Best Price! But at what Price?!

peanutsMore and more, all of us in the aviation industry are seeing companies slashing prices to get business.  When business gets slow or uncertain, it’s a natural response.  When supplies are high and demands are lower than normal, most companies do not have a choice but to do what is needed to keep cash coming in.  Being the bottom dollar price always seems like the easiest way to get people in the door.  Besides the ‘be careful what you ask for’ aspect of being the bottom dollar price leader, it is a trend that can ultimately create safety issues for the aviation industry.  In most industries, when prices bottom out and companies get desperate to make sales, quality and integrity are soon to follow.

valujetTo put it bluntly, aviation is not the industry for the bottom dollar effect.  Poor, lackluster maintenance and corner cutting jeopardizes safety.  Many fatal aircraft crashes such as Valujet in 1996 have proven this.  The FAA, EASA, and other organizations such as ISO have attempted to make sure these low quality, unsafe practices do not occur again.  However, the aviation world is too big and diverse for policing organizations to be everywhere all the time.

hire-amatureSoutheast Aerospace routinely encounters companies that are obviously cutting corners and practicing ‘pencil-whipping’ techniques to certify units as “airworthy”.  The FAA and OEMs simply cannot keep track of all the companies using outdated manuals, used service parts, and improper test equipment.  We see it every day and, unfortunately, unless we want to make enemies by submitting SUP (Suspected Unapproved Parts) reports every day to the FAA, we cannot stop it either.  Why would companies resort to shoddy, unsafe practices?

So, what can anyone do to make sure you are receiving a fair price for a quality part that is safe to install on an aircraft?

#1 Qualify your vendors. 

If you do not already have an ISO, FAA or ASA approved procedure to qualify who your vendors are, then, well, you should.  Sure, filling out vendor questionnaires all day is nothing anyone really wants to do.  However, anyone that cannot or does not want to fill out a vendor questionnaire should be looked out as a questionable source.   Do they have something to hide or are they just lazy?  If that’s the case, then they might not be the trustworthy either.

Ask for copies of paperwork before you make a purchase. 

Have you heard of the shop’s name on the 8130?  Isn’t even really an 8130?  There are companies trying to make extraneous certificates of conformance look like 8130 forms.  Why would someone do that unless they are trying to fool you into thinking you are receiving something you are not?

#3 Ask if they are an authorized dealer.EBay_logo_svg

Furthermore, in reference to the shop question in #2, is the shop that performed the inspection, repair, or overhaul on the unit even an authorized dealer for the OEM of the part?  Where did they get the technical data they used to test the unit?  Some guy selling a photocopy on EBay?  Where are they getting service parts to repair the unit if they cannot get them directly from the OEM?  The electronics dealer at the local flea market?  If you think EBay and the flea market are a stretch, then think again.  We have seen it firsthand.

#4 Look for and verify references.AEA LOGO

Does the vendor have any references or any way to get a little more information about them?  It is difficult to believe these days that anyone would not have some sort of Internet or social media presence.  Furthermore, how can a company be savvy and up-to-date in the industry if they do not even belong to any trade associations like the AEA, NBAA, HAI, etc?

#5 Ask about warranty and support.

What if an issue arises with your purchase?  Do you have any sort of confidence that the bottom dollar vendor is going to handle anything for you once they have your money?  Most will not.  If the vendor is not also a Certified Repair Station (CRS), in most cases, they will wash their hands of any warranty issues and tell you to contact the shop whose 8130 is on the unit.  Some vendors could care less if something works or not as long as it has a piece of paper with it.  Uncertified, unassociated, and unapproved vendors know ultimately that the burden of true air worthiness and applicability of parts falls on the last certifying agency which in most cases is a FAA CRS.  Vendors who have no affiliation with air agencies or recognized associations use this fact to their advantage.  It’s simple, less liability for them means less cost to them as well.  Bottom line: It’s your problem once you’ve bought it.

Old clichés such as “You Get What You Pay For” never seem to go away.  We learn lessons in our daily lives when we go for the lowest price option only to regret that decision.  However, as mentioned, in aviation, it goes further than that when we roll in SAFETY into the equation.

Do you trust that cheap part bargain for the safety of others?
Do you really want to find out what might happen as a result?

Your best bet is to find vendors who have proven track records of trustworthiness, reliability, and integrity.  Plus, it’s fairly simple to verify if someone is ripping you off because you can find just about anything on the Internet these days.  Just do a search for a part number and you are bound to find websites with prices.

There’s no doubt that Price Sells and everyone likes to get a good deal.  Everyone wants to save as much money as possible.  But at what price are you willing to pay less to not only get less but increase your risk factors as well?

Best Price at What Price?

FAA Completes Nationwide Equipment Installation for NextGen Aircraft Tracking System

Earlier this week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced the completion of a nationwide infrastructure upgrade that will enable air traffic controllers to track aircraft with greater accuracy and reliability, while giving pilots more information in the cockpit. This upgrade is a key improvement in the Next Generation Air Transportation System.

nextgen_blog“This upgrade is an important step in laying the foundation for the NextGen system, which provides controllers a much more precise view of the airspace, gives pilots much more awareness and information, and as a result strengthens the safety and efficiency of our system,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This state-of-the-art satellite system is already providing controllers with visibility in places not previously covered by radar.”

The nationwide installation of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) radio network supports a satellite-based surveillance system that tracks aircraft with the help of GPS. This provides more accurate aircraft location information than the current radar system.

NextGen refers to a set of initiatives being implemented by the FAA in collaboration with the aviation community to ensure that the United States has the safest, most efficient airspace possible for decades to come. In addition to ADS-B, NextGen improvements are already delivering benefits that include more efficient air traffic procedures that save time and fuel and reduce emissions.

“The installation of this radio network clears the way for air traffic controllers to begin using ADS-B to separate equipped aircraft nationwide,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. “It will also provide pilots flying aircraft equipped with the proper avionics with traffic information, weather data and other flight information.”

Of the 230 air traffic facilities across the country, 100 are currently using this system to separate traffic. It is expected to be connected and operating at all 230 facilities by 2019. All aircraft operating in controlled airspace must be equipped with ADS-B Out avionics that broadcast the plane’s location, by Jan. 1, 2020.

With the upgraded surveillance and broadcast system and aircraft equipped with ADS-B Out transponders, aircraft positions on controller screens update almost continuously, compared to every 4.7 seconds or longer with radar.

ADS-B also enables more accurate tracking of airplanes and airport vehicles on runways and taxiways, increasing safety and efficiency. The new system significantly improves surveillance capability in areas with geographic challenges like mountains or over water. Airplanes equipped with ADS-B In, which is not currently mandated, will give pilots information through cockpit displays about location in relation to other aircraft, bad weather and terrain, and temporary flight restrictions.

In addition to the operational benefits of ADS-B, each one of the 634 ground stations installed by Exelis of McLean, Va., is substantially smaller than a radar installation – resulting in less impact to the environment and less cost to maintain.

Source: Federal Aviation Administration