Whether you already own a private jet or are looking to invest in a new form of air transport, it’s crucial to understand everything that goes into aircraft maintenance. While it may seem mundane at first, servicing is critical for your jet or airplane’s safety, longevity, and resale.
When done wrong (or not done at all), aircraft maintenance could end up costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars or leave your private jet permanently grounded. Continue reading to learn the different types of aircraft maintenance, how the process works, and why proper servicing is a necessity.
What Is Aircraft Maintenance?
Aircraft maintenance describes any servicing, inspection, testing, overhaul, modification, or repair conducted on an aircraft. Examples can range from pre-flight checks to structural repairs to engine replacement. Due to the high technical demands of jets and airplanes, aircraft maintenance is highly regulated and should only be completed by certified Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) technicians.
Aircraft maintenance is about more than ensuring your plane or jet flies safely. When done correctly, maintenance will improve the resale value of your aircraft, especially if you have thorough documentation to disclose the repairs, modifications, and other servicing you’ve had performed.
Additionally, thorough and regular maintenance ensures you aren’t left with any surprises that could leave your aircraft grounded. This is especially important for commercial airlines and jets with frequent usage, as downtime can cost you thousands of dollars in loss on top of the servicing fees.
What Goes Into Proper Aircraft Maintenance?
Unlike cars and other vehicles, most jets don’t have “check engine” lights to notify you of problems, which leaves it up to the pilot, inspectors, engineers, and maintenance teams to identify servicing needs. Most aircraft problems and concerns are identified during pre-flight checks or regular inspections called “ABC checks.”
ABC checks cover different levels of services and are each spaced out at unique increments. For example, A checks cover basic maintenance needs and should be performed based on flight hours per the specific aircraft type requirements. In contrast, D checks service nearly every component of your aircraft and don’t need to be performed as often but also depend on the specific aircraft type requirements.
Once a problem has been identified, the aircraft should be taken to a certified aircraft maintenance engineer or technician. From here, the technician will accurately locate the problem, identify any other issues or causations, order replacement parts (if necessary), conduct repairs or modifications, and finally reinspect and test the aircraft. The total cost of aircraft maintenance is usually an accumulation of the aircraft’s parts, hours of labor, and transportation to and from the servicing facility.
One of the most significant delays in jet aircraft maintenance is the time spent waiting for parts. Hard-to-find aircraft components, such as those only manufactured internationally, can leave your jet grounded for weeks if you aren’t prepared. This stresses the importance of working with MRO technicians with access to extensive inventories. It’s also critical to read the specifications of any aircraft you invest in to ensure part replacements won’t set you back, especially if you buy a used jet that’s undergone modifications.
Do Maintenance Regulations Differ Internationally?
While most countries have their own national regulations and flight authorities, aircraft maintenance is regulated worldwide by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The requirements set by the ICAO ensure safe standards of repairs, modifications, and services for all aircraft vehicles. This is especially important for international travel, ensuring you’ll still receive dependable maintenance no matter what nation you’ve landed in.
In the United States, aircraft maintenance is further regulated by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). All US-certified aircraft technicians and engineers follow the standards of both the FAA and ICAO to ensure the highest quality and safety. Other countries’ aircraft regulatory authorities include:
- Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB)
- European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
- Indian Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA)
- National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC)
- Secretariat of Infrastructure, Communications, and Transportation of Mexico (SICT)
- Transport Canada (TC)
Types of Aircraft Maintenance Services
Standard aircraft maintenance usually falls into three categories: line maintenance, heavy maintenance, and component maintenance. However, some of these servicing needs may push your jet into the next category, Aircraft on Ground maintenance (AOG), which restricts your ability to fly safely.
Line maintenance is the standard type of maintenance for an aircraft, usually comprising pre-flight checks and minor repairs. Most line maintenance is conducted regularly, such as checking a jet’s fluid levels every time before using it or taking an airplane to a certified technician for scheduled A and B checks.
Line maintenance and scheduled checks are often separated into chunks, such as checking the engine and hydraulics at different times. Spreading these services out decreases the workload needed at once, so a technician doesn’t have to spend their entire week doing minor services on one plane. It also reduces the amount of time the aircraft is out of service.
Line maintenance is often performed during scheduled A and B checks, covering basic inspections and servicing.
Common examples of line maintenance include:
- Daily fluid checks
- Pre-flight checks
- Minor modifications
- Minor repairs
- Lubricating systems
- Reinflating or replacing tires
- Light replacement
- Emergency equipment replacement
- Brake tests
- Ramp checks
- Hydraulic checks
Heavy maintenance, or base maintenance, describes aircraft servicing that’s more technical and thorough than line maintenance. Heavy maintenance is much less common for aircraft servicing and generally only needs to be done during C and D checks or for specific instances. However, some jets and models may require additional scheduled maintenance to ensure safety.
C and D checks are more exhaustive than standard A and B checks but don’t need to be performed as regularly. C checks inspect and service nearly every aircraft component. Finally, nicknamed “the heavy maintenance visit,” D checks are the most comprehensive inspections an aircraft will undergo.
Examples of heavy maintenance include:
- Thorough inspections
- Standard component repairs
- Part replacement
- System rectification
- Structural maintenance
- Corrosion prevention
- Remodeling interior
Component maintenance, or shop maintenance, covers repairs, replacement, and servicing of specific aircraft components, such as engines, hydraulics, and cockpit controls. This type of maintenance is usually conducted in C and D checks unless a problem is identified sooner.
Depending on the component, shop maintenance often needs to be conducted by an aviation specialist with experience in this specific type of repair. Fortunately, the entire aircraft does not always need to be transported to the specialist’s shop if the problematic component is removable from the rest of the vehicle.
Common components that need shop maintenance include:
- Cockpit controls
- Landing gear
Aircraft on Ground (AOG) describes an aircraft with problems or maintenance needs that are so severe that it cannot fly safely. In most situations, AOG maintenance only comprises minor technical issues, such as a malfunctioning backup system, engine troubles, or structural damage.
While AOG issues are often petty, they can be life-threatening liabilities if ignored. Due to their severity and the importance of completing these repairs correctly, some AOG maintenance cannot be completed by standard MRO-certified technicians. Instead, they must be taken to a high-level aircraft facility or a specialist. Many major airports include these facilities to conduct services and get planes back in the air as quickly as possible.
Despite AOG maintenance usually being easy fixes, they can cost commercial airlines upwards of $100,000, depending on how long the jets must stay grounded. Even having a commercial aircraft out of commission for one or two hours can cost airlines $15,000 or more, which stresses the importance of regularly checking up on your aircraft’s backup system, engine, and other maintenance needs.
Find Out More
At Omni Aircraft Maintenance, every jet we see undergoes maintenance to the highest standards of quality and integrity. We’ve serviced a variety of aircraft models for 40 years and are dedicated to keeping our clients safe and secure while they’re in the air. Our technicians, each with an average of 28 years of experience, will help you identify and resolve problems before they become worse.
To learn more about what goes into aircraft maintenance services, reach out to the Omni Aircraft Maintenance team. By requesting a call, we can let you know what type of servicing to expect when investing in an aircraft, explain our own maintenance process, and get your jet scheduled for quality servicing.