Tom Haines

Managed maintenance–the next big thing?

January 24, 2009 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

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?

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5 Responses to “Managed maintenance–the next big thing?”

  1. FliegerASS Says:

    This ‘managed maintenance’ is currently under discussion for the EU. EASA has proposed a set of rules which are currently under revision. EU pilots in general are very sceptical to such program. Compared to the US are we already confronted with unbelievable (and expensive) maintenance directives which noone believes make any sense. Hopefully does the FAA never copy such nonsens.

  2. John Says:

    Managed maintenance could be a good thing for those that can afford it and choose to do so. As an active owner for the past 20 years, it might relieve a few headaches. BUT, the danger is that once it gets established, inevitably the Government will require it to be mandatory. And then, there goes the aviation neighborhood; owner/maintainers and freelance A&Ps will be villified as unsafe cowboys that are endangering the public. Don’t believe me? Whoever thought that we would be facing the possibility of costly TSA patdowns to simply fly a Cessna 152 around the pattern?

  3. Oussama Salah Says:

    Managed maintenance should be an option and not a mandated requirements. Maintenance is mandated and this is only a variation on a theme. Regulatory authorities may have to step up surveillance to ensure that owners are maintaining their aircraft properly, after all we pay for this service through tax money.

  4. Marc Coan Says:

    SAMM sounds almost too good to be true, for the money. $750 and they do everything but turn the wrenches. As an aircraft broker, I know that most owners don’t spend nearly enough time or money on maintaining their aircraft. Part of it is they just take it to the same place, over and over again, and pay whatever they quote. Or don’t pay if it’s too high of a quote. Anything that will result in our aging birds getting better maintenance is a good thing.

    On a different variation, I keep thinking that the number of people who can afford to buy and fly a $600,000 single has GOT to be limited. I think the manufacturers are going to have to offer a direct fractional option, whereby pilots in any major city can lease a 1/10 share of a new single for two years and have every expense but fuel known in advance. Then, in two years, they can do it again…and everything is taken care of. Call a number and they tow it out, then show up, fly, and pay your invoice once a month. I know Air Shares Elite and OurPlane try to offer this, but, as Beech did with its Aero Clubs in the 1970s, it’s going to have to be the planemakers if they want to continue to sell more planes.

  5. Krie Says:

    I really liked the way they came off

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