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PERSPECTIVES: Business aviation through the eyes of the maintenance manager – Aircraft maintenance is about staying one step ahead, say the managers
A maintenance manager employed in business aviation can have a great deal of responsibility on his or her shoulders. For smaller operators, the post holder for maintenance may also be the chief pilot or accountable manager and must therefore juggle dual responsibilities.
Read this story in our July 2014 printed issue.

A maintenance manager employed in business aviation can have a great deal of responsibility on his or her shoulders. For smaller operators, the post holder for maintenance may also be the chief pilot or accountable manager and must therefore juggle dual responsibilities. In larger operations, they must uphold the safety and reliability of fleets that are both plentiful and diverse. Having an aircraft on the ground can be extremely costly to an AOC holder, and it is the job of the maintenance manager to ensure that the aircraft regains airworthiness as efficiently as possible following an AOG.

Some maintenance managers have a background in engineering and may be licensed to carry out work on an aircraft themselves. In every case, outstanding administrative and organisational skills are a must. As part of our 'Perspectives' series we quizzed a broad selection of continuing airworthiness post holders, to get to grips with what the role entails.

William Smith is the nominated post holder and accountable manager responsible for continuing airworthiness at Atlantic Airways, based at Vagar airport in the Faroe Islands. He manages a team of 21 engineers attached to Atlantic's Part 145, and carries out work on helicopters in addition to airliner work. “For major work like 48-month checks we use third party providers, and we decide which ones to use based on cost and reputation,” he tells EBAN.

“We do all the tracking with our own software. Called the gannet, it is an a to z tool for all Part M and Part 145, including Part 66.”

Smith says he is never affected by a shortage of suitably qualified engineers, and adds that he can always obtain spare parts for the helicopters, although supply is always slow. He is untroubled by the recent regulation changes by EASA and speaks of a good relationship with local authorities and auditors.

He continues: “EASA is good for all of us. The major problem I have personally is that, while there is plenty of time to travel with this job, I find the amount of travel too much.

“I enjoy my job, but I'm not sure I would recommend it!”

He has an engineering back-ground, and previously worked offshore for over five years maintaining and building engines. He also spent over a decade at Charles de Gaulle airport in France as a line station manager and hangar manager. He has also spent time as a technical director. His skills with helicopters encompass the Bell 212, 412 and AW139, and he has also worked on the BAe jet series.

He recalls a unique anecdote of his time on a medical flight: “During a medical mission from Vagar to Copenhagen the patient who was strapped on the stretcher wanted to go to the toilet, and the doctor had no can with him. I made one from gaffa tape and a plastic bag; being able to think on your feet is crucial.”

John Wilson is the engineering manager for Bristow Helicopters' European business unit in the UK. He is responsible for the safe departure of 170 Bristow flights each week. “For helicopters, like any machine with moving parts, ongoing maintenance is critical to ensuring a safe operation, and that's where my team of maintenance engineers play an important part,” he says.

“Our aircraft undergo inspections at the end of each return flight, and data from the health and usage and monitoring system, which uses tiny electrical onboard sensors to monitor pressure and vibration levels, is downloaded.”

Wilson's role incorporates a wide range of responsibilities. He must ensure that all aircraft and components are maintained to the requirements of the regulators, the UK CAA and EASA, as well as the additional requirements of the operator. “For many years Bristow has been going beyond the requirements laid out by the regulators to enhance safety even further,” he explains.

“I also oversee the development of the engineering team, ensuring that they receive ongoing training and support in order to be able to do their jobs to the best possible standard, and reduce the chances of human error.

“What underpins my role as engineering manager more than anything else is the need to instil Bristow's safety culture in all of our employees. Our rigorous 'target zero' safety programme was introduced in 2007 and aims to help us hit our target of zero accidents.”

The company's focus on safety derives directly from 'the top' with its ceo and senior management team, and trickles down to the engineers and apprentices in the hangar. “All of our employees, including myself in my capacity as engineering manager, must take responsibility for encouraging others to report any hazards or incidents,” Wilson says. “It is important that I make myself approachable and that I make it clear to all on my team that should they have any safety concerns they can always take a time out for safety, whether it is to conduct additional inspections or ground an aircraft.”

Bristow has introduced the latest technology in order to enhance its standards of safety. Wilson explains that a number of changes expected in the coming months will have implications for the way maintenance engineers do their jobs, not least the introduction of CAP 1145, the CAA's measure to increase offshore helicopter flight safety. “In many ways, however, adapting to change like this is something we have done for many years,” he says. “Our procedures and standards are continuously audited and reviewed. Ensuring this is carried out and that any corrective actions are implemented has been a key part of my role for many years and will continue to be so.”

Germany's FAI rent-a-jet is an excellent employer, according to post holder CAMO Michael Andorka. The company employs its own technicians and also makes use of third party maintenance companies, with at least one provider under contract. Andorka selects maintenance providers based on experience, quality, slot availability and location. He also completes the company maintenance schedules using AMO.

“Our demand for suitably qualified engineers over the last years has been met in a satisfactory manner, and our department which is responsible for the provision of spare supplies is permanently in contact with OEM spare part divisions and other supplier sources to order spares on time,” he says.

FAI sends out its own AOG teams to deal with grounded aircraft, or assigns an EASA approved organisation to deal with the case. Andorka rarely travels away from the base himself, but does not seem to mind, as he enjoys his job and would thoroughly recommend it. “I started as an aircraft mechanic over 20 years ago and I studied mechanical engineering and aircraft construction. I was an aircraft inspector for base maintenance on Airbus, ATR, Bombardier and British Aerospace products.

“These experiences made me ready for the varied challenge as a post holder CAMO.”

The most unusual repair he has ever had to deal with was a temporary fix in the field for a seriously damaged Airbus A319 CFRP horizontal stabiliser, so that the aircraft could be ferried to Toulouse for repair.

London Executive Aviation's Mark Williams is maintenance and continuous airworthiness manager. He moved into corporate aviation after spending several years at third party MROs and airlines. He too employs his own technicians as well as using third party maintenance companies, with the most important deciding factors being price and flexibility. The company uses OASES and CAMP software to track maintenance schedules. “We have plenty of suitably qualified engineers,” he says. “But third party providers can struggle due to shortages of skilled workers.”

Williams sources his parts through maintenance contractors; sometimes LEA obtains parts itself, but these have to be routed through contractors' stores systems. “We overcome supply problems by considering alternative vendors,” he adds.

He says that there is a good relationship between the operator and local authorities, but nevertheless admits that EASA regulation changes are causing complications.

He relates a particularly unusual scenario: “Some time ago we experienced corrosion to aircraft structure caused by spilt rhinoceros urine! Some animals were being transported to a wildlife park in the USA from Africa. So that was a unique challenge.”

Despite not holding the official title of maintenance manager, Daniel Gondar is post holder for continuing airworthiness at Air Nimbus in Lisbon, as well as general manager. He says: “We use a third party company to carry out our maintenance, with an emphasis on the cost of the maintenance and the cost to the operator of 'on the ground' time.”

Gondar tracks his maintenance using CAMP and adds that his providers suffer at times from a lack of suitably qualified engineers. Acquiring spares can also be fraught: “In instances of unavailability we try to contact other suppliers, other maintenance shops and other operators of the same model, depending on the situation.”

As for the increased demand from EASA, he states that it is not causing him problems, just more work. He maintains a healthy relationship with local inspectors.

In AOG situations, he works with EASA 145 approved local technicians, and he reveals that in the past his job required a great deal of travel. His office is away from the base which can make extra travel necessary.

“I do enjoy my job,” he continues, “I would recommend it, but only to someone very dedicated who would love it.”

He spent 10 years as an airworthiness manager and the last eight years as a post holder, with nine years at Omni Aviation before joining Air Nimbus last year for a fresh challenge. He recalls an engine fire indication in Lanzarote that required all of his experience to deal with: “It was very challenging to put, in a short period of time, technicians and parts on an island, and in two days release the aircraft.”

Henrik Therkelsen is continuing airworthiness accountable manager and ceo at Denmark's Air Alsie. His company is an authorised service centre for Dassault aircraft but, because maintenance sometimes has to be done while en route, he also uses third party maintenance companies, all over the world. He says: “We always consider the downtime, price and locations relative to the day to day operation of the aircraft. We track via CAMP and an internal planning system.”

Therkelsen usually finds spare parts easy to come by but says that in Russia and China this is far trickier. He maintains a relationship of 'mutual respect' with the authorities. On occasions where an aircraft requires maintenance outside of EASA's region, he deploys an AOG 'go team' to solve the problem.

“I would recommend this job to a friend for sure,” he says. “Though I am considered the accountable manager, I have a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and have worked as such in the Royal Danish Air Force. After that I was responsible for the aircraft section in Danish Aerotech and for the last 17 years I have been at Air Alsie.

“Last year we had extensive corrosion on a Hawker 800 which led to major repairs of the wing attachment and landing gear. This was very unexpected.”

Sebastian Kulik is the quality manager for General Aviation Services in Poland. He has maintenance responsibilities for both jets and helicopters, and he selects providers according to the specific expertise required. “Important concerns for us are price, experience and how local to us the providers are,” he says. He usually tracks his own maintenance schedules, but at times these are contracted to providers. Insufficient human resources are never a problem for him, and he also remarks that spares availability is very good in his region of operation.

“I would recommend this job to a friend, assuming the friend has all the required qualifications!” he adds. “I very much enjoy what I do.”

Kulik started out in 2002 with LOT, the Polish national air carrier, in its quality department. In 2005 he became maintenance planning manager at Fischer Air Poland, a charter operator of the Boeing 757, but moved to General Aviation Services in 2008 after Fischer's bankruptcy: “Since 2008 I have been quality manager at GAS, and continue to act as CAMO manager at companies such as Direct Fly, Ad Astra, Heli Invest, Fly Jet and Travel Service Polska.”

He hasn't experienced an unusual event in his time with GAS, but does recall a particularly complicated engine change while at Fischer's: “We had to carry out an engine change on a Boeing 757. The replacement engine was in Atlanta, but after calculating all costs and risks associated with transporting the engine from ATL via FRA to Warsaw, the company then decided to fly the jet to Atlanta and replace an engine over there.

“It was my first and so far only transatlantic flight with an ETOPS certified aircraft, carrying just four persons on board, including two pilots, me and my boss. The remaining 220 passenger seats were empty.”

Mario Hess is the vp of technics and nominated post holder maintenance at Eurowings in Dortmund, Germany, in addition to his duties as accountable manager. He employs his own technicians and doesn't use third party maintenance: “We only have a single aircraft type in our fleet so we don't need to use lots of different providers,” he says. Quality is of prime importance in his work, but he also pays attention to repair and on the ground time, customer, flexibility and cost. He tracks his own maintenance schedules using AMO: “We have never had a shortage of suitably qualified engineers or other staff,” he adds. “Spare parts are also readily available, so we have never encountered problems there. We ensure this by having stock at our home base, and we send out swift enquiries when it is called for.”

He is unfazed by EASA regulation changes, and maintains a good relationship with local authorities. As to travel, he explains that it is not a feature of his work as his responsibilities are to manage his team. When asked whether he would recommend the role to a friend, his answer was simple: “Yes, why not?”

His career path has taken him from education into jobs as a technician, inspector and line maintenance manager until the current vacancy arose. He says he has never encountered any particularly unusual jobs, but instead remarks that the field of aircraft maintenance itself is 'unusual enough'.

Steve Backhouse is responsible for continuing airworthiness at Capital Air Charter in Exeter, UK. He uses third party Part 145 maintenance based on locality, expertise and value. He subcontracts maintenance schedules using CAFAM, and says that he does suffer with a shortage of skilled engineers.

“Spare parts are not so problematic, and we can usually source them,” he tells EBAN. “As to the regulations, Part M is fairly settled, Part 145 poses occasional issues and ops has many issues.

“We have a very good relationship with Part M and 145 authorities. We have a new surveyor on the Air Ops side so it is a bit early to tell.”

For the most part Backhouse would recommend his job, but he would prefer to spend less time sitting at a desk. He says that most of the problems he encounters relate to the air ambulance side of the business: “Air ambulance, and the carriage of medical equipment and ill passengers is often a challenge. Having been used to scheduled passenger carrying companies from the start of my career, it does require a different thought process with some aspects of air ambulance work.”

Maintenance manager for Greek GainJet Aviation Stavros Arampatzis uses his own technicians for CAMO and has base maintenance performed by contracted organisations. “Line maintenance on bigger aircraft such as the B737, B757 and MD80 is performed by our technicians, while for the smaller jets we contract out,” he comments.

More often than not, GainJet uses authorised stations recommended by the manufacturers, but for its executive airliner fleet, it has contracted at least two providers, giving flexibility to the operation. “Our first concerns are quality, safety and professionalism, and after than we consider cost,” adds Arampatzis.

He sometimes travels away from base as he is qualified to work on the B757 as an onboard engineer: “It is good to keep in touch with that side of our duties. I find experiencing all aspects of our department interesting and important.

“I have had almost four decades in the aviation business, and it is a job that is continuously moving and developing, as is the industry. There's never a boring day.”

Switzerland's Masterjet employs Nuno Perestrelo as nominated post holder maintenance. The company is a Part M organisation with no Part 145 certification, so all maintenance is performed by third party companies. Perestrelo finds one provider for each type in Masterjet's diverse fleet: “Our fleet ranges from a Learjet 45 and several Dassault types up to Airbus A320, so it is quite difficult to find a maintenance organisation with the right quality and certification on all or most of these aircraft types.

“If we are unable to use our first choice we have one or two other options as alternatives.”

He attributes the success of the operator to the building of 'long-lasting' and 'win-win' relationships with clients. “Our customers are very demanding and so are we with our providers. Proposal costs are important but are always measured against the added value they will bring,” he says. “Providers need to be flexible and very responsive to cope with the dynamic agenda of our customers. We must be assured that providers can deliver what they promise – that is to say the on-time delivery of aircraft – and that they have the right technical skills and knowledge.

“Additional costs must be fair, presented for discussion and approval and the final invoice must have no unpleasant surprises. We try to identify critical and problematic areas and discuss ways for improvement so it's important that our providers have the same continuous improvement culture.”

Perestrelo performs full CAMP responsibilities in house rather than contracting any continuing airworthiness tasks to providers. He selected the CAMP software for its suitability to operators with diverse fleets. “We perform all maintenance updates on CAMP, since the overall responsibility is always on the Part M side,” he adds.

He is proud of the quality of his Part M engineers: “We haven't experienced any availability shortage so far, either internally or at our providers.”

Masterjet bases its aircraft at Le Bourget, which makes finding spares for Dassault aircraft very convenient. The company has, however, been presented with challenges previously when dealing with Bombardier jets. Says Perestrelo: “There was a long discussion between operators and the OEM, which led to a major reinforcement of the Frankfurt spares hub.

“We are now quite happy with Bombardier spare parts. For our A320 we also have an excellent agreement with Air France, and spares are normally delivered in good time. EASA problems have also not posed any major problems.”

Maintaining a good independent oversight of Part M activities is crucial for Masterjet, and Perestrelo feels that working alongside the authorities leads to improved processes and an increase in safety.

He has had to organise several AOGs outside the EASA region: “In some cases it was possible to find suitable Part 145 local teams, and in some situations it was not. During a Falcon 2000 AOG in Goose Bay in Canada, we had to send a Dassault mobile team from the UAE.”

A particularly unique problem cropped up a few years ago when an aircraft seemed badly aligned: “We experienced an aircraft drifting against the runway centreline. It was inspected with no fault found. We made a second attempt and found the same problem. Once more it was inspected and no fault found.

“We were preparing to cancel the mission when it was noticed the problem: the crew kneeboard was just blocking the nose wheel steering handwheel!”

He is not a Part 66 engineer himself, and is therefore unable to work with aircraft. However, he sometimes follows up events away from the base, or inspects aircraft during the pre-buying process. After starting his career with an airline 15 years ago, he joined Masterjet in his current role in 2004 and has remained there ever since.

He is extremely enthusiastic about his work: “I love what I'm doing and every day there is a new challenge. To achieve the goal of maximum aircraft availability at maximum safety level and minimum cost, the most important factor is how you manage your staff, give them proper conditions and motivate them.

“I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is passionate about aircraft and teamwork, and is goal oriented.”

Heiner Bernhard is the director of maintenance and managing partner at Premium Jet, which is based in Switzerland. There are seven aircraft in the fleet, and to service these Bernhard uses six different providers. “We make the decision on which supplier to choose based on quality and downtime,” he tells EBAN.

“On larger projects like refurbishments or re-painting, price is a factor too.” Like many of our respondents, Bernhard tracks all of his aircraft using CAMP. “This has proven to be state-of-the-art, and is used worldwide; it also guarantees a smooth transition when owners or operators change.”

Staff shortages crop up from time to time, but he says that thoroughly searching the market can solve any parts supply issues. Premium Jet call on MROs to check availability, and will often procure PMA parts, as long the MRO accepts them.

He continues: “I must admit that the EASA changes are causing us problems, but we do have a good understanding with local officials. We once encountered an AOG outside of EASA's area, and solved this by a 'one-off' under the authority of an EASA approved MRO.”

He travels away from base for C of A renewals, aircraft acceptance, MRO audits, aircraft audits and maintenance supervision. But would he recommend his job to a friend? “I am looking forward to retirement; the legal burden and requirements are getting too much. Despite this I could recommend the job, if somebody would like to take it!”

Bernhard first worked as an A&P apprentice and then a B1. He progressed to become supervisor, inspector and then station manager. His career in aviation spans 40 years. There has been more than the odd notable scenario along the way. “Once I had to repair a crash-landed Pilatus Porter in the highlands of Eritrea. That was quite a task.”

Andre Coetzee is South African Henley Air's continuing airworthiness accountable manger, and his specialism is the Bell 206 series. He uses six different AMOs to carry out work on his aircraft and places a particular emphasis on the quality of the workmanship at these companies. He outsources the tracking of maintenance schedules to the AMOs as well, but despairs at the 'major' shortage of qualified engineers in his region. Locating spares is also troublesome.

Coetzee describes the over-regulation of the South African CAA as a 'serious threat to our industry', though he does always co-operate with inspectors fully. “When an AOG arises, we must organise everything ourselves, and we do.”

When asked about job satisfaction, his feelings are clear: “I love my job! There is no such thing as a perfect job, but this must be the closest it can come to that,” he enthuses.

"It is certainly never dull. Maintenance issues in the African bush are pretty unique. Hyenas tend to eat all soft and rubbery bits, and I have had plenty of issues with broken antennae and windows due to baboons.

“An elephant also thought it apt to put a tusk through one of our JetRanger's windows while on contract in Botswana.”

FlexFlight at Roskilde, Denmark, employs Jorn Bo Johansen as maintenance manager. The operator doesn't hold a Part 145. Johansen says that safety is of prime importance when selecting providers: “There is nothing more important than safety for us, and we decide who to use in cooperation with the aircraft owner.

“After many years in business aviation, I know a lot of maintenance providers, so we select the providers who deliver on time. Cost is the third issue on the list.”

Planning is done using Cescom/CAMP, and he praises the speed of Cessna in delivering spares, which is usually possible within 48 hours. He has no requirement to leave the base, as he does not work on the aircraft himself. This was not the case when he worked in Greenland in 1975 though: “l had to perform an engine change, outdoors, in minus 35 degrees celsius, on a C-54!”

Franck Madignier is president of engineering services for TAG Aviation Europe, and is tasked with overseeing operations in Geneva, Sion, Farnborough, Madrid, Paris, Clermont-Ferrand and Lomé. “We have longstanding experience in aircraft operations as well as airworthiness and maintenance services,” says Madignier. “We are certified to work on over 60 types of aircraft, and have a team of 250 highly trained technicians available.”

Schedules are tracked by Component Control. Madignier speaks of a skilled labour shortage in recent times: “The implementation of the European B1 and B2 licenses has made things difficult,” he says.

He is proud of TAG's sophisticated staff development programmes: “We have developed an internship programme and cooperate with two schools to train technicians. We train our technicians for up to three weeks a year. Part 147 training takes place in the USA and Europe, depending on the aircraft type, or internally for a range of wider skills such as human factors and regulations.”

He regularly receives requests to provide AOG maintenance outside the EASA area. TAG has a mobile repair team available, which can deliver such a service. “Our unique set-up with facilities in multiple locations gives us more flexibility to meet our clients' needs.”

Our final contributor is Steve Pantry, maintenance manager of Marshall Aviation Services' Cambridge facility. He says: “We employ our own technicians and employ subcontracted technicians through our own agency Aeropeople, when capacity dictates.

“We carry out maintenance to various aircraft types, for third party customers and our own Citation fleet, which is operated by Flairjet.”

If parts are required outside Pantry's 'approval scope', he ensures that they are audited, and only chooses them if they meet all EASA, FAA and ISO requirements. Epicor is his software of choice, and he manages an in-house system alongside this. “Our training programme is robust, as is our budget. We use FlightSafety, OEM courses and our own 147 training school at the Broughton facility,” he adds.

“Parts supply on the other hand is an issue; complying to CE regulation when most items purchased are from the USA can be testing, especially as far as things like adhesives are concerned. Some of these in the aircraft maintenance manuals are banned in Europe.

“Time difference between businesses can mean that AOG items are 24 hours longer than they should be when purchased in the USA.”

His position on EASA is clear: “There is one and only one correct way to maintain aircraft and that is to a minimum flight safety standard that should be set worldwide, or at least the same between EASA and the FAA.

“These two organisations really do need to sing from the same song sheet around licensing, maintenance, course training and spares. EASA at present makes any organisation working under these rules very uncompetitive compared to the rest of the world.”

Pantry is a B1 licensed engineer and therefore qualified to travel and work in the field, but despite this his role dictates that he spends much of his time at base. He would recommend most aspects of the job but indicates that it can be very demanding being on-call 24/7 when compared to a nine to five position. He worked as a flight mechanic on the B747 before joining at Cambridge.

He lists a base maintenance task completed weeks ahead of schedule as his greatest achievement: “This particular task took seven days instead of the usual five weeks. It was a great team effort, which is what a lot of aircraft maintenance relies on to meet delivery.”

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