A question for you A&P's

A question for you A&P's

I have been using the FBO's maintenance facility on my field for the last three years now.  I spend a TON of money with them each year.  I let them handle all my maintenacne needs.  Would I be out of line trying to negotiate a better hourly rate for maintenance?  They charge $55 per hour right now and with a number of mods I want to do to my plane this years it's going to add up quickly.

I am thinking about finding an A&P with an IA to oversee and sign off on work that I do.

Any thoughts??

    Dave

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Dave, I'm not an A&P and don't play one on TV. However, I did exactly what you're thinking about doing and discussed several major projects with my A&P/IA and the local FSDO inspector, asking if I could do most of the work and have them sign off on my work. To my surprise, they both agreed, and I installed an Avion STC'd panel, Jasco alternator, a whole new avionics stack, a Horizon P-1000 tach, and several other projects. I did 90% of the work myself, and the IA was there to help if I had questions or needed assistance with something. My AI also lets me assist in my annual inspections. The important thing is to detail exactly what you want to do, decide who's going to do what, and then don't make any changes.

The bottom line is that if you establish a repoire with the mechanic and the FSDO inspector, and they trust your judgment to get help if you are uncertain about something, many of them will let you do much of the work. You wind up learning a lot about your airplane and saving a substantial amount of money. The FSDO inspector even sat down with me to get the wording on the 337s exactly right.

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Stan.. Where did you find an FSDO inspector that would do that? (sat down and got the 337 wording right)

I thought that only happened "years ago" (when inspectors were actually helpful)..

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Re: A question for you A&P's

It >was< years ago (1999 - 2000), and it was the Oakland, CA, FSDO.

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Re: A question for you A&P's

That was probably the end of an era.. Our FSDO inspectors stay indoors with all the Entrance doors locked..

I have dealt with FSDOs for 40 years as an IA and I miss the days when FSDO inspectors were well versed in the art of aviation maintenance - and were willing to roll up their sleeves and get involved.  (in a positive way)

The old group I am refering to have all retired and the new ones just don't seem to have a clue...

Just my old oil soaked opinion.....(I still hold out hope that thngs will get better)....

O.D.

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Do you negotiate with your car dealer for his flat rate, too? Or, how about your doctor? At $55/hr, you're getting off cheap! My Chevy dealer is getting $85/hr, and his mechanics didn't spend 2+ years learning/earning their certificates.  I agree that airplanes are an expensive hobby.

By the way, I am an A&P/IA,  Mechanic Examiner, and often DO work with owners.  I am always glad to help an owner/pilot learn to care for his own bird. By the same token, I object being looked down on as a second-rate worker whose knowlege and expertise is able to be cheapened.

Hope I didn't offend too many people out there. Or, maybe, I really shouldn't care.

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Ed; you sound like an Angry man.  I agree with everything you said, which is why I asked the question, to see if this was done or not.  Thats how we all learn!

What kind of mechanic are you?  Do you work for a big shop or are you a guy who just works on his own?  I know alot of shops will not allow owners to help.  If an owner does not want to help then he should pay for it.  If I want to help I should be able to get a better deal/rate.

I do have a problem with paying a mechanic $55 per hour, but  when he has to sit down and read a manual or he encounters something he doesn't understand and has to learn it on the fly, I have a problem.  I should not be the one paying for him to learn something new, especially when he will be able to use thge new knowlegde with other customers.

Just my thoughts....

     Dave

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Hi Dave,
   As an A&P/I.A. and owner of a one-man shop I have a few bits of philosophy to share.
   You should NOT have to pay for a mechanic to learn something new. That's why it's important for you, as the owner and customer, to find a mechanic with the skills and background you need. Every airport seems to have experts on certain types of airplanes...they may be pretty good at most small planes, but tend to be the "man" on old Bellancas, or Beech or Aeronca or Cessna etc. These guys usually have hard to get parts for old airplanes they love. They also know the problem areas and methods to inspect/repair those specialty airplanes. I get a lot of Franklin work here and tons of old Cessna work....yet I know very little about Mooneys (and don't want to learn)....see what I mean?
   I take the manual home and study the material to refresh my memory on more complex systems. If I'm troubleshooting some obscure problem and need the manual for wiring diagrams or hydraulic schematics etc I will certainly bill the customer for that time. It's my responsibility to fix it right the first time. If my work doesn't fix the problem then I fix it for free. It certainly doesn't pay me to redo the work.
   As for customers helping with some of the work....depends on the customer. Some have the skills to clean and repack wheel bearings, clean sparkplugs, change oil, safety wire etc....some need extra help. I also teach owner maintenance and have a talk with the owner. I pay a certificated A&P $17/hour to work in my shop if I need the extra help. I don't expect to teach them much but do make the final decision on what happens. If the owner happens to be an A&P I'll deduct that amount per hour for the time they assist. If the owner is new to airplanes I'll get them involved with the annual, continuosly monitor what they're doing, tell them what to do next and take time to explain what I'm doing and how each system works. In other words, I'm taking time to teach them. They leave the shop with a much better understanding of regulatory requirements, A.D. research, routine maintenance and servicing and record keeping/documentation. How much is that worth?
   It's not possible for every owner to get an A&P Certificate then do the time to get the Inspection Authorization. It would sure save you money over the years. But, every owner can get the regs and read what the scope and detail of an annual is per 14 CFR Part 43 Appendix D and what you're allowed to do under Appendix A.  Buy the Parts and Service manuals for your airplane, take them home and study them...there WILL be a test later...hah!
   As for our FSDO...they come out to the field all the time and answer questions/help whenever they can. We must be lucky here in AZ. Point is, they're only a phone call away and that is rare I suppose.
   Gregg Horrell

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Hi Greg,
Where is your shop located?
Glenn

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Re: A question for you A&P's

I am an A&P IA and also own my own one man FBO. My first priority is my customers!!! I do my best to help people who normally couldnt afford a plane do so. I work with the Owners to save on their annual and dont charge for every minute I put into the aircraft.
I charge a flat rate and give a discount when an owner assists.
Unfortunately in this part of Wisconsin the shop rate is $45 hr.
With the insurance requirements$$$$$, building lease, heat etc etc.
it is tough. if everyone did an owner assist I would never be able to stay open. My customers are basically friends! And I do my best to
keep everyone happy. So far so good. I am installing an edm 700
with all the probes. he is giving me two annuals in a row so I am charging only two hours to install. not to many shops would do that.
AS FOR THE ORIGINAL QUESTION, try putting your work needed out on bids. thats how avionics work is normally done.
if nothing else fly up here, I will help.
My biggest quark is owners will pay $9000 for a gps install that will be obsolete in five years, and the same owner will whine that his annual will cost $540.00

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Lou you sound like a prince of a guy.
I'm sure that there are many of your friends that really appreciate your dedication to your advocation, and the fact that it isn't surpassed by your vocation. Hopefully you are blessed with peace and contentment in your life.

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Thanks Lee! I am just one of those poor aviation lovers that the only way I can afford a plane is to fix one up. which I just did by restoring one recently. my first plane. the plane looks great.
I just like to use my training and skills to help others. but I still need to make a living, so all unfortunately isn't free.
thanks again     Lou at KLUM

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Re: A question for you A&P's

I do most of my airframe maintenance under the supervision of an A&P / IA.  Approach these folks will an attitude that you are willing to learn and respect them for their knowledge and experience.  In this situration they have bent over backward to mentor me.

As an aside, I started with on hand held two drawer tool box.  When I went to my A&P mentors at first and I described a project, they would stare in space over my shoulder considering my project and then look at me and say, "Charles, first thing you got to do is go buy a tool."  Never failed.  Now I have a 48" rolling box full of those tools.

Taking the time to just look around my airplane at times when I don't even plan to fly give me the opportunity to find a lot of little things that need doing that might be overlooked by someone who does not have a lot of "eyes on time" on your aircraft.

Every professional knows what they are worth.  A&P IA have invested a lot of money in education.  The investment they make in tools is unbelievable.

Fly Safe,
Charles Lloyd

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Dave,

I have read your original question and the responses posted and I will try not to digress here.

I, too, am an A&P/IA. Since 9/11 I have lost 3 jobs due to cutbacks, so I work on my own. Since I don't have to pay the heat, light, etc on a hangar, I charge less than the guy who has all of the above. $55/hr is NOT a bad rate for an FBO, and I don't think I would insult him by asking him for a cut rate. Consider that you pay $75 to $100/hr for the maintenance on your car and compare that to the $55 for a machine that has nowhere to go but DOWN if it fails in operation and the rate is GOOD!

If you want a better rate and the peace of mind that a professional is doing the work, look for the guy on your airfield working out of his pickup at the T-hangars. Talk to him and talk to some of his customers. That guy is doing the work because that is what he loves. You still have a trained professional with the license, but no overhead. (See Cessna Owner mag of August 1999).

Also, I LOVE IT when owners want to help. It gives them a better understanding of their aircraft, it helps me out, and with a better understanding, the owner can give me a better description of their future problems with the aircraft. (Also, it gives me somebody to talk to about something I love, aviation, while I work.)

Now, to digress just a bit, I was offended by your comment about having to look up information! I am good, but I don't know EVERYTHING! I don't want my customers to have something fail at 5000 feet so I WILL NOT try to bluff my way through a task. If I don't know, I 1) tell the owner I am not familiar with that, 2) look it up and print it out, 3) read it over and put the data on my toolbox as I do the work. Perhaps you know EVERYTHING there possibly is to know about your job, but I doubt it.

OK. 'nuff said. Hope this helps you out a little. Good luck and happy flying.

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Re: A question for you A&P's

I guess my point is I feel that I am being gouged my the FBO on maintenance.  Other customers are feeling that way as well, it's not just me.

The point about lookig it up is I am not going to pay to the mechanice to learn something new, he will use that knowledge on future projects and those customers will benefit from what he has already leanred at my expsense.  I work in the computer industry, they key is know where to find the information when you need it.  When I freelance I do not charge my customers for time I spend on learning something new.  Likewise, when I have consultants in they do not charge me for their learning.  Lets also seperate this into two categories, this is a very simple example.  I should not pay the mechanic to learn how to change oil in my plane if he has never does it.  He should know the concepts of an oil change.  I do not mind paying for his time to learn my systems to sucessfully do the oil change.

I hope this helps to clarify where I am coming from.

    Dave

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Hello Dave,

I too have a lot of letters and numbers after my signature.
I too run a Repair Station which incidently charges $55/hr.

The ubiquitous single engine cessna or piper is the bread and butter of most small FBO's
Unless you have a fairly rare aircraft I would be surprised if your FBO is learning about your plane.  If you've caught them with maintenance manuals open next to your plane count yourself lucky as a lot of places leave the manuals on the shelf to collect dust.

Now if you're planning on getting that first field approval for the Grand Rapids EFIS/AHRS on top of an MX-20 on top of a GNS-430 coupled to a 2-axis auto-pilot ...be prepared to pay someone to read the manuals.

I do a lot of avionics modification to aircraft.  Like the one mentioned above, I give a rough estimate but essentially charge by the hour.   His complete installation will push $60K.
Is this customer paying me to read the manuals and figure out how to make these devices play nicely together? Yep.
I'll even keep the copyright on the CAD files for redesigning the panel and charge for the mock-up panel cuts.
How many other installations will be exactly like this one?? None.
How much will he have to pay me if the installation doesn't work after it leaves the shop? Nothing. 
I make it right. Because if I *don't* make it right I won't have many return customers (economically speaking- stop being morbid).

It sounds like you're not happy with the quality of work being turned out by your local FBO.  If you can't look at the people maintaning your aircraft and say to yourself "I trust these people with my life and the lives of my family" then perhaps a change in order.
All of my customers know that when they receive their airplane, I'm willing to fly my young son in that airplane (and I'm quite fond of him).

Aircraft mechanics are a lot like Doctors-
We inspect.
We diagnose.
We asses.
And we prescribe a course of action to maintain health and safety.

There's one slight difference....
If an aircraft mechanic really screws up...lots of people die- not just one.

Best regards,
RH

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Re: A question for you A&P's

RH,
Your comparison of Aircraft Mechanics to Doctors was interesting.
Sometimes A/C Mechanics can be like Doctors---(we asses). I am sure you meant  "we assess". I am positive you have a lot of happy customers.
blue skies,
GD

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Thanks Glen <grin>. The irony is just beautiful.

An excellent example of relying on a machine to do what the brain should have.

Cheers,
RH

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Re: A question for you A&P's

Hi Dave

One question, what does your FBO charge for an oil change on your plane? Hours of labor? Materials?

Also, here in CT labor rates are $57 to $70 per hour.

Thanks

Vin

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Re: A question for you A&P's

I do my own oil changes.  I'd have to look back to see what they've charged in the past but I beleive it to be around $150.  The labor is $55 per hour, it takes them about two hours when all is said and done and whatever the cost of the oil is.

It has been interesting to read the responses that everyone has offered, I may not agree with all of them but they are interesting none the less.

    Dave

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