Q: How long has your organisation been in the MRO field?
A: Cessna entered the MRO field when the company entered the business jet market. The first service centres were opened in Wichita, Kansas; Poughkeepsie, New York; and Sacramento, California in 1971 to coincide with deliveries of the new Citation 500. As the Citation product line grew, so did the need for additional service centres and capabilities. By 1997, there were nine service centres located within the United States, and one in Paris, France.
The new millennium brought large growth to the service centre network, first with the expansion of our Orlando, Florida location in 2004, and in the same year the opening of the largest general aviation maintenance facility in the world, in Wichita, Kansas. With the challenging economy of recent years, our customers have asked for more options and locations to our network, so our strategy for growth included a fleet of trucks, and further locations within Europe and Asia. In the last few years we have expanded by adding five locations within Europe, and one in Singapore. We also created an industry standard in mobile service, by strategically locating 19 mobile trucks within the United States, and three trucks within Europe. These trucks exponentially increase the availability and locations where we can service our customers.
Q: What are the basic requirements for a high quality MRO operation?
A: Three things: capability, quality and schedule performance. Our service centre network is the industry leader when it comes to maintaining Cessna aircraft. Each and every service centre is certified to work on every Citation and Caravan model. In order to achieve this, every site has demonstrated to the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that they have all of the required tooling available, and provide their employees with the training necessary to maintain the aircraft. We are the experts when it comes to maintaining the Cessna fleet. With access to engineering, product support teams and fleet information, we are able to provide the correct support the first time, providing reliability to the customer. Currently we operate eight service centres within the United States, six in Europe and one in Asia. In addition to our service centres, we also have a fleet of service trucks positioned at airports across the globe where our customers operate from. This allows Cessna to always be in the right place at the right time. In addition to our locations and mobility, our sites are also operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Q: How do you keep up quality assurance?
A: All work is inspected and signed off by an inspector who is independent of the work being performed. Every job position at the service centre has required training that is defined in the FAA-approved repair station training manual. In-house training consists of on-the-job training (OJT) and videos created by our customer support teams. External training is performed by FlightSafety International and vendors of parts and test equipment. Any opportunities we have to improve our service are documented and shared throughout the service centre network. Quality is a topic at all meetings and openly discussed throughout the network.
Q: What can you tell us about pre-paid services?
A: Our aftermarket programmes are geared towards our customers’ needs. In today’s financial climate, aftermarket programmes make sense. They spread the operational costs of the aircraft over several years, balancing out the highs and lows. We offer an assortment of programmes where customers can pick and choose how much coverage they want. They can choose from individual offerings such as parts, labour, avionics or engines, or they can combine several into a complete package.
Q: Do you look to multi-skill your engineers across a variety of aircraft types or do you have some specialist sections?
A: It really depends upon the service centre, and the types of aircraft within their market. Most of our larger service centres do segregate the Citations based on size and model, becoming experts on the various models. Our international service centres often segregate by model primarily as a result of their licence requirements. Since our international technicians have to be certified to work on each individual model, it makes better sense to segregate them into model groups. For the most part, however, most of our technicians have experience working on the entire fleet, and, within some of our smaller service centers, there is no segregation at all between models.
Q: What about owner/operator education? It is very easy for an owner to fall into the trap of laying up the aircraft when they get cash strapped and not doing the standard maintenance checks, which lays them open to huge expense to get airworthy again.
A: Our business is dependent upon the relationships we form with our customers. As we do with all our customers, we provide several services to assist in budgeting for maintenance costs. When an aircraft is in for maintenance, we offer estimated prices on all non-routine discrepancies that arise before the customer approves the repair. This way they are informed on the costs before it happens. Before the aircraft departs our facility, we provide a quick summary to the customer showing any routine maintenance events coming due in the near future. If the customer desires, we can also provide pricing and down time estimates for these future maintenance events. Our relationships provide customers with someone they can trust. We are in constant communication with our customers about their maintenance requirements, and the associated costs. These discussions keep our customers informed which prepares them for any inquiries to the airworthiness of their aircraft.
Q: MRO is a very competitive market, how do you get loyalty from your customer base?
A: Customer loyalty comes with trust and relationships. We strive to be the premier maintenance provider for the Cessna fleet. Not only are we the experts, but we also take care of our customers’ needs. We have product support teams that monitor the fleet and help work with our customers and service centres to resolve any issues that may arise. While in maintenance, customers have a designated Customer Service Representative (CSR) whose responsibility is to communicate with customers. These CSRs have become an integral part of the customer support team. Customers know they can call their CSR at any time, and their needs will be taken care of by the entire Cessna support team.