Owning a private jet comes with responsibilities, not least the private jet maintenance involved.
Taking care of your aircraft is key to it not only performing as designed but also ensuring passenger safety when in the sky.
In addition, the more frequently you perform maintenance on your plane, the less likely it is that larger, more expensive issues will crop up.
Regular maintenance is key to nipping these in the bud.
Therefore, let’s take a look at what you need to consider when looking at private jet maintenance, along with the costs involved.
Who is Responsible for Private Jet Maintenance?
First things first, you may be unsure of whose responsibility it is to maintain the aircraft— the owner themselves, the crew, or the aircraft management firm.
Well, as it turns out, the responsibilities are somewhat split between them all.
Ultimately, the owner is in charge of federal regulations, which we will go over in more detail further on.
Owners of private jets are able to perform or sign off on certain preventative measures for the jet.
When it comes to the responsibilities of the pilot, these include making sure the jet is in a safe condition suitable for flight and staying up to date on the regulations that relate to plane operation and maintenance.
In addition to these, it is required of pilots to have an FAA-approved flight manual, or a copy of operational limitations, inside the aircraft with them.
Other documents that pilots must have displayed are Registration Certificates and valid Airworthiness Certificates.
So, where does the aircraft management firm come into it? Well, think of it like having an accountant.
You can outsource your tax calculations to an accountant and they will perform the task. Naturally, you will trust them to perform the role correctly.
However, ultimately it is down to the individual to ensure that they are completing their taxes correctly.
Similar to this, an aircraft management firm will usually ensure that an aircraft is up-to-date with its maintenance events and inform the owner, however, the legal responsibility is down to the owner.
What Does Jet Maintenance Include?
There are many different requirements when it comes to jet maintenance.
Some of the specifics will vary depending on factors such as the use of the jet and the type of aircraft.
This is why it is so important to look up requirements for maintenance for the particular jet you own or are flying so that you can be sure the aircraft is completely up to snuff.
Different inspections happen at different increments of time— some daily, while others are set at a certain number of hours, for instance.
We will go over the different kinds of inspections below.
Daily and Preflight Jet Inspections
First, we come to daily inspections.
These are commonly done if a plane has been grounded for a long period.
Whether or not daily inspections are being done, the pilot must still perform a preflight inspection prior to takeoff.
This will consist of following a checklist regarding items in the wings, nose, empennage, and nose.
Hourly Jet Inspections
As we mentioned previously, different models of jets will have different maintenance requirements.
Depending upon the model and the amount of miles it has traveled, there will be maintenance requirements at certain intervals of hours.
These intervals can be at 100 hours, 200 hours, 400 hours, 600 hours, or more.
The higher the hour interval, the more that the inspection will cover.
It is important to remember that the more often a jet is flown, the more often it will require these inspections.
Additionally, many of there hourly inspections will also have a time limit on them.
Therefore, it will be every number of hours or every number of months to ensure that even for low-hours aircraft they are being maintained.
These are routine maintenance items, so they do not include any emergency maintenance that may occur from time to time.
If unexpected issues arise, these must be addressed before the aircraft’s next flight and will likely require additional maintenance.
Every 12 months, your jet is also required to undergo an annual inspection.
The manufacturer of the aircraft is the one who sets the requirements for annual inspections, just like they do for hourly inspections.
This means that requirements will differ between different models of jets.
The annual inspection can be done in a few different ways.
It can be performed by a certified A&P mechanic who has an inspection authorization, or by the aircraft manufacturer themselves.
It can also be performed by a certified repair station.
What Is Included In a Jet Maintenance Program?
Jet maintenance programs vary depending on the model of the jet, just like inspection requirements vary for each type of aircraft.
There are many points that are usually included in the typical jet maintenance program.
They will typically include the following:
- Acquiring and replacing parts
- Maintenance tracking
- Logbook entries and logbook research
- Airworthiness Directives compliance
- Scheduled maintenance
- Unscheduled maintenance
- Requested service bulletin compliance
- Pre-purchase inspections
- Necessary parts replacements and repairs
- Avionics installations
- Engineering and certification, or STCS
- APU and engine inspections and maintenance
- Interior and exterior cleaning and detailing
A lot of these points help in being proactive so that larger and more costly issues do not appear down the line.
Conducting regular maintenance is important for being proactive.
Additionally, maintenance programs will often be separated into airframe programs and engine programs.
Hot Section Inspection
Once your jet has flown a particular amount of hours, the manufacturer will recommend that you overhaul parts such as the engine.
When the Time Between Overhaul approaches, you will need to schedule a Hot Section Inspection.
These are also referred to as HSI.
An HSI typically occurs at around every 1,500 to 2,000 flight hours, though this can vary by aircraft model.
During an HSI, all components of the plane that are susceptible to high pressure and temperature are inspected by the maintenance team. These are the:
- Temperature sensors
- Combustion chambers
- Compression turbines
- Air compressors
- Turbine shroud segments
If the maintenance team finds fault with any of these, then you will need to replace the part immediately before the jet takes to the air again.
It creates a safety concern as any of them could fail to serve their purpose in flight.
However, this does not refer to minor issues that the team might find with the parts.
A HSI is less disruptive than a full overhaul, as well as being less expensive. It only takes a few days to complete.
Full Overhaul Jet Maintenance
If an HSI reveals severe issues with your jet, then it is time for a full investigation.
They will go through a process of dismantling components to study them better.
The process includes the following:
- Disassembling all components
- Examining each part
- Repairing or replacing all damaged or defective parts
- Reassembling all components
- Testing via trial runs
Some of the testing methods that a maintenance team may use— depending upon the components being examined— include X-ray inspections, dye tests, or eddy current electric inspections.
A top overhaul refers to an inspection of components located outside the crank space.
It also does not require a complete disassembly of the jet’s engine.
On the other hand, a full or major overhaul requires the engine to be taken apart as well so that the maintenance team can test each component and repair or replace them accordingly.
How Much Does Private Jet Maintenance Cost?
There is not a one-size-fits-all answer about the price of jet maintenance.
This is because the maintenance requirements vary so much between aircraft models.
In addition to this, the price of maintenance can be affected by hours flown and the types of maintenance service you are in need of.
Ultimately, the larger the aircraft the more it will cost to maintain.
For example, a small jet engine overhaul will likely cost in the region of $250,000 per engine.
A much larger engine can cost upwards of $2 million per engine.
However, there are two different ways that private jet maintenance is charged and paid for.
The first of these is a pay-as-you-go approach.
For this, the owner of the jet will be able to calculate costs based on the jet’s age, as well as current and prior usage.
The other alternative is to pay into maintenance programs.
A jet owner may enroll in one of these, of which there are many, and are invoiced monthly for the contribution.
They pay an hourly rate that is calculated to cover a defined amount or level of maintenance.
It is very similar to a warranty.
In fact, the majority of new planes come with a manufacturer maintenance program that you can choose to opt into if you prefer this approach.
There are also plenty of third-party maintenance programs as well.
Where Should You Go For Private Jet Maintenance?
When you are scheduling maintenance on your jet, you can choose to go to a manufacturer center or an independent center.
If you decide to go to the manufacturer center, you may receive more peace of mind knowing that the same people who set the specifications of maintenance for your model of the jet are the ones working on it and completing that maintenance.
One of the factors to consider, which ties into this, is intellectual property at a manufacturer center.
Techs at a manufacturer center have a protected and comprehensive understanding of how the aircraft was built and designed— which outside maintenance centers may not possess as thoroughly.
That ties into maintenance because it allows those working on the maintenance of your jet to make more informed decisions.
Manufacturer centers also have connections that many independent centers may not.
Manufacturers are often able to partner with other industry leaders and innovators, which can help to create a new standard.
A lot of this comes down to reputation and quality of work.
There are plenty of third party, independent centers that have great reputations and will deliver a quality job.
You just need to be sure to do your due diligence when making that choice and doing your research.