Why Do Business Jets Have High Maintenance Costs?
Spotting an Ideal Reflection of Aviation
Blackshape Aircraft 2020 with Luciano Belviso, Founder & CEO of Blackshape Aircraft

Muhammed Yılmaz

Why Do Business Jets Have High Maintenance Costs?

Issue 17 - 2023
Why Do Business Jets Have High Maintenance Costs?

All aircraft, regardless of how often you use them, must undergo periodic Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO). MRO is not only an essential aspect of the aviation industry but also a fundamental requirement for business jets.

Periodic maintenance is essential to ensure the continued airworthiness of business jets. The aircraft builders and engine manufacturers play a crucial role in this process by offering guidance to owners on periodic and preventive maintenance throughout the aircraft's operational lifespan. When business jets are handed over to their owners, they come with comprehensive maintenance instructions provided by the manufacturer, along with a prescribed timetable for performing these maintenance tasks. 

Ensuring comprehensive maintenance is the primary requirement to ensure aircraft operate at the utmost safety standards. This not only enhances passenger comfort and flight safety but also elevates the market value of the aircraft compared to similar ones. Failure to adhere to maintenance regulations renders an aircraft unairworthy and may result in legal grounding. The responsibility falls on the owner or operator of the private jet to diligently comply with maintenance requirements and ensure complete execution of the necessary maintenance procedures.

Opting for Cheap Maintenance Is a Gamble!

Undoubtedly, the maintenance of business jets is a complex and expensive process. The costs associated with maintaining private jets can indeed be daunting for some prospective buyers. In such cases, opting to charter a private jet can be an alternative that outweighs the decision to purchase.

Based on a general estimate, the annual maintenance cost of a private jet is typically projected to range from $500,000 to $1,000,000. However, it is important to note that this figure can vary depending on several factors. The age of the aircraft, the frequency of its use, and the operating conditions within destinations and routes can all impact the overall maintenance expenses.

In addition to the scheduled/routine maintenance of aircraft, there are instances where malfunctions and unforeseen maintenance expenses arise during aircraft operation. For example, repairing a flat tire alone can incur a minimum cost of $2,500. This clearly shows us that the maintenance and repair processes of business jets are very expensive. Yet, focusing solely on this is not meaningful. Undoubtedly, the idea of owning a business jet comes with significant maintenance and operational costs. However, it's critical to note that the maintenance bills being higher than expected can also be attributed to mistakes made by the business jet owners or operators themselves.

Private jet owners or operators may indeed seek economical maintenance solutions to minimize costs. However, it's important to recognize that there is often a trade-off between cost and safety. So, why is it expensive to have quality maintenance on airplanes? What factors should be considered when aiming to reduce maintenance expenses?

To put it straightforwardly, compromising flight safety to save money on maintenance is an irrational decision. Aircraft owners or operators need to realize that neglecting insignificant details unrelated to airworthiness can escalate into serious problems that will incur much higher costs in the future. Some issues that are overlooked during maintenance, in an attempt to reduce expenses, may impact unexpected parts/systems and hinder the proper functioning of other systems. To summarize, pushing boundaries or disregarding important aspects to cut costs in aircraft maintenance is undeniably a gamble in terms of flight safety. While aiming to make maintenance more affordable, one may ultimately end up with a significantly higher maintenance bill.

Solving the issues during the times when the aircraft is grounded for scheduled and extensive maintenance will provide much greater benefits in the long run rather than taking the aircraft out of flight due to minor malfunctions and issues and frequently interrupting operations for unscheduled maintenance and repairs.

At this point, it becomes extremely important for MRO service providers to find reasonable and balanced solutions for their customers' needs. For an aircraft owner or operator, having all scheduled/unscheduled maintenance services of their aircraft performed by the same provider under a comprehensive agreement can bring various advantages. This win-win relationship helps to reduce costs over time.

Flight control surfaces, control mechanisms, landing gear wheel wells, and wing trailing edges, which are extremely sensitive, can be affected very quickly by environmental and ambient conditions, and daily weather changes. Quickly inspecting such sensitive areas, which are not required to be inspected as part of the maintenance program, can provide long-term financial peace of mind.

Beware of MRO Service Providers Offering Very Low Prices! 

Clear and effective communication, transparency, and clarity play critical roles in the business jet maintenance process. The teams responsible for collecting bids from different providers and preparing maintenance agreements need to pay special attention to clearly defining the maintenance tasks that should be performed on the aircraft. A lack of clarity and understanding between the aircraft owner and the MRO service provider representatives regarding the requested work and the scope of services promised can lead to complications and result in higher maintenance bills.

The verbal discussions that are not documented between operators and MRO service providers can lead to unexpected outcomes once the aircraft enters the hangar. Issues that were not clearly defined or included in the written agreement can cause frustration for both parties and result in increased maintenance costs.

Exercising caution when evaluating man-hours rates or discounts that appear unusually low in offers from MRO service providers is crucial. It is equally important to ensure that the duration of maintenance and contingency plans for schedule deviations are clearly stated in the written agreement. Failure to document these details can result in unforeseen expenses and higher maintenance costs.

Certainly, not all discounted offers by MRO service providers imply poor maintenance standards or hidden costs that will be incurred later. The analysis should take into account the timing and demand fluctuations in the MRO industry. During periods of low maintenance demand, it is common for MRO service providers to offer discounts when their capacity is underutilized. These discounts, offered outside of peak periods, can help reduce costs related to materials and labor in the maintenance invoice.

Which Problems Most Commonly Cause Business Jets to Undergo Repairs?

Bird strikes: Aircraft sometimes do not get along well with the birds with which they have to share the sky. One of the most frequent causes for business jets to enter the hangar is bird strikes during the landing and takeoff.

Bird strikes primarily result in damage to several key areas of business jets, including the cockpit windows, trailing edges of the wings and horizontal stabilizer, as well as the propeller blades of the engines. 

Foreign Object Debris (FOD): Since aircraft engines are very powerful, stones, bolts, or any other foreign objects on the ground can be sucked into the aircraft, causing significant or minor malfunctions. The costs associated with these incidents can vary depending on factors such as the size of the foreign object and the extent of its impact on the engine or fuselage.

Flat Tires: Locked brake discs can cause tires to overheat and blow out. In such cases, it is crucial to replace the tires immediately before the next flight. Tire blowouts can also occur due to brake problems, frozen discs, under- or over-inflated tires, or deformation of the tire by a foreign object debris (FOD).

Cabin Pressurization System Failure: To maximize speed and fuel economy, most aircraft fly at very high altitudes. This creates the need for a pressurization system to ensure that passengers and crew can breathe comfortably in the cabin without the need for supplemental oxygen. The valve that regulates the in-cabin pressure can malfunction for various factors. In such cases, the aircraft needs to be towed to the hangar and the valve needs to be repaired to restore its functionality 

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