EVA talks to Stephan Krainer, CEO, Primus Aircraft Management Solutions
Stephan Krainer founded the Austrian company, Primus Aircraft Management Solutions, in 2010. “The business came from the idea that I could collect a number of the technical departments from the various small AOC operators around Europe and combine them into a single, efficient operation,” he explains. The company would then have a core of specialists across a range of disciplines involving Continuing Airworthiness Management (CAM), including aircraft inspection management.
“We offer a complete range of solutions, some of which we manage for the client as outsourced services, where we contract the service out to specialist organisations in that area, such as flight support, for example,” Krainer comments.
“The basis for our plan was that it is hugely inefficient for an operator with two jets to try to do aircraft maintenance in-house with their own team. They are going to have to outsource this and the best way for them to do so is to outsource the service to us and let us contract with the best people at the best price,” he notes.
The rationale worked for a handful of clients, but it did not take off quite as Krainer wanted, so he looked at ways of modifying his plan to generate increased revenue and increased business opportunities. “We started looking at Africa, which poses some very acute challenges for operators, and that went very well. So our main focus is now Africa rather than Europe. In Africa a large part of our business is providing consultancy services that aim to support operators who do not have the people in-house to handle various specialist jobs in business aviation, or who cannot afford to employ people full time to do these jobs.
“Our services include everything that has to do with the technical aspects of managing and flying an aircraft, right from the business of having the aircraft delivered to the operator, through to reporting on the running of the aircraft and supervising all or many of the tasks associated with the day-to-day running of the aircraft. We project manage the planned maintenance of the aircraft together with any modifications that the owner, operator or aircraft OEM may require from time to time,” he comments.
“Sometimes we only get involved once the aircraft has already been purchased and delivered, in which case we will go through the documentation and check that everything is to spec, and that it is all as shiny and new or refurbished as it should be. Or the owner can come to us before he or she even looks at the market and say, look, this is the mission, this is what we want to fly and the usual distance and passenger complement that we fly with. We will then go to the market and get them a full price and spec comparison so they can see both new and pre-owned options in their price range. We work hard to find the sweet spot for each and every client, and they are all different. Clients can draw confidence from the fact that we are not tied to any one service provider, so we are well placed to find the right solution for everyone,” Krainer adds.
Interestingly, around a year ago, Primus added a parts procurement arm to its business. Krainer says that he grew tired of seeing aircraft owners and operators charged huge prices for OEM parts when there were plenty of identical parts on the mainstream and pre-owned market at a fraction of the cost. “Parts is an area where OEMs have been generating significant profits for themselves for many years. With our new service, when the aircraft is in for maintenance, the owner does not have to rely on the MRO station to go and source parts from the manufacturer at an exorbitant price. We can usually procure the part for the owner at a very significant saving over the original OEM part. On the open market there are literally thousands of parts available at half the price of the OEM part, so we can reduce the cost of major overhauls very significantly,” he comments.
If the client wants to have a minor or major cabin overhaul while the aircraft is in the MRO shop for an overhaul, Primus can act as the owner’s agent or the operator’s agent, overseeing the refurbishment and ensuring that it meets with the agreed specifications, both as far as the design and the quality of individual items and monuments are concerned.
Owners also often have quite firm ideas about where they want the aircraft serviced or modified. “Some Europe-based owners prefer to have their aircraft done in Europe, even if we can show them that it would be cheaper for them in the US, even including the flight costs, since Europe is generally higher-priced than the US. However, they are happier with not having to travel to the US to do inspections on the aircraft or to deal with any issues that might come up, so we find them the best alternative in Europe,” he explains.
Like many in the business aviation sector, Krainer reckons that we are still going through a very difficult patch. “The current state of the market shows up very clearly in the used aircraft market. There is less flying going on right now and the number of pre-owned aircraft is increasing, while their price is dropping. A lot of clients these days are running into more difficult economic territory as far as their businesses are concerned and the first thing that happens when revenues drop is that they cut back on their flying hours,” Krainer notes.
“The European market still has a long way to go before we are back to a healthy state again. It is slowly normalising, but it is a buyer’s market in everything right now. So a service provider in this sector has to work really hard. There is a lot of competition out there and this is where we all need to educate the client to grasp that in this sector as in others, if you buy cheap, you get cheap and you have to expect unsatisfactory service in return!”