December 3, 2021, ©. Leeham News: Last week, we went through typical problems by the start of serial production, such as weight creep and traveled work.
Now we discuss the ins and outs of delivering the aircraft to the customer airline and how we support the aircraft’s entry into service.
Before we come as far as delivery of the aircraft to the customer there are a number of things we have to do to prepare for delivery. The whole setup on how we support the aircraft’s entry into service must be cleared with the customer.
We must agree with the airline over:
1) How do we do the pilot, maintenance, cabin crew, and dispatcher training.
2) What spare parts shall the customer have onsite and what spare parts shall we have in stock. How do we support functional parts called Line Replaceable Units (LFRUs, for instance, an avionics box) or rotables? A rotable is an item that has a service life defined (can be until a Built-In-TEst (BITE) fails) and is sent to us or a supplier for repair as we send them the exchange item.
3) How do we conduct on-site support. Do we provide an on-site representative from us during the initial Entry Into Service (EIS) of the aircraft? He coordinates all the communication with us and helps the customer to find the right person in our organization for any queries. He also manages any repairs or field upgrades needed.
4) Process agreements around how the customer will report issues/failures to us and how we will share service bulletins and safety information with them.
The customer will control that the delivery from us fulfills the specification and quality that he has contracted. Customer representatives will continuously come for checks during our production of the aircraft. During the final assembly, his representatives can inspect systems before we start closing up the aircraft and installing cabin items. Delivery inspection protocols are created and it’s defined how any deficiencies will be handled.
Once the aircraft is rolled off the assembly line and painted, the final inspection is done. When completed our test flights of the aircraft commence where we check the functionality and performance. Any deficiencies (Squawks) are corrected and when we are satisfied, the customer delivery control flights starts. The customer’s pilots and technicians check that the aircraft functions as expected and has the agreed performance.
During delivery, we also deliver the regulatory paperwork like the Certificate of Airworthiness. We must demonstrate conformity to the type design, which includes any customer-unique options or changes. We also deliver all aircraft documentation such as the airplane Flight Manual and Instructions for Continued Airworthiness (maintenance documentation etc).
Once everything is completed to the satisfaction of the customer the aircraft “changes title’. This means the customer is now the owner of the aircraft and he issues a money transfer to us of the outstanding purchase price. From about two years before delivery, the customer has supported our production of the aircraft by doing part-payments, so-called PreDelivery Payments, PDPs. These shall cover our cost of purchase of material and subsystems and our workhours invested in the aircraft. The paid amount shall balance the gradual value growth of the aircraft. Finally, at aircraft delivery, the balance is paid.
After delivery, the airlines might not use the aircraft for passenger services for a short period of time. He uses it to train his organization on the aircraft and do some route checks.
As we prepare for the customer’s start of operations we need to check our failure reporting works. Typically we have set up an online portal to allow operators to report all problems to us. This supports the fixing of the faults and the reporting of our reliability statistics, so if an article we furnish with the airplane is unreliable and we want to switch brands or make a product improvement, we have the statistical data for such actions.
The statistics also flow into our maintenance side where we check if our predictions of the reliability of parts and systems fit. Do we put certain parts/systems on increased check frequency for wear or other anomalies?
Parts and systems that fail during our Warranty period (typically a year on smaller aircraft, two years on airliners) are changed and repaired at our cost. This can be done by the airline’s mechanics (where we pay their work hours + parts) or if it’s a larger exchange of items we can send update teams to the airline for the job.
The delivery and entry into service is a critical period for an OEM’s relation to the customer. Prepare well and be proactive and attentive and you can compensate for the typical initial problems with an aircraft type. Fail on any of these accounts and other potential customers will get wind of it.
A new OEM is judged not only on the aircraft’s performance, but also on how well he can handle the delivery and EIS phase for his customers.
It can even more complicated with “Customer Furnished Equipment”, where the customer ordered equipment like toilets, chairs, rugs, etc. are drop shipped to the aircraft manufacturer and receiving inspection contracted to them, and if items don’t pass inspection the aircraft cannot be finished and delivered. LRU “Line Replaceable Unit” is designed to be replaced on-wing. Rotables are normally LRU’s that can be repaired with both as a difference to consumables like filters that are one time use only. The “Provisioning conferences” are interesting as after customers signed all papers and made payments the conferences start and huge lists of suggested spare parts are presented from different OEM’s that deliver components to the aircraft manufacturer and different pool suppliers present spare parts/APU/Engine/Nacelles statistical availability for different $/flight hrs.
It brings to the fore how much of an aircraft success is in the support end.
Fun to get to see the insides of a test bird