He describes an eight-step redelivery preparation process, covering activities required in each step, aimed at creating a library of documents and avoiding surprises. Each aircraft re-delivery, in his estimation, demands between 2,000 and 2,500 man-hours of document research, planning and preparation.
“Invest lots of time up front, so you can analyze risks and determine whether you need additional return activities,” said Westervlier, such as repair assessment, for example, or even having to re-certify existing repairs. The operating airline needs to develop an extensive knowledge database and “maybe even create your own standard,” he observes, one that exceeds those of the lessor with whom the airline is doing business.
Thanos Pascalis, a consultant for the International Air Transport Association, thinks technology holds the key to simplifying and streamlining lease-return documentation.
“We should be aiming for a cloud-computing environment for all aircraft documentation,” he said. “It’s easy, and airlines, lessors,” and even regulators, under certain controlled parameters, “could get access.”
One cloud-computing vendor at the conference, AirVault, claims a study of five of its client airlines, with 1,200 tails, showed a $28,000 return on investment per tail over four years.
Air Canada uses the system, and Christine Cartwright—who manages technical records for the airline—confirmed that she has seen dramatic improvements in speed and efficiency thanks to the cloud.
“Maintenance record retrieval from the cloud is less than two minutes compared with 48 hours when records are in offsite storage,” she notes.
For an airline with a sophisticated engineering department and access to a cloud-computing environment, lease-return may be simplified. But all of this may just be too much for the typical small operator that relies heavily on leasing.
“Paperless cockpits are well along, but paperless maintenance is still a challenge,” says Pascalis. “We’re still dealing with dirty-fingerprint copies” of key documents in the process, even when those required documents contribute little either to safety or asset value.