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Time Well Spent: Nine Ways to Use Aircraft Downtime During the Pandemic

Time Well Spent: Nine Ways to Use Aircraft Downtime During the Pandemic

Downtime doesn’t mean lost time.

The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly cut travel worldwide, but there’s still plenty that operators of business or personal aircraft can do during this unexpected downtime. Some of them are must-dos to keep aircraft and flight crews legal and ready for a quick return to service. Other tasks, like upgrades or training, will help improve future productivity and on-time performance.

We asked our engine and avionics experts for their recommendations on making the most of downtime. Here are some of their tips:

Tip No. 1: Run your engines!

Aircraft engines hate being idle. It doesn’t take long for the oil to drain off parts, exposing them to corrosion. Fungus and other microbes can grow in the fuel lines.

Because of this, leaving your aircraft idle too long can violate the terms of warranties, maintenance service plans or insurance coverage. Honeywell requires a full teardown if an engine sits more than six months.

So fire up the engines at least every 30 days and let the engine oil come up to temperature, usually at least 15 minutes. It’s also a good idea to power on the avionics and run the environmental control systems to ensure they’re in good working order. You can find preservation and storage methods for Honeywell engines in manuals and service information letters posted on the MyAerospace portal.

Tip No. 2: Log your engine time religiously

Document every run in your airframe, engine and pilot logbooks, including ground runs. Record any preservation or storage actions as well. In the future, aircraft buyers and regulators will scrutinize this year’s entries to ensure aircraft were kept in tip-top shape during the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020. So protect your resale value: log every minute.

Tip No. 3: Exercise your pilots

Most pilots don’t get enough practice with emergency procedures, or with flying certain approaches. Now the skies are clear and air traffic controllers are taking requests. If your aircraft is capable of single-pilot operations, this is the time to send them out for some practice. It’s good for them and good for the aircraft.

Tip No. 4: Get an upgrade

Most shops are still open, so use this time to improve the performance and resale value of your aircraft.

Honeywell is offering great incentives on:

  • ADS-B
  • DU-875 liquid crystal displays
  • Primus Elite Synthetic Vision upgrade
  • SmartRunway/SmartLanding safety systems
  • Ovation Select Cabin Management System
  • Laseref IV Inertial Reference Unit
  • EGPWS MKV-A
  • FMS 6.1 for NZ-2000/2010-equipped aircraft.

…and others. Check with your Honeywell representative for more information on these and other upgrade programs for your aircraft.

If your plane is normally stored outside or hangar space is tight because of the slowdown, getting it into the shop offers another advantage – free shelter from the elements.

Tip 5: Detail your interior

This is hugely important to passengers and pilots, but normally it’s not easy to find time to shampoo the rug or get the gray out of the seats. Use this time for deep cleaning.

Don’t forget the cockpit, especially the hand grime that accumulates on yokes and levers, or the dust that accumulates on bevels and switch covers. Many Honeywell and BendixKing dealers can provide this service.

Tip 6:  Volunteer your aircraft

Safety and social distancing must supersede any flight operations. But there are a few ways to fly for a good cause while still minimizing contact with others.

Groups like Aerobridge are seeking aircraft to transport medical supplies. Other groups move rescued pets or help with conservation projects. The Volunteer Pilots Network website has a list of groups that you can contact to see if they’re flying.

These flights keep planes and pilots active and are often tax-deductible as well. And they’re a great way to show your company is giving back to the community.

Flight crews should take all precautions, using masks and gloves as needed and wiping down high-touch surfaces like fuel pump handles.

Tip 7: Expand your knowledge

This is the time to read those manuals or complete a course that has been on your to-do list forever. The Honeywell MyAerospace portal has a huge library of manuals and training materials. You can find how-to videos on the Honeywell Aerospace and BendixKing YouTube channels. Or take a course on the FAA’s safety site to earn credit for the Aviation Maintenance Technicians Awards Program or the WINGS Pilot Proficiency program.

Tip 8: Add an unmanned aerial systems license

Certificated pilots can add a remote pilot license simply by taking an online course and meeting a few other requirements.

Tip 9: Cover correctly

The slowdown has left some fleets short of hangar space, so it’s important to use covers correctly to protect aircraft left on the ramp.

There are some subtleties. The cowlings for Honeywell’s AS907 engines, for example, have slots on the top that are used to cool engine control units. Honeywell’s engine intake and exhaust covers for these engines (part number 5837814-1) have an extended surface that keeps rain out of these slots.

For piston aircraft, consider cowl plugs and gust locks. Canopy covers should fit tightly to keep grit from getting under the fabric and scratching windscreens.

These are challenging times for aviation, but they will pass. Making use of the downtime to upgrade, maintain and train will ensure you and your aircraft are ready. Blue skies are ahead.

Chris Hawley
Director of Marketing, New Technologies

Chris Hawley leads marketing for new technologies at Honeywell Aerospace, helping to introduce customers to the company’s latest advances in aviation, directed energy, materials and other fields.

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