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Friday, August 1, 2003

Starships Heading to the Shredder

Bob Howie

By the end of this year, as many as only 10 Beech Starships may remain on Planet Earth as Raytheon Aircraft has ordered destruction of the 40 Starships it owns.

Already the benchmark turboprops are showing up at a Marana, Arizona depot that will serve as their last home until they are stripped of marketable parts and components and then ground up.

Raytheon’s goal, according to spokesman Tim Travis, is to gain ownership of the remaining 10 Starships in private hands by offering attractive trade-in incentives toward other Raytheon models.

Travis said all parts and various other related components that have resale value will be removed from the airframes and offered in "as removed" condition with complete documentation from birth. While Raytheon currently carries a rather large inventory of new Starship parts housed mainly at its facility in Dallas, the "as removed" parts will help extend that availability for the immediate future.

"Some of the components were specific only to the Starship," Travis said, "and some of those companies have either gone out of business or are no longer really equipped to manufacture replacement parts."

The relatively high cost associated with manufacturing parts for a small fleet of aircraft along with liability exposure are the main reasons Raytheon is withdrawing the Starships from service and why the company is wrecking its 40-ship fleet.

"There will be support for the Starships left flying for as long as there are parts available," Travis said. "Raytheon will do whatever it can to support customers of its products as long as those products exist." –

 

FAA Delays Hazardous Materials Training Rules

The comment period for a proposed new rule on hazardous materials training requirements has been extended to September 5, 2003.

The new rule seeks to codify recommendations on training for handling of hazardous cargo, which currently are addressed primarily by FAA advisory circulars. Guidelines in the advisory circulars would be incorporated into parts 121 and 135 of the FAA regulations.

A new part of the proposed rule would apply to Part 145 repair stations and calls for additional training for employees who handle hazardous materials and further FAA scrutiny for 145 repair stations.

For more information and comment submission instructions, go to www.regulations.gov/freddocs/03-11244.htm.

 

2002 AMT Prize Winners Announced at AS3 Show

At the Aviation Services & Suppliers SuperShow held during May in Las Vegas, Nevada, winners of gifts donated by industry companies were selected by random drawing. Companies donated significant gifts, ranging from free airline travel to computers to training and tools. AMT Award winners who submitted their paperwork to the FAA won prizes generously donated by the following companies:

Grand prize, Delta Airlines: Matthew Shrum; 1st prize, Timco: George Joerger; 2nd prize, Aerolearn.com: Jules Reese; 3rd prize, SimuFlite: Graig Costakis; 4th prize, Frontier Airlines: Cary Higginbotham; 5th prize, Aircraft Technical Publishers: David Leung; 6th prize, Northrop Rice Aviation Institute of Technology: Tim Latimer; 7th prize, Aviation Data Research: Freddie Price; 8th prize, Association for Women in Aviation: Marcos Saur, Andrew Rubalcava, Pat Vaccaro, Craig Downar, Mark Chaney, Yemane Tsega; 9th prize, Avantext, Inc.: Eugene Shoemaker; 10th prize, Alteon (formerly FlightSafety Boeing): Ray Frizzell; 11th prize, Professional Aviation Maintenance Association: Rob Cummings; 12th prize, Continuum Applied Technology: Kevin Barnes; 13th prize, Baker’s School of Aeronautics: Edgar Gonzelez; 14th prize, Horizon Air: Arthur Mueller; 15th prize, Superior Air Parts, Inc.: Orlando Moya; 16th prize, FlightSafety International: Wayne Swift; 17th prize, Electronics International, Inc.: Mike Atkins; 18th prize, Aircraft Electronics Association: William Walker; 19th prize, AirLiance Materials: Jason Caldwell.

 

DOT OIG Releases Critical Airline Maintenance Outsourcing Report

Airline outsourcing of maintenance is a growing trend, according to a report released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General on July 8. (To see the entire report, go to www.oig.dot.gov/item_ details.php?item=1124.)

"The purpose of this report," according to the OIG, "is to focus on FAA’s safety oversight of current requirements for domestic and foreign repair station operations and identify where improvements are needed."

A big problem identified in the OIG report is that the FAA has spent an inordinate amount of inspector resources overseeing airlines’ in-house maintenance operations, but very little looking over outsourced maintenance done by repair stations for airlines. Airlines now use repair stations (not owned or operated by the airlines) for up to 47 percent of maintenance costs, the report stated. "As air carriers take aggressive steps to reduce operating costs, it is clear the trend toward increased use of repair stations is likely to continue."

In 1996, U.S. air carriers outsourced $1.5 billion worth of maintenance costs, according to the OIG report. In 2002, that number was $2.5 billion, a $1 billion increase. "Air carriers can save as much as 30 to 40 percent by outsourcing aircraft maintenance because labor rates are lower at repair stations."

Given the large increase in outsourcing and the fact that it is a large percentage of airlines’ maintenance costs, the OIG report noted that that FAA is not ramping up inspections of repair stations. "For example, inspectors at one air carrier completed 400 inspections of the air carrier’s in-house maintenance operations in fiscal year 2002, while only completing seven outsourced maintenance inspections of repair stations used by the air carrier during the same time period. During this same year, this air carrier outsourced 44 percent of its maintenance cost."

There also is a large disconnect within the FAA regarding repair station oversight. While FAA Flight Standards District Offices (FSDOs) are primarily responsible for repair station oversight, according to the report, the FAA is "only required to visit each facility once per year." And repair stations aren’t the FSDO inspectors’ sole responsibility. "For example, one FAA inspector was assigned oversight responsibility for 21 repair stations, 21 agricultural operations, 12 service-for-hire operators, three general aviation operators, two helicopter operations, and one maintenance school."

The report noted that FAA Certificate Management Offices also inspect repair stations. Yet "district office and certificate management inspectors do not share the limited repair station information they have obtained."

In general, the amount of FAA oversight of repair stations that do work for airlines is deficient. "When we visited 12 domestic and 9 foreign repair stations," the report noted, "we identified problems such as mechanics using incorrect aircraft parts and outdated maintenance manuals during repairs, and performing improper calibrations of tools and equipment at 18 of the 21 (86 percent) repair stations reviewed."

The OIG report also scrutinized foreign repair stations. "We found that FAA has no process in place to determine how much air carriers use repair stations…FAA could not tell us how much maintenance work is sent overseas," the report stated.

"Foreign inspectors [who perform repair station oversight for the FAA] do not provide FAA with sufficient information to determine what was inspected, what problems were found, and how they were corrected. In 14 of 16 (88 percent) files we reviewed, the inspection documentation provided to FAA was incomplete or incomprehensible."

The OIG found that maintenance labor rates vary widely between in-house and outsourced operations. "In-house labor rates to complete airframe work have been reported to be as high as $83 per hour, while labor rates for the same repair at a repair station range from $45 to $47 per hour. Labor rates charged by some foreign repair stations are even lower. For instance, one repair station we visited in Mexico charges approximately $40 per hour for airframe repairs. One airline reported that air carriers save 30 to 40 percent by sending maintenance work to repair stations instead of completing the repairs in-house."

The report highlights some interesting statistics. The three major airlines, Delta, United, and Northwest, increased their outsourced maintenance costs substantially since 1996. Delta and United almost doubled their outsourcing while Northwest’s increased to 44 percent from 31 percent. And these, according to the report, are airlines "not typically known to extensively outsource maintenance work…"

The FAA responded to the report and will address the issues raised, the OIG stated: "FAA’s response is constructive and the actions the agency commits to will significantly improve safety oversight of both domestic and foreign repair stations."

Midcoast Aviation appointed Wayne Hunsdorfer as director, avionics and maintenance sales, with a special assignment to help operators of business aircraft understand how to meet new FAA safety equipment requirements. Hunsdorfer will arrange for a Midcoast team to meet with operators at no charge "to evaluate current avionics, identify what additional systems are needed, and develop individualized plans that bring them into compliance with FAA avionics directives," said a Midcoast statement. "Trying to make sense of today’s avionics requirements is no easy task," Hunsdorfer said. "We are putting our avionics expertise to work to help operators figure out the pros and cons of available products and which suit their individual needs."

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