West Star Aviation’s expanded AOG/MRT capability is increasingly busy, at home and abroad. EVA spoke with Sharon Klose, Director, Satellites/MRT and Engines, to find out more
Including its headquarters facility at East Alton, Illinois, West Star Aviation operates four full-service sites and a similar number of satellites providing a complete range of MRO, paint and AOG/MRT services. Comprising Grand Junction, Colorado; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Perryville, Missouri; and East Alton, the primary facilities support satellites at Chicago, Illinois; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Denver, Colorado; and Houston, Texas.
As well as providing easy access for West Star customers, the network supports a robust AOG and maintenance repair team (MRT) capability, as Sharon Klose, Director, Satellites/MRT and Engines, explains. “We have 46 AOG ‘techs’ living close to and launching from their home base throughout the US. Our goal is to provide techs ‘closest’ to the AOG but we also make certain we provide the skillset required for the AOG.”
A typical response includes two technicians, or ‘techs’, travelling in a van, equipped with the tools required based on the description of the problem. The challenge, Klose says, is then obtaining parts quickly to correct the fault and return the aircraft to service (RTS).
There is, of course, no better service endorsement than customer testimony and West Star Aviation’s US AOG/MRT response draws regular praise. A customer in Birmingham, Alabama, suffered snags with a newly delivered jet. “We had several problems right out of the gate,” he reports. “I had the pleasure of working with Robert and Chris from West Star on three occasions and all I can say is they were great. They were very courteous, on time and communicated on everything that was going on, and they made very smart, economical recommendations. I can’t say enough good things about them.” As well as passing along his thanks, the customer also noted that he was considering West Star for regular servicing as a result of his experience with the company.
Klose acknowledges the importance of these interactions to the wider business. “It’s all about relationships. The fascinating thing with an AOG event is that when people call, we ask how they are and they’ll say, ‘If I was good, I wouldn’t be calling!’ We may never have known the customer before, and then their satisfaction at getting their airplane RTS’d safely and quickly gives us the opportunity to have this customer return with larger work packages for our big four facilities.”
Klose continues: “Before they arrive on site at any airport, our techs normally reach out to the FBO where the aircraft is parked to identify hours of operation, and get information on access arrangements, work visas and special permits. Techs are required to communicate with customers at least three to four times daily via email for visibility and for our reference after the job is complete.” All this is true for domestic and international jobs, since with its AOG/MRT team expanding from around 20 to 45 technicians, West Star now also responds to worldwide AOGs –Narita, Japan; Tortola, British Virgin Islands; Costa Rica; and Taiwan have been among recent destinations.
“Our dispatchers acknowledge within five minutes of an AOG coming in and then we want to get on site as quickly as possible. But countries have different rules, regulations and requirements for work visas, permits and so on,” rues Klose. “Trying to figure out the rules prior to travelling during Covid was crazy but we managed it with only two techs having to quarantine for three days.” Complexities aside, she recalls an AOG in Costa Rica where a call came in at 13:23 on 8 May concerning an aircraft scheduled to depart on the 13th. West Star’s technicians arrived 24 hours later and having navigated airport security and parts delivery delays, had the jet ready to fly at 21:34 on the 12th.
The reputation for excellence that follows West Star’s techs is also driving an increasing frequency of requests from operator facilities for MRT assistance with non-AOG or scheduled maintenance tasks at home and overseas. Some, including a call to a Challenger forced onto its tail by incorrect fuelling, bridge the gap between AOG and MRT.
Filling the aircraft’s tail and saddle tanks while there was no fuel in the wings, a fuelling team caused the aircraft to tip backwards with its nose in the air. Using a combination of weights and walking forward in the cabin the fuellers returned the nose wheels to the ground, imposing a ‘hard landing’ on the nose gear in the process.
West Star Aviation’s AOG/MRT response visually identified the affected structure through a damage analysis process. Its location, dimensions and affected part numbers were documented, and the information passed to Bombardier for review. Essential for returning an aircraft safely into service, structure repairs also generally involve insurance, and detailed assessment is therefore critical to ensure accurate claims.
Bombardier and Safran, which manufactured the landing gear, ordered further analysis, including verifying the landing gear’s airworthiness, while the West Star Aviation AOG/MRT team performed fuel system and additional structural inspections. Temporary structural repairs were fabricated with support from West Star Aviation affiliate Dallas Aeronautical Services before ferry parameters and configurations were established and the aircraft released for ferry to East Alton for permanent repair. That work included replacing the tail tank, lower fairing, tail cone and all the landing gear.
Whatever the task and wherever in the world it takes West Star’s techs, Klose says: “There is nothing better than the thanks we receive for supporting the customer. Our techs are truly the finest in the industry. No one wants an AOG but giving us the opportunity to support makes for a satisfied customer.” It is a bold claim, so perhaps the last word should go to a customer. William Brummer, Director of Maintenance at Big Sky Aviation, emailed Klose after a particularly challenging AOG had been resolved.
“I like having the best AOG team on site. This was a challenge for finding all the parts, completing it in a serious time crunch due to outside services, and working extremely long hours over nights and the entire weekend. I appreciate [West Star tech] Paul’s dedication to this project. West Star is lucky to have him; I’m thrilled when he’s available to help. The entire team has done well, and you all deserve recognition and praise. It’s hard to find this type of effort and dedication in the world today and I’m here to tell you that West Star has gone above and beyond!”