My 2009 prediction: This will be the year that “managed maintenance” goes from curiosity to mainstream for single-engine piston airplanes. Turbine aircraft owners for years have enjoyed the convenience of “Power by the Hour” maintenance agreements that cover all maintenance issues for engines and airframes. Such programs may not be cheaper than paying for individual maintenance items as they crop up, but the owners of expensive airplanes are willing to pay more for the convenience of being able to budget for maintenance with an assurance that some major gotcha won’t crop up.
Because of such maintenance programs and good maintenance tracking in general, the service life of parts for turbine aircraft is well known and understood. That’s typically not been the case in lighter airplanes. As a result, few companies have been willing to underwrite such programs and owners have typically not been willing to pay more for such convenience.
But that’s changing. Managed maintenance is starting to show up in various forms in the GA market. Cirrus Design, for example, just last week announced its CMX program that at least partially mirrors the turbine programs. Cirrus owners can sign up by paying between $2,900 and $3,900, depending on the model, and then pay between $3,179 and $3,667 for 100-hour blocks of essentially spinner to tailcone coverage for airplanes up to two to three years old. That may sound like a lot, but once you’ve paid the initiation fee it amounts to between $32 and $37 per flight hour for maintenance. Remember, you’re going to be paying something close to that for maintenance one way or another, so those are not all new costs.
SAMM takes another approach. The Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Manager was established by maintenance guru Mike Busch who has forgotten more about how to maintain an airplane than most of us will ever know. Under his program, owners pay his company a fixed annual fee that varies from about $500 for a simple fixed-gear single to $750 for a complex single, to $1,000 for a piston twin and up to $2,000 for a very light jet. For that fee, SAMM staff will manage your maintenance for you, intervening with the shop to make sure you are getting the best deals, hunting down parts, deferring what it determines to be unnecessary maintenance, and generally working on your behalf to assure you are getting a good value for your maintenance dollar. You’re still responsible for the maintenance bill, but in most cases SAMM oversight will reduce your costs enough over the course of the year to pay for itself.
Eastern Cincinnati Aviation, a sister company to Sporty’s Pilot Shop, recently announced a series of concierge services to simplify the life of an aircraft owner. Among them is the review of aircraft records and the creation of a maintenance schedule meant to maximize safety and minimize down time. Other services include such helpful items as putting the airplane into the hangar after flights and looking it over for maintenance squawks to making sure navigation data subscriptions are current and installed.
As a long-time aircraft owner, I have mixed reactions so such programs. I would enjoy the convenience of such services and the ability to budget for maintenance expenses. On the other hand, after all these years of being heavily involved in managing the maintenance–which is time-consuming, for sure–I think I would miss not being so involved.
What do you think? Will such convenience services catch on in a big way?