Who are the Heroes in AOG situations?

What does AOG mean?

What is AOG and what does AOG stand for?

In aviation – whether commercial, cargo, military, or private aviation – an AOG situation (Aircraft On Ground) means that a plane has been grounded for one of many reasons; adverse weather conditions, industrial disputes, flight schedule conflicts, and a host of other factors. However, the most common reason for an AOG situation is due to technical issues, meaning that the aircraft has been grounded and unable to re-enter service until it has been repaired, inspected, and finally approved for flight.

The effects of an AOG can stretch from passenger disruption, delays to urgent air freight services, and crew roster disruption, all of which can be not only troublesome, but costly for airlines, cargo shippers, and of course, for the individual traveller.

Aircraft are workhorses, and every minute of downtime is guaranteed to be costing someone dearly. That’s why for every AOG there is an army of professional people working in the background to reduce that downtime, save money, and get the aircraft back flying again as soon as possible. For the average US carrier experiencing an AOG situation, the resultant disruption can cost anything between $10k and $35k per hour in lost revenue, sometimes even a lot more.

These losses are compounded by crew rescheduling, lost cargo revenue, passenger compensation, and the acquisition and transportation of any necessary repair parts. One AOG experience can have a knock-on effect right across an entire airline’s schedule, ultimately costing even more money.

Almost all commercial aircraft carry precious cargo. Airfreight by definition can mean anything from servicing the entire US mail system to delivering time-sensitive cargo. Delayed flights due to AOG situations can result in a knock-on affecting everyone through the late arrival of necessary items to service industries, mail recipients, time-sensitive goods, to e-shoppers not receiving their orders. While this is not the direct fault of the business involved, having to deal with disgruntled customers can be a costly problem that needs to be addressed.

Aircraft grounding – the reasons behind AOG

Just like any vehicle, an aircraft requires regular maintenance checks. In the USA, the FAA dictates that all aircraft must undergo set-interval maintenance A and B checks.

An A check is performed every 400-600 flight hours or every 200-300 cycles – every combined take-off and landing is regarded as one aircraft cycle. This A check will require anything between 20-60 man-hours and can usually be performed overnight and without disruption to schedules. The actuality of how often the A check is carried will be determined by the type of aircraft, the number of cycles, and the number of flying hours since the last check.

B checks are usually undertaken every 6-8 months and require between 120-150 man-hours for completion. This means the aircraft will be involved in an AOG situation for between 1-3 days while being inspected in an aircraft hangar.

Should an aircraft fail to pass either an A or B inspection – for whatever reason – the aircraft will be grounded immediately. Thankfully, when an aircraft fails its inspection, the reasons are rarely critical but must be remedied to fulfil FAA regulations. Despite being a non-critical failure, any malfunctions can be detrimental to an aircraft being able to function to its full capacity with safety in mind.

Aircraft are made up of hundreds of thousands of components, from tiny screws to giant fuselage sections, that figure can even number into the millions in some larger aircraft. If any one of those components is found to be defective or has the possibility of suffering from a future defect, the aircraft will be ground indefinitely until the situation is rectified.

And therein lies the problem. What happens when an aircraft on ground situation occurs and a replacement part can’t be found by the airline’s MRO suppliers? Even the tiniest spare part, if not available when urgently needed, can cost an airline, tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in passenger disruption, and the loss of air freight services.

Often, spare parts will need to be shipped urgently from a distance to reduce AOG costs. Whether this is done by truck, aircraft, sea, or even by private onboard courier, the quicker the parts can the quicker the aircraft can return to service.

For AOG international cargo situations, the outcome can be disastrous for both the charter company and the cargo recipients who may be relying on spare parts to keep their operations moving.

When an engine needs to be replaced or repaired

Unlike a simple screw or a restroom water faucet, when a complete engine needs to be replaced or repaired things can get very costly. Such an AOG situation is not something likely to be rectified overnight, usually requiring the complete power unit to be shipped across long distances, sometimes even internationally to the engine’s MRO facility.

Turbofan aircraft engines are both huge, and sensitive at the same time. Transporting large aircraft engines by road can produce their own set of problems, they need to be housed on specialist shock-absorbent stands which are also expensive to buy, or to lease. If the engine is transported incorrectly the damage may even be compounded through excessive movement and handling.

However, specialist cargo charter companies are highly skilled at transporting these sensitive monsters of aviation.

To illustrate the enormity of a Rolls Royce Trent 1,000 engine, the whole unit is made up of thousands of hugely sensitive components weighing in at over 13,250lbs. Add the same amount again required for the engine stand that is designed to protect the engine without movement throughout transportation, and the logistics seem overwhelming.

Over long distances, the preferred method for transporting aircraft engines is by air. However, specialist equipment is required – engine stands that are strong enough to bear the incredible weight safely, light enough so as not to add to the cargo weight, and not so bulky as to take up too much space in the transporter plane’s cargo hold. Most aircraft engines require the use of wide-body cargo transporter aircraft; however, some engines may also be transported using narrow-body aircraft.

A preferred AOG engine and parts shipments cargo-partner are professionals in dealing with such situations and can easily, and safely transport the engine either to or from the MRO engine repair facility by air. A well-trusted partner will ensure that every aspect of transportation is coordinated in a manner that ensures both the financial and logistical cost is kept to a minimum.

AOG aircraft owners need partners with solutions

Aircraft are meant to fly, to move people and cargo, and to do it quickly, safely, and most cost-effectively. That’s why nobody in aviation – or consumers awaiting urgent deliveries – like to see an AOG situation.

All major passenger and cargo airlines have a reliable cargo charter specialist as a preferred partner for dealing with urgent AOG aviation issues. These specialists are ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice, shaving vital hours off the final AOG disruption costs. That might entail using a giant aircraft to transport an entire engine to or from an MRO station, or using a luxury private jet to get urgently needed small parts to where they are needed.

Aviation is an industry that relies heavily on the maintaining of schedules, not for the love of being on time, but because delayed passenger services and broken cargo supply chains are costly to suppliers, consumers, and shippers.

With an AOG situation, every stop needs to be pulled out, with many actors coming together in seamless cooperation to get the aircraft back in the air as soon as possible. Establishing a working relationship with an AOG specialist to get spare parts where they need to be as quickly as possible is vital for the successful operation of any airline in an AOG situation.

Additionally, they are highly experienced experts in finding the right routes, navigating aviation rules and regulations, along with handling all insurance issues, and are ideally placed to face any unique situations head-on.

These invaluable partners can become the real heroes of any global AOG situation.

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