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Navigating Aircraft Maintenance and Avionics Work During COVID

As the world adjusts to a COVID-19 reality, aircraft maintenance and avionics shops are facing new challenges. With a little planning and savvy, aircraft owners and operators can take an active part in ensuring they receive the service they require on time and on budget.

In addition to the consumer conscious steps you take to choose the best maintenance or avionics shop for your needs, there are several additional important factors to consider during the pandemic.

Manpower

As it is across almost all industries worldwide, business is down in aviation. Aircraft maintenance shops have been forced to reduce hours and even staff. Across the nation, hundreds of aircraft mechanics have been furloughed, leaving shops with potentially longer lead times to complete work.

When researching an aircraft maintenance or avionics facility, ask pointed questions about staffing. Do they have the staff to meet the job’s requirements? Will their staffing allow them to guarantee meeting your timeline so you can get back in the air when you need to?

While it’s understandable that shops will be operating with less staff, what assurances can they give you about meeting your timeline and budget? A reputable shop will be upfront about their abilities, honest about timeline, and stand by their promise to meet your expectations. They will partner with you to meet your needs.

Preventative Work

A common theme throughout pandemic news coverage is the constant warning of a second wave. Economists believe there is a very real chance that another slowdown could come as soon as Fall 2020 if infections spike again. What does this mean for your aircraft?

“With the talk of the second wave, it would be a good idea to be thinking about what’s possible to get done during the warmer months,” says Michael Barr, Director of Service Center and Parts Sales for Hillsboro Aviation.

Talk with your aircraft maintenance and avionics shops about steps you can take this summer to avoid costly delays later in the year. In some cases, it may be worth having work done a little early.

Common items that can be addressed within a few months of their deadlines include:

  • IFR/VFR recertifications
  • Certain inspections and component inspections outside an annual
  • Manufacturers inspection procedures

Keep in mind, however, that having these inspections and recertifications done earlier than their due date does reset the clock. Yet, with infectious disease experts warning the pandemic could run well into 2021, moving these to a late summer timeframe could pay off again next year.

Precautionary Measures

The CDC published specific guidelines for aircraft mechanics, highlighting important steps they and their employers should take to protect their health and reduce chances of contracting and spreading the virus. Take a moment to ask how the facility incorporates these guidelines.

  • Are procedures in place to limit contact by maintenance and facility staff?
  • Are they cleaning and disinfecting touched surfaces regularly with virus killing products?
  • Are masks and gloves used all the time?
  • Are gloves changed between touching your aircraft and others?
  • Is there a focus on regular hand washing?
  • What are the procedures for potentially hazardous tasks such as cleaning cabin areas or replacing air and HEPA filters that could contain virus?

How the shop initiates and follows safety procedures to reduce the spread of coronavirus between employees reflects their commitment to the same for customers. In addition to asking about employee and company procedures, ask about the steps they are taking to ensure your safety.

Some key indicators that the aircraft maintenance or avionics shop is putting your safety first include:

  • Providing complete sanitation of your aircraft, inside and out, prior to delivering it back to you.
  • Limited in-person contact when dropping off and picking up your aircraft.
  • Use of masks and social distancing
  • Staggered appointments to ensure less contact in the office

Customer Service

While social distancing and additional safety precautions have become the norm today, a reduction in customer service should not. You should feel heard, understood, cared about, and respected every stop of your experience. You should never have to settle because of the pandemic.

A reputable aircraft maintenance or avionics shop will continue to go above and beyond in customer service.

“There are a number of seemingly small but very important things a facility can do to deliver superior customer service,” says Barr. “When you arrive, everything should be set and ready for you. Your paperwork should be done and someone knowledgeable about your needs is waiting to greet you and go over the work. This customer-focused approach should continue during the service with regular communication updates letting you know where they are in the work and what they’re seeing. You should feel you’re kept fully aware of the state of your inspection or install. When you pick up your aircraft, you have the same experience – all paperwork ready and someone waiting to go through all the details of the work, and for new equipment installations, walking you through the new equipment.”

Don’t forget the power of negotiation as a part of customer service. When you arrange to have work done, especially if you consolidate a checklist of items, don’t hesitate to ask about discounts, hard quote maintenance, and added extras.

“It’s not uncommon for larger facilities with multiple service offerings to offer incentives such as fuel discounts, reduced costs if you are consolidating a number of inspections or installs, hard quote maintenance, free detailing, etc.,” says Barr.

In the end, being aware of how the pandemic is affecting your shop and having discussions about how the impacts can be reduced or eliminated when it comes to your service can go a long way in ensuring you have a positive aircraft maintenance experience.

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