- Maintenance programs have a material impact on how an airline operates, its costs, and its revenue
- Airlines have a choice with regards to Maintenance Programs – use the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)’s MRBR/MPD or customize it and optimize for their unique operation and environment
- Maintenance Program optimization is a commonly employed strategy that has contributed to increased profitability without compromising safety
WHY AN AIRLINE CHOOSES TO OPTIMIZE ITS MAINTENANCE PROGRAM
Greater Customer Satisfaction
Improved on-time performance
Increased aircraft availability
Less maintenance hours and hangar time
The benefits of a fully optimized maintenance program are accessible by packaging and optimizing maintenance to:
- Take full advantage of planned maintenance events and schedule tasks for common access – reducing the frequency with which tasks require access to or removal of an assembly, part or panel
- Perform maintenance at its highest effective interval
- Adjust program requirements to address reliability drivers
- Move maintenance effort out of operational line stations and into controlled hanger environments
- Simplify maintenance packages to reduce the planning burden
- Develop a life of unit lowest cost check structure taking into account fleet life cycle
Reducing the number of maintenance units (aircraft) on the ground or in the hanger results in more aircraft available to fly and earn revenue.
An optimized program for a regional airline brought 1 aircraft onto the flight schedule.
Optimized Maintenance Task content and check intervals reduces maintenance and engineering labor hours / costs.
For another airline, the optimized program reduced the number of C Checks which yielded a 20% maintenance cost saving per aircraft for the life of each aircraft.
Remaining compliant with ‘one size fits all’ MRB programs requires a significant investment in infrastructure and resources. Underinvestment can lead to overruns. Simplification reduces complexity and costs.
Robust data analysis informs program enhancements and reduces maintenance effort which improves aircraft reliability and availability.
Optimization of all checks reduces the utilization of scarce line and hanger resources and addresses bottlenecks in MRO maintenance execution.
Reductions in maintenance touch time directly reduces human factors risks.
FAA REQUIREMENTS AND EXPECTATIONS
For airlines regulated by the FAA, Advisory Circular No.120-16(X) Air Carrier Maintenance Programs describes the mandated scope and content of an air carrier’s aircraft maintenance programs.
Use of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM)’s MRBR/MPD is mandated for the first year of operation for any new fleet added to an operators OpSpec. One year is specified to collect the minimum data required to support an operator’s Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS) program which amongst other things, ensures maintenance decisions are driven by a consistent baseline of data.
After one year, AC 120-16(X) Chapter 6 requires an operator to maintain an effective program customized to their unique operation using specific data analysis. This is often misinterpreted as meaning the MRBR/MPD and subsequent revisions are the most effective and optimized program, however, the exact opposite can be true.
…doing more maintenance is not necessarily a good thing as human factors risks are exposed every time maintenance is performed. Doing the right maintenance at the highest optimized effective interval based on a robust data analysis should be an operator’s ultimate goal to flying a safe, reliable and cost-effective fleet.”
– Federal Aviation Authority (FAA)
The MRBR/MPD is applicable to a fleet operating worldwide and is intentionally designed to support every operator: new airlines with no fleet experience, airlines operating in extreme operational environments, operators without robust regulatory oversight, and sophisticated operators in highly regulated, moderate operational environments – in effect a ‘one size fits all’ approach.
Operators following the MRBR’s intentionally restrictive program requirements will not be optimized to their unique operation and environment.
The FAA explicitly provides for a different philosophy than that which underpins the OEM MRB. Chapter 6 requires U.S. operators analyze their own data and make program changes and employ a customized strategy. It is the operator’s responsibility to effectively package MRBR/MPD tasks and intervals into a program for the full life of their fleet. Customized programs are then reviewed and approved by the FAA.
The distinction between a customized program and an optimized program is important. Customized is defined as ‘modified to suit a particular individual or task’ and mandated by the FAA. Optimized is defined as ‘make the best or most effective use of something’ – an opportunity available only to those who customize. Program optimization is how Maintenance and Engineering can create value.
Continuing to utilize the OEM MRB as the platform for program maintenance beyond year one for a new fleet/aircraft is sometimes justified as “the safe approach” but there is no evidence to suggest optimized programs approved by the FAA are less safe.
HOW CAN AN OPTIMIZED MAINTENANCE PROGRAM HELP YOUR AIRLINE?
The value of an optimized maintenance program to any operator is typically influenced by 5 factors:
- Fleet size
- Fleet configuration
- Fleet utilization
- Operational environment and conditions
- Experience of the Maintenance and Engineering team
The key two key questions for leaders responsible for Planning, Maintenance and Engineering, and Finance are:
1. Does your current maintenance program provide all the flexibility required to fully support flight operations?
2. Do you know if you are doing the right maintenance at the highest effective interval?
If you answered yes to either, your airline stands to benefit and should consider optimizing it’s program.