Timco has no problem working with customer IT systems and the maintenance control centers that release aircraft after repairs are done. The company has Galaxy devices on which it can load airline manuals and get real-time updates. “We have been beta-testing this for six months and plan to roll it out to all our stations,” Davis says.
Outsourced line maintenance can be anything from on-call support to dedicated services, notes Certified Aviation Services (CAS) President Brad Caban. “We are the workforce for the airlines.”
One advantage of being an outsource provider is that CAS learns how various airlines work. “We see the good, the bad and the ugly,” Caban says. “We can recommend best practices to our customers.” For example, CAS recommends efficient ways of handling documents and parts. And the company is helping several start-up carriers track liabilities, plan tools and inventories, and establish a maintenance control center. “You learn much quicker as a contractor.”
The other advantage of outsourcing is efficiencies of scale. “We can deploy staff efficiently for multiple customers,” Caban says. “They pay only for services, not full-time employees.” He estimates customers generally save about 15% of line-maintenance costs by outsourcing.
Airlines usually pull line work in-house when they receive up to five (remains over night) checks daily at a station. Fewer than five RONs per airline is the sweet spot for outsourcing. “Of course we want more than one customer at an airport,” Caban stresses. “Once we get to critical mass our efficiency goes up and we can build storage for inventory.”
Caban says one hurdle to outsourcing is that small airports try to keep national providers out in order to protect local providers. And some carriers still see contract maintenance as of lesser quality than in-house support. But he insists that national providers like CAS employ technicians comparable in experience and knowledge to airline mechanics.
Union interests are still quite strong, Caban acknowledges. “We are sensitive to that.” Unlike union shops, CAS does not pay seniority differentials. The CAS chief says working with multiple airline information systems is not a problem, as the company has learned to adapt.
CAS provides line support at 23 stations, sends teams to modify Airbus A320s in India, installs inflight entertainment and WiFi systems and does repairs like re-skins and stabilizer replacement.
Outsourcing line maintenance, where 70% of costs are for labor, can reduce overall labor expenses, says Andy Best, head of line maintenance-international at SR Technics (SRT). Line outsourcing also cuts costs for training, equipment and tooling, especially for start-up carriers.