Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2015-16 Edition - 37
Of course, many in-service general aviation airplanes
will see new or overhauled engines in their lifetime, or a
new avionics stack. That's one reason the avionics industry
exists. But these routine tasks typically are performed on a
piecemeal, as-needed basis as operators avoid lengthier
downtimes and higher bills by not working on other aircraft
systems. At least until recently, it's rare for an entire GA
airplane to be disassembled, inspected, brought to new
specification and put back together in one operation. That's
a process known as refurbishing, and it's been receiving
renewed emphasis throughout the industry.
It's also a process not for the impatient or faint of heart.
That's because it's rare to find a turn-key, one-stop shop
for all this work. Without a single vendor or point of contact,
owners and operators must invest their own resources to
manage the process and make the inevitable decisions during it. Some owners have the bandwidth and experience
to manage their aircraft's refurbishment, which can be a
lengthy and time-consuming process. Others neither have
the time or the expertise to handle such a project.
There's also corner-cutting: Do the wings really need to
come off for inspection? Are new control cables and pulleys really needed? Should that landing-gear component
be replaced, or is it " good enough? " In other words, where
do you draw the line? If the goal is a " new" airplane, how
close to new is close enough? Does " new" mean " original"
or " modernized? "
What if all those questions - along with avionics, paint
and interior - were decided before the airplane entered the
shop? Things would get simpler. Standards beyond the
regulated minimum could be met. Other than unforeseen
repairs - which there always are during any major refurbishment project - both the customer and the vendor know
what's going to happen before the airplane is rolled onto the
shop floor. Parts and equipment can be pre-ordered, workflow prioritized and time saved, not to mention money. The
airplane basically can be put on an assembly line, with all
involved parties knowing their role and responsibility for the
finished product: a like-new airplane, decades after it left the
Depending on the airplane, there can be many questions,
but the same renewed emphasis on refurbishment means
many already have been answered. In fact, some standards
are beginning to emerge. For example, piston-powered
training airplanes always are in demand, but one of the
most popular primary trainers ever built - Cessna's 150/152
series, with some 23,000 copies manufactured worldwide -
hasn't been in production for 30 years. Fixing that oversight
is one of the ideas behind an initiative by the Aircraft Owners
and Pilots Association and Aviat Aircraft Inc., which partnered to develop the Reimagined Aircraft program, focusing
on the 150/152. Sporty's Pilot Shop also has a refurbishment
program for Cessna's 172, the 172LITE, which targets training organizations unable or unwilling to spring for a new one.
In both cases, an existing airframe is at least partially
disassembled, inspected, repaired as necessary, then put
back together with a new or overhauled engine and propeller, fresh paint and interior, new avionics and much more. In
the case of the Reimagined 150/152, the result is what Aviat
President Stu Horn called " a great value for flying clubs,
flight schools, partnerships and even some individuals." The
Sporty's pitch is similar, promoting the " appearance and
ramp appeal of a new airplane" plus the drastically reduced
acquisition and operating costs of its 172LITE when compared to a new 172.
That's great if you're looking for an economical Cessna,
but what about other airplanes, especially high-performance
piston singles? If you're looking for a new Cessna Centurion,
Piper Comanche or V-tailed Beech Bonanza, you can't have
one - they went out of production at least 30 years ago.
They all still offer substantial transportation value, though,
especially since those pesky aerodynamic and thermodynamic laws remain in effect. Sure; a new Cirrus SR22, Piper
Matrix, Beech Model 36 Bonanza or Cessna 206 Stationair
can be had, but a well-equipped, in-service copy is substantially less expensive and offers the same basic transportation
value as the new one.
That's one of the ideas behind the Triple R Affordable
Aircraft Initiative. Triple R is short for rebuilds, restores and
re-equips and is an organized process to " rebuild and sell
GA airplanes using industry-accepted best practices at qualified Part 145 and custom repair shops." Ultimately, Triple R
is working to create new markets and accountability leading
to improving aircraft values, reliability and ownership economics.
Tom Bliss is Triple R's chairman and founder. He's a
long-time general aviation pilot and aircraft owner who
also serves as AVweb.com's publisher, and he's definitely
bullish on the market for overall airplane refurbishing projects. Along the way, he's convinced standardization and
high quality are key.
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