Robert Seaman 0000-00-00 00:00:00
The AMO industry in Canada has always been somewhat smaller in scale than its US counterparts. Obviously, we have fewer aircraft operators and a smaller base of aircraft in Canada to deal with. That aside, it is no small coincidence that many of the leading OEM-approved US maintenance repair service centres are located in sunny and warm locations — which has led more than one corporate aircraft owner to find that an aircraft always requires its major “annual” during our cold harsh winters. More than one “C” registered aircraft seems to find its way to Fort Lauderdale between the months of January and March — the crew enjoys a vacation while the aircraft undergoes its major annual inspection and Service Bulletin/Service Advisory (SB/SA) calls. This could lead one to suspect that we lack the proper quality aircraft maintenance and management capability in our country. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Canada has never been short of excellent aircraft maintenance providers. Depending on the size and category of aircraft, there are many worldleading, proven and trusted service providers more than willing to accommodate the timing and needs of Canadian operators for commercial aircraft and business jets. In fact, more than one of these operations has created advances that have brought the world to our doorstep for the their special missions mods and maintenance. The fluctuating value of Canadian currency versus “the greenback” has never really proven to be a big attraction in bringing large quantities of business to this country when the option is again those sunny and warm places to the south. It is, however, the technological and methodological edge we have that seems to be the driver for our guys. And we have many fine examples of successful leaders in this field. Field Aviation A case in point is Torontobased Field Aviation. Since its humble beginnings in 1947 providing support for aircraft operators performing aerial survey/mapping operations as well as converting former Canadian military aircraft into planes designed for civil roles, Field Aviation has become a global leader and innovator in some very specific and unique areas of aircraft maintenance and specialmission modifications. Today the firm is heavily focused on the modification and conversion of aircraft for airlines and specialpurpose operators — both commercial and government. According to David Jensen, VicePresident, Business Development at Field Aviation, “In the current economic environment, we are seeing airlines being very careful with their investments but seeking every opportunity to increase their capabilities and performance while reducing their costs. Many of them have recognized that technology and design improvements for their existing fleets can provide the benefits they are looking for, with significantly less cost and disruption than would come from a fleet replacement.” Jensen reports that Field currently has working programs that take advantage of the company’s longterm development investment in the classic Dash 8 series. “Because of our history with the Dash 8 — as well as our commitment to R&D — Field Aviation has existing designs and approvals for many different system improvements and modifications. We are extremely proud to have our first airline customer for our classic Dash 8 Flight Deck Display Replacement program In addition to the Flight Deck Display Replacement, this current twoaircraft program for Air Iceland includes 11 other system additions or significant modifications as well as general maintenance and refurbishment, making these the most modern and capable Dash 8200s in the world.” Field Aviation recently delivered two Bombardier Q400 aircraft with customdesigned, unique mixedclass interiors, the first such installation in this aircraft type. As for road ahead, after many years and a slew of “industry first” accomplishments in the special mission realm, Jensen feels confident that the requirement for special mission aircraft will continue. “We expect that Field Aviation will add to our total of 30 Dash 8 Maritime Patrol/Surveillance Aircraft before the end of the year and we expect to participate in the modification of Dash 8s for a wider range of special purpose applications. In the future, we see the special mission market growing and utilizing a wider variety of aircraft and we are actively developing solutions for both larger and smaller turboprops as well as jet platforms.” MX Aerospace Now, if your aircraft maintenance and support requirements are in the corporate and private aircraft sector, one of the newer participants, a lesser known but unique professional in the AMO business, is Torontobased MX Aerospace. The company was formed initially to service the needs of an affiliated corporate aircraft management group. Since then, the business has evolved and expanded to encompass a variety of other clientele, outside of the “inhouse” needs. What makes the MX Group unique is not only its technical expertise but also its business philosophy — looking after a customer’s aircraft as if it were in fact its own. Pride of workmanship and quality are evident in everything the group works with. Beyond this, MX believes in planning and managing the maintenance of an aircraft and handling not just the scheduled items but also looking at items before they are due and can become an AOG (aircraft on ground) issue. The maintenance and safety practices of the MX Aerospace AMO have been recognized by the industry as well. The company is a recipient of the coveted Award of Operational Excellence and Safest Operator of the Year (from the insurance group AIG). This industry accolade is widely recognized as the ultimate acknowledgment for excellence in operating practices and flight safety. MX team members have over 200 combined years of experience. Some of them have received the Roland Groome Award twice. This honour acknowledges “daytoday operations of unusually high standards”! Bob Scott, president of MX Aerospace, leads his team handson. Over the years Bob has worked in both the commercial and corporate aircraft industry, and has the ability to “look in the crystal ball” and sum up where things are and where they could be going. In today’s economic conditions, like Field Aviation, MX is seeing a lot of interest in upgrades for “legacy aircraft,” as well as in maintaining existing equipment for longer periods of ownership. “The opportunities to maintain existing equipment with much smaller capital investments versus replacing the aircraft have multiplied,” says Scott. “What we are hearing and seeing is that it is a logical point for many flight operators to take advantage of downtime and, in addition to regular annual maintenance, take the opportunity to complete or correct the many additional items that inevitably will allow years of relatively troublefree operation. Doing this now will also, in our experience, minimize periods of being offline downstream.” Scott also reports that for the MX team, there is increasing interest from Aircraft Operations Centres (AOCs) to take advantage of MX’s established AMO and complete “tip to tail” maintenance rather than establishing their own AMOs and/or supplementing their existing ones with increased capacity. As Bob notes, it takes years for a new AMO to achieve even basic levels that can provide the stability and cost effectiveness being sought, so outsourcing can immediately provide those returns, largely due to to staff and process controls that have thoroughly matured. He points out that the new generation of engineers beginning to function in increased capacities (i. e. as Directors of Maintenance) will require considerable time to attain the experience required to contribute to a well rounded organization. Working with MX or similar firms, they can benefit in many ways from the relationship. As for that crystal ball look at where we are going, Bob states, “Forecasts seem to indicate what we already see on a fairly cyclic basis. The peaks and valleys come and go every five to seven years and the operational and technical operations that anticipate this effectively will always be engaged. The existing climate is certainly one of the most severe experienced; however, confidence is growing on many levels and the most nimble can seize those new opportunities.” A point that Bob makes concerns the changes to the CBAA and its now defunct POC programs: as a result of the shift back to Transport Canada, MX is finding that there are many private operations now seeking out assistance with the transition to the new realities. “Having to quickly attain new benchmarks to align with the commercial side of the aviation world in many ways allows us to assist and facilitate the transition from every aspect — including establishing manuals and process controls — something that many private operations are quite unfamiliar with,” says Scott. “The value of drawing from established and highly diversified companies provides instant stability and direction.” So there you have it. If you want to be a proud Canadian and take advantage of homegrown solutions, these are but two of the many in this great aviation nation. If, on the other hand, you really need that winter break and do not see the need to invest in your home — well, you know where to find the others I’m sure.
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