Mike BuschFor more than two decades, I've been helping aircraft owners deal with their thorniest maintenance problems, first as a technical representative for the 12,000-member Cessna Pilots Association, and more recently through the 10,000-member American Bonanza Society and the 2,000-member Cirrus Owners & Pilots Association.
I also write monthly maintenance columns for the magazines of these three "type clubs," as well as for EAA's Sport Aviation and the online aviation magazine and news service AVweb which I co-founded in the mid-90s and served as editor-in-chief for more than seven years (at which point it was sold to Belvoir Publications).
I find my technical support activities to be both rewarding and frustrating, rewarding because I love helping aircraft owners, but frustrating because those owners tend only to ask for my help after repeated trips to the maintenance shop, repeated expensive invoices, and repeated discoveries that their squawks remained unresolved. By the time they contact me, they are often desperate and angry, and I can't help but think (although I try not to say) "why didn't you contact me earlier?"
Six years ago, in an attempt to do something more pro-active to prevent owners from enduring these kinds of frustrations, I started going around the country teaching in-depth 17-hour weekend seminars to help owners learn to manage their maintenance better. About 1,000 owners have graduated from this seminar. Some have become excellent maintenance managers, but many have been unable to take full advantage of the training, either because they are too busy to do a proper job of managing their maintenance, or because they're just too uncomfortable managing the work of their shops and mechanics, telling them what they want done (and not done) instead of the other way around. Many owners find the whole subject of maintenance quite intimidating and far outside their comfort zone, and so they put themselves at the mercy of their shops and mechanics to make their maintenance decisions, and then are often quite unhappy with the outcome and sometimes feel taken advantage of or even victimized.
Consequently, about 18 months ago, I decided to start a new firm to provide professional maintenance management to the owners of owner-flown GA aircraft. Starting from scratch, we're now managing the maintenance of nearly 200 airplanes, mostly high-performance piston singles, light piston twins and cabin-class piston twins. To maintain these airplanes, we're working with hundreds of different maintenance shops throughout the U.S. Some of these shops are terrific, some are terrible, and some span the spectrum in between. One of our most important tasks is to try to persuade our aircraft-owner clients to patronize the good shops and avoid the bad ones. Once the shop has been chosen, we manage their work closely, making sure that they everything that is necessary and nothing that isn't. We scrutinize their estimates and invoices to make sure that our clients are getting maximum value for their maintenance dollars. Typically, we save each of our clients thousands of dollars a year in reduced parts and labor costs.
In the course of my type-club support activities, my writing, my teaching, and my professional maintenance management work, Not a day passes that I don't encounter and interesting maintenance-related war story. Some of them are just too valuable not to share. I decided to start this blog to share these stories with my fellow aircraft owners and mechanics. I hope you find them educational and enjoyable.
--Mike Busch A&P/IA CFI/A/ME
2008 National Aviation Maintenance Technician of the Year
President, Savvy Aviator, Inc.
President, Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management, Inc.