adds: "We track maintenance schedules ourselves using Excel spreadsheets. Excel is good enough for our needs. We 'squeezed' a lot out of it to get quite a good system. It is described in our CAME and approved in this way by the authority. With operations on our scale, we don't see the necessity to use professional software for our aircraft management." The most unusual maintenance issue Kulik has come across was a dual engine change in Warsaw, 1,000 km away from the nearest organis-ation authorised to change engines on Boeing 757s. "A complex logistical process but it was successful."
He doesn't get involved in the physical maintenance of the aircraft. "I am not a licensed engineer. I am the EASA nominated person, with no need or licence to work on the aircraft."
He adds: "I enjoy my job very much. However, it is very specific, so you either like it or not.
"I started in 2002 at LOT Polish Airlines, where I spent two years," Kulik explains. "That was a state company, highly influenced by socialist attitudes: 'Work slowly, otherwise they will require you to do more.' I moved to a private airline in 2005 where I was responsible for the overall maintenance preparation and supervision of Boeing 737 and 757s.
"That was a fantastic lesson in aviation and the experience allowed me to be maintenance manager from 2008 until now with different operators of aircraft from Diamond DA42 and Eurocopter EC130, to the Learjet 60."
Calima in Spain operates various models of Boeing 737 and offers business charter, scheduled fleet support, emergency response and executive and group travel.
Elena Vazquez Fernandez is logistics manager and also TRTO quality manager and told EBAN about the company's maintenance setup. "Our continuous airworthiness manager is Javier Arrondo Navarro. Arrondo has a strong background in maintenance and quality assurance."
Third-party organisations provide maintenance services, although Calima is in the process of being Part 145 certified to have its own line maintenance capability for the 737.
Vazquez continues: "We audit maintenance companies with a comprehensive checklist and one of our staff will audit the facilities. Main points to look for are quality of facilities, work and procedures, training of staff, and reliability. They must have their certifications updated and with the scope we need."
Some maintenance schedules are subcontracted to Airworthiness Management Company, a CAMO based in Paris, but Arrondo and engineering manager Luis Jimenez revise the schedule to update it to current needs. "We use software developed by AMC called AMS because it is fast, reliable and an intuitive and visual software," says Vazquez. "As well as being comprehensive (as it handles logistics and invoicing modules) it is easy to use and to learn."
In general, spare parts availability is good, although some parts and materials are harder to come by than others. Says Vazquez: "Sometimes manufacturer response times are not as good as brokers, and we think it shouldn't be like that, as the key contact for this should be the manufacturer most of the time.
"Most of the time I enjoy my job, although it is hard to be 24/7, 365 days a year. You must learn to handle pressure – and to sleep less."
Vazquez worked for Binter Canarias Group where she was trained in Part M, Part 145, HHFF and quality and purchases. Later at Islas Airways she focused on CAMO, QA and logistics, and then on to Calima, there obtaining the first AOC type B for the company, adding the role of CO2 emissions manager two years ago.
Denmark-based Air Alsie has a 21-strong all-managed fleet which includes a variety of Falcons and Citations. Klaus Rasmussen, as Air Alsie's technical manager, is nominated post holder for continuing airworthiness.
Air Alsie employs 10 certified technicians and uses third-party maintenance companies for its various aircraft types. Services being outsourced include C-checks and beyond on Falcons, structural and NDT tasks. Rasmussen says that factors in choosing the providers for these services include cost and downtime.
CAMP software is the company's choice for tracking of maintenance schedules in-house.
Rasmussen gained 10 years in a technical background in the base and line environment, followed by time as a troubleshooter, then a project manager and five years as key account manager within the business. The biggest issue he can recall encountering was when the entire fleet was grounded by the type certificate holder.
On another occasion, when an aircraft needed AOG maintenance outside the EASA area, the company sent its technician and parts on its own aircraft.
Rasmussen explains: "The maintenance service is mainly carried out on aircraft under our AOC and grew up as a service for the aircraft owners that we operate for."
Aero Jets Darta, with bases at Atlantique airport and Le Bourget, turns forty this year.
"As technical manager I am in charge of the continuing airworthiness and certification," says Philippe Julienne. "Maintenance schedules are tracked using CAMP software."
Aero Jets Darta considered different maintenance companies across Europe, with an emphasis on the important factors of quality, price, efficiency and reactivity. "We use Uni Air Enterprise or Dassault Falcon Service," Julienne reports.
"We do encounter some difficulties with Hawker Beechcraft spare parts due to the reorganisation of their logistics system."
Julienne feels that EASA changes are not causing problems, but do increase the amount of work. "We are in contact with our local inspectors every week. Many changes need to be integrated by both parties. We are trying to work together."
Julienne was lieutenant colonel in the French air force at the start of his career. After more than 6,000 flying hours as military captain and over 300 in combat, he decided to take up a role in maintenance for an air transportation company. "My military qualifications gave me the equivalent rank of engineer. Being a pilot gave me some important lessons I use for my civilian colleagues and their needs.
"Of course, I love my job, but a recommendation to a friend? it is clearly NO, because I would like to keep it for me!"
With four active helicopters and two back-up helicopters ANWB Medical Air Assistance can cover the whole of the Netherlands. It transports mobile medical teams on behalf of four trauma centres.
Roland van der Loo was with the Royal Netherlands Air Force before taking his post as technical operational manager at ANWB MAA. "Do I enjoy my job? Yes! And would I recommend it to a friend? Of course."
The medevac operation based at The Hague in the Netherlands uses a contracted Part 145 company for its maintenance and bases the decision of where to place the work on a long-term relationship and contract, with frequent reviews. "We monitor scheduled maintenance by our supplier using the RAMCO system," explains van der Loo. ASL Airtaxi was founded in 1998 and has its head office in Hasselt, Belgium. It has bases at Beek, Deurne, Wevelgem and Luik. Since June 2005, the nominated post holder for continuing airworthiness at ASL has been Bernard Biquet. He says: "We have two line technicians (B1) working under the approval of a German Part 145, performing pre-flights and minor defect rectification."
Biquet explains that the fleet is composed of 18 aircraft including Cessna Citation, Hawker Beechcraft, Dornier and Pilatus. As he says: "One maintenance company holding approvals for all our aircraft doesn't exist. We try always to use the most equipped, qualified and experienced maintenance providers for each aircraft in our fleet. This is more expensive in the short term due to higher labour rates and positioning flight costs, but better value in the long term due to higher technical history value for the aircraft."
It is very important to have the full authority to plan the maintenance, Biquet insists. "I'm between the operations side asking to fly and maintenance needing to be provided on time. A good knowledge of both sides allows me to optimise the aircraft availability for flight. We use our own maintenance tracking program which is an Excel application, personalised for each aircraft. Simple and efficient."
In finding qualified engineers, he feels that some maintenance facilities tend to grow too quickly. They cannot follow the demand with respect to turnaround times and quality due to a lack of qualified and experienced personnel.
ASL has good relations with its national authority and other authorities for aircraft not registered in Belgium but, says Biquet, it is sometimes difficult. "The differences with the theory aspect of a regulation and the practical aspect of the operations are sometimes big. "There is sometimes a bit too much rigidity, which induces supplemental and costly processes and a lot of paperwork."
The company's operations are mainly in Europe inside the EASA territory. Nevertheless all technical issues do not always occur at an airport with a qualified maintenance facility. As Biquet explains: "We have at least one technician on standby 24/7, able to reach the place where he needs to be. We have also our contracted maintenance facilities able to provide us with a mobile team anywhere in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Continuing airworthiness and maintenance manager tasks by their nature require a lot of paperwork and administration. But, Biquet says, visiting the different maintenance facilities to have direct contact with managers and technicians is important and valuable for all. "Aircraft airworthiness reviews for third party customers allow me to visit some other operators and maintenance facilities.
Biquet made his first entry into aviation during 10 months of military duties in the Belgian air force. "I had a friend working as a mechanic in the Belgian airlines. These two circumstances prompted me to look for a place as a mechanic in the heavy maintenance department of that company."
He worked initially on Boeings and trained for his first technician licence. Then he applied to the general aviation department and worked for many years on small aircraft at the Belgian civil aviation school.
"In April 2005, one of our customers proposed to me to become his maintenance manager, I accepted and so I joined ASL," Biquet says. "In terms of flight activities 2011 is not bad, but we feel the financial crisis is not yet behind us."
At the end of the day, Biquet really enjoys his job, finding it rich in diversity. "Of course it takes time and very often your work overlaps your private life," he admits. "It's a choice... My friends have a general view of my work but they don't really know the details."
Andrey Nazarenko is responsible for the airworthiness of Challenge Aero's operated aircraft and for maintenance coordination, planning and AOGs. Based in the Ukraine, the company has three bases and operates freight and passenger charter with helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.
Nazarenko explains that the company employs its own technicians, certified for the types it operates. "In our home base we perform all kinds of line maintenance and defect rectifications. From our start with the smallest scheduled tasks, we are looking forward to the extension of our capability for more scheduled tasks with bigger intervals.
"We have contracts with base maintenance providers for the big checks. We operate a Bombardier and Hawker fleet, and maintain our aircraft only with manufacturer approved service centres."
Nazarenko lists the criteria for choosing a maintenance provider as capability, being an ASC, position on the market, price/downtime and a previous relationship.
Usually, all aircraft are enrolled in CAMP, which is managed by Challenge Aero's CAMO station. "Separately we manage our own tracking system based on Excel," he adds, "where all maintenance schedule/flight hour tracking is entered. This helps a little bit to improve reliability of maintenance planning in general.
"This tool is used to keep track of our CAMO; we mark the CAMO station which helps us decide do we still want to work with this CAMO or find another company?"
The problem of qualified engineers lies with the maintenance facility itself, Nazarenko believes. "Some of them have a good team of engineers, but some of them have a real shortage of qualified personnel.
"Being often involved with maintenance coordination at our maintenance providers I see this, and try to arrange that a responsible engineer pays enough attention to my aircraft to keep it on schedule."
Most of Challenge Aero's aircraft are registered on the Isle of Man and Nazarenko says they share very good communication and a good relationship. "This authority has its rules, which are common to aviation, and if you follow them, there are no problems."
As for spare parts, Nazarenko says that, for scheduled maintenance, the company or its providers always arrange spares in advance. "But in the case of AOG it sometimes becomes a puzzle of how to get the correct spares in the correct place at the correct time. As we are based in Ukraine, the problem of our Customs service must be taken into consideration."
He believes that every AOG is a separate problem with its own decisions to be made. "One time we sent for the AOG mechanic from our contracted facility – they also have an AOG support service. In another case we found an EASA Part 145 maintenance facility at the airport where we had an AOG, yet in a third case we sent our own mechanics."
Nazarenko likes to be hands-on, saying: "I try to go to the aircraft at the first opportunity I have. It is always good to understand things from a practical side too."
He says: "I really enjoy my job, but to do it you must have some experience and background before taking up these duties."
Nazarenko tells of one problematic incident: "We had contracted a maintenance company in Russia for some unscheduled maintenance and during troubleshooting they found corroded bolts which need to be replaced before they could release the aircraft.
"They told us that they could order them but it would cost a lot of money and take a couple of weeks to deliver it and perform Customs clearance – it is Russia with crazy regulations! And the owner required an aircraft in the next two days. With great effort we found and ordered this part in the market ourselves and delivered it to the facility just a couple of hours before the owner needed the aircraft. At the end of the day, the owner was not delayed."
Maintenance and engineering director Nuno Perestrelo is nominated post holder for maintenance at Masterjet, with bases at Le Bourget and Geneva.
Perestrelo graduated as an aeronautical engineer in 1999 and his first job was as planning engineer on an airliner. This airliner had a business aviation unit for which Perestrelo was nominated maintenance coordinator. In 2004 he was invited to become nominated post holder for maintenance during Masterjet's start-up process and he has been working there since.
The charter operator, which has recently taken delivery of an ex-airline Airbus A320 converted to a 26-seat head of state configuration, uses third-party maintenance only.
Perestrelo says: "We tend to use one main maintenance provider and have a second one as back-up. Avoiding too much diversification aims to build long-term relations and bring mutual benefits in terms of cost, flexibility, efficiency and procedures compliance."
With aircraft based at Le Bourget, maintenance providers located there are first choice, such as DFS and the Citation service centre. After that, important factors for Masterjet in choosing maintenance providers are technical capability, cost vs service quality, organisation, good long-term relations and a willingness to cope with customer needs.
Maintenance schedules for all aircraft are tracked through CAMP. This is a core activity of CAMO processes, explains Perestrelo, and the company prefers to keep it in-house rather than handing it to a third party. "At the end of the day and per EASA rules we retain maximum responsibility over this," he says.
Perestrelo admits to sometimes encountering difficulties with Cessna and Bombardier parts, since the main stock is in the US, not Europe.
Masterjet is in full support of recent EASA regulations, specifically those related to CAMO. "Especially for small operators and private owned aircraft, there was a real need to raise the level of continuing airworthiness management and professionalism," Perestrelo says. "EASA changes in regulations have been very important, not only for safety reasons but also for business aviation growth and image."
A good relationship with local authorities is an essential part of the organisation, says Perestrelo. "We consider our aviation authorities a key shareholder of our process. Our relationship is based on cooperation, dialogue, transparency and being firm when necessary."
He adds: "We have had some AOGs in Africa and we either used the assistance of our home base maintenance providers or contracted local EASA certified maintenance organisations. It all depends on the type of technical problem, availability of EASA certified local support, Customs clearance, etc."
The most unusual incident Perestrelo recalls involved an A319CJ, when the aircraft was drifting left during its take-off run. An inspection revealed nothing. At the second attempt, the aircraft was still drifting during its take-off run. A second inspection revealed the source of the problem: the co-pilot's kneeboard was placed against the steering wheel, thus inducing the aircraft to drift to the left.
Does he enjoy his job? "Absolutely. It's a challenge every day. Masterjet is growing and providing an exciting environment and career opportunity, although it is quite difficult and complex to manage such a varied fleet. Growing with the organisation has allowed me to play an important part. It is quite different from joining an organisation that is already well established."
Spanish Executive Airlines specialises in long distance flights using its fleet of 30 aircraft featuring Gulfstream, Falcon, Cessna, Bombardier and Hawker aircraft. Ricardo Tercero works in the maintenance department as nominated post holder for continuing airworthiness.
Executive Airlines is an approved Part 145 maintenance organisation for line maintenance while for base maintenance it works with third party contracted organisations.
"We work with different providers depending on the aircraft model," says Tercero. "Currently we are operating nine different aircraft models and that means having to work with four or five different providers as well."
When deciding which companies to place this work with, apart from having all the approvals required, Executive Airlines looks for high quality work and reliability in keeping to the downtimes agreed.
Using the application tools provided by the manufacturers enables Executive Airlines to keep up with the maintenance schedule while CAMP is used for aircraft models without any specific computerised maintenance system.
Tercero was one of the few respondents to report an issue with recruiting suitably qualified technicians, adding that it was affecting the company's ability to expand its staff.
Changes to EASA regulations can cause problems, as Tercero explains: "Usually we are running after the continuous changes coming from our administration."
Other issues which can arise are often due to conflicts between the different administration rules, such as certification issues, technical data approval, and AOG issues beyond the company's control including Customs and local government policies.
Tercero admits that there have been occasions when aircraft have needed AOG maintenance outside the EASA area. "Mostly we have had to contact a local engineer and release a one-off authorisation in accordance with EASA regulations for these kinds of situation."
After gaining an aeronautical degree, Tercero has worked for more than 15 years in maintenance activities for different air companies. He finds it an enjoyable job and recommends it to those who like learning continuously and searching for rapid solutions when troubles occur.
Redstar Aviation undertakes a variety of operations including aerial works, medevac, freight, offshore, passenger, photography, sightseeing and surveillance. It has its head office at Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Instanbul.
Jaber Hasbestan is nominated post holder for continuing airworthiness and says that the company uses various third party providers for different aircraft types.
When looking for a maintenance company, Redstar Aviation takes into account authorisation, experience, the man-hour price and distance from its base. Maintenance schedules are tracked in-house using Excel.
Hasbestan says that changes in customs procedures are the major problem for his department. And while Redstar has a good relationship with its local authorities, he adds: "It makes no difference, relationships are not important, rules and procedures are important."
This year, European vip aircraft operator GainJet Aviation SA celebrated its fifth anniversary. It is headquartered in Athens and has a fleet including a Boeing 757 executive airliner, a Boeing 737 vip airliner, a Gulfstream G550, two Gulfstream G450s, five Gulfstream G200s, a BAe146 and a Phenom 100.
Stavros Arampatzis is nominated post holder of maintenance at GainJet. "We have a certification as a CAMO organisation," he explains. "This certificate gives us the privilege to manage aircraft, focusing on continuing airworthiness.
"Our CAMO capability includes Boeing 757, Boeing 737, MD80, Gulfstream G550/G450/G200, Global Express XRS, and Phenom 100. We are also approved as a Part 145 organisation, limited to line maintenance, on MD80 and G200."
As a CAMO, GainJet has its own staff to control its own aircraft. However, for the Boeing 737 some CAMO tasks have been contracted out, with responsibility remaining with GainJet to supervise everything.
Arampatzis says: "As Part 145 we support the two types of aircraft that we are certified for where we use our own technicians for line maintenance. For base maintenance, we utilise various third party companies, depending on aircraft type and base location."
For its different airplane types, GainJet uses maintenance providers that it believes are best suited for each specific type. "However, we try to consolidate our maintenance providers as much as possible in order to simplify the process."
In making the choice of which company to use, the flight schedule is taken into account and that is based mainly on ad hoc charter requests. Arampatzis says: "We operate worldwide and must take this into account when considering schedules. Due to our worldwide operation, one of the most important factors in the decision process is to find a global support maintenance provider."
Aircraft maintenance schedule compilation and development is prepared by GainJet staff using two systems for tracking, AVTRAK and CAMP.
In general, Arampatzis says, spare parts are available within an acceptable time. He suggests that the best solution to supply problems is to ensure a variety of subscribed suppliers to be called on for the parts needed to overcome AOGs quickly. "Spread your supply chain so that you have access to many suppliers, which ensures that, in most cases, at least one of them has what you need."
Basic EASA regulation has improved lately, according to Arampatzis, with incorporation of all updates/revisions instead of separate decisions as in the past. "If EASA established a standard interval for the revisions," he proposes, "that would be helpful to everyone."
"Usually the maintenance manual provides directions on how to treat any snag reported by the crew after landing, or discovered during scheduled maintenance. In my experience most of the unusual maintenance issues are as a result of miscommunication with flight crew, which tends to lead us in the wrong direction to remedy the issue. This does waste time focusing on one task and then trying to properly diagnose the issue."
As a worldwide operator, GainJet operates heavily outside the EASA area and has had cases where aircraft have needed AOG maintenance outside the EASA area. If the aircraft in question is a G200 or MD80 then GainJet's own staff are called on, or in more severe instances global support maintenance providers, who tend to have a support centre in most countries.
"Due to the certifications that we have and the fact that we oper-ate worldwide away from the base most of the time, all our maintenance staff, including myself, travel to the aircraft when needed. Most of the time, the aircraft are away from our Athens headquarters.
"So we've had to travel to many places, which has made the job even more interesting. In some cases, our maintenance staff also travel with the aircraft for support onboard."
"I certainly enjoy this job – 35 years on and I still enjoy working with aircraft. It gives you the opportunity to work on a global level, see different places and, of course, I believe there is no better experience than getting your hands dirty working on an aircraft."
Arampatzis started his career with a 24-year spell in the Greek Air Force where he learned about many types of aircraft and aircraft maintenance. "I had the chance to gain experience in various positions on aircraft maintenance, line and base maintenance and QA systems. I also qualified as flight engineer on the C130 and NATO E3-A B707."
Soon after he retired from the air force he got his license as a B1 mechanic in 2000 and was nominated post holder for maintenance for the first time in 2004 for a Greek aviation company.
"In 2005," he says, "I was introduced to the founders of GainJet – a start-up at the time – became maintenance manager and I've been here ever since."