Promising less than an hour between the telephone call and wheels up, Gulfstream announced last month that it will fly parts and, if necessary, technicians to repair warrantied aircraft that are AOG anywhere in North America and the Caribbean if “normal commercial transportation methods” cannot be used to send technical assistance or deliver urgently needed parts.
Larry Flynn, senior v-p of aircraft services for Gulfstream Aerospace, said Airborne Product Support will dispatch a dedicated Gulfstream 100 at “absolutely no charge” with the most experienced technicians and any required parts aboard to fix the problem. Pilots and maintenance personnel will be available 24/7/365, and the person who answers the telephone call has the authorization to launch the repair aircraft.
He said Gulfstream created the program because delays in moving parts by normal methods are getting worse daily. The idea for Airborne Product Support was born during a “brainstorming” session, Flynn noted, and a three-month Beta test validated the concept.
Flynn said there are no caveats and no small-print clauses. In some cases the G100 will fly directly to the customer’s airplane. In other cases it will fly the people and the parts to a commercial hub so that they can meet an international flight to service an AOG airplane that is outside the U.S.
The program represents a “significant reduction” in the time required to return an aircraft to operational status, he explained, which will help “sustain and even improve our already industry-leading dispatch and reliability rates.”
According to Flynn, Gulfstream has dedicated flight crews that are able to be dispatched on a moment’s notice, technicians “literally on standby” whose bags and tool kits are packed and sitting in the Savannah, Ga. service center, along with any needed parts. “So we are mission capable very quickly with this airplane,” he said. “We are real excited about this program.”
The technician is selected according to what is wrong with the airplane. The number of times that the dedicated G100 is sent will depend on how often the commercial means of transportation works and how often an aircraft is grounded for a flight-critical malfunction.
Flynn said Gulfstream made the dispatch criteria “very simple” so that they could be used by the people who answer the telephone in Savannah. The company finds out when the still-warrantied AOG has its next trip scheduled, checks the normal commercial transportation schedules–typically, the airlines–and if the mechanics and/or parts cannot get there in time to meet the aircraft’s next slated trip, then Gulfstream dispatches its program airplane. “The whole point is not to miss the trip,” he said. “I think we’ve made the game rules simple enough.”
During the three-month Beta test period the dedicated G100 was dispatched on average a couple of times a week. Gulfstream has about 500 to 600 airplanes under warranty and is building and selling about 100 a year.
By way of example, Flynn said the Airborne Products Support G100 made a trip to Puerto Rico for an airplane that had a broken windshield. “Typically, airplanes choose to break on Friday night, for whatever reason,” he said.
Since it was late Friday night, it appeared that getting a windshield to Puerto Rico and through customs, and getting a technician there, would have resulted in a Monday or Tuesday fix under normal circumstances by the time the windshield sealant dried. “That airplane was back in service Saturday,” Flynn recalled. “We saved two or three days.”
Gulfstream is starting the program with one aircraft based in Savannah because the largest supply of parts and technicians is at the company’s headquarters, although Flynn did not appear to rule out another aircraft based perhaps on the West Coast. “A lot of our AOG trips leave from here, so we think one airplane is adequate,” he said, adding that the G100 can fly coast-to-coast nonstop and reach anywhere in North America in 5.5 hr. He called the new addition to the Gulfstream fleet well sized for the mission.
Bill Boisture, president of Gulfstream Aerospace, reiterated that the idea for the airborne support concept came out of a “leadership brainstorming session” that was discussing innovative levels of service. He said Gulfstream was unaware of any similar program offered by another OEM.
Noting that the company would not charge for the service or increase the prices of the parts, he said, “We have included this in the cost of operating the business. We think this is something our customers should expect, and we’re committed to providing it within the price of what we currently charge.”