By Ty Corley, Helicopter Technical Advisor at JSSI
According to a recent announcement from Airbus Helicopters, the global helicopter market is finally showing the first signs of recovery and will continue this upward trend in 2022. As operators manage an increase in utilization, while continuing to navigate a challenging business climate, one critical area that cannot be ignored is that of helicopter maintenance.
Factors to consider when planning helicopter maintenance
As helicopter technical advisor here at JSSI and technical chairman of the British Helicopter Association (BHA), over the years I have often heard the question: ‘How often does a helicopter need maintenance?’
It would be convenient to be able to answer this succinctly for every helicopter owner and operator. However, there are inevitably many variables to consider. So, here’s the slightly longer answer to that question, outlining just a few of the considerations that play a role in how often a helicopter needs maintenance.
How does the complexity of a helicopter impact maintenance requirements?
The complex nature of the typical systems on a helicopter, particularly its transmission and rotating parts and accessories, puts it under much greater stress than a fixed-wing aircraft. The result is that more frequent maintenance is required for a helicopter than a typical business jet or turboprop.
How is helicopter maintenance forecast?
Helicopter maintenance is forecast by a combination of the calendar, hours and cycle-based parameters. Some tasks will be controlled by one or all of these methods, depending on which comes first.
How is the airframe and engine maintenance schedule determined?
Maintenance timings are based on schedules outlined by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM), with separate airframe and engine schedules in Chapter 5 of the OEM maintenance manuals. These are subsequently combined into a maintenance program for a specific helicopter and can be loaded on to a digital maintenance tracking platform, such as Traxxall or SierraTrax.
What type of helicopter maintenance is required?
There are two different classifications of maintenance: line maintenance and base maintenance.
Line maintenance involves more frequent, smaller tasks that can be carried out by one mechanic to keep the helicopter serviceable on a daily basis. These tasks can include visual inspections, airworthiness directives (ADs), or daily inspections prior to flight, and some of these can also be carried out remotely.
Base maintenance involves the undertaking of more complex tasks. These require longer periods of downtime and more mechanics to perform them. Traditionally, this work is carried out at a base maintenance facility, where all the necessary staff, tooling, and ground support equipment are immediately available.
How does helicopter design affect maintenance requirements?
Advancements in helicopter design are helping to extend maintenance times. For example, visual inspection airworthiness directives (ADs) have a frequency of 10–25 flying hours on some models. Several modern helicopters can even run for 50–100 hours without needing maintenance, although they will still need a daily inspection prior to flight.
When it comes to base maintenance, which requires longer downtime, frequencies are significantly longer – typically every 12 months or up to 300–400 hours. It is worth remembering that although most maintenance tasks have an allowance to extend the task (if allowed by the regional aviation authority) but this is generally by no more than 10%.
Plan ahead to avoid maintenance delays
No matter the helicopter make or model, timely and efficient aircraft maintenance is always critical. However, with utilization increasing and the global supply chain under unprecedented strain, planning ahead for your helicopter’s maintenance with accurate maintenance tracking, forecasting, and budgeting is more important than ever before.
In addition to aircraft maintenance tracking software from Traxxall and SierraTrax, JSSI offers a suite of financial and digital tools to help helicopter owners and operators around the world accurately predict their maintenance budget, year after year, without being impacted financially by unexpected helicopter maintenance costs.
Contact us to find out more.