Is maintaining airplanes expensive? Airplanes have been a staple of transportation for decades, but they are becoming more costly to maintain. With an aging fleet of planes in use, airlines are struggling to keep up with the cost of regulation and repairs. To stay profitable in these turbulent times, some airlines have taken steps toward adopting new technologies that can help reduce these costs (Herbert, 2019). Aviation will always be an essential aspect of current and future transportation; however, the maintenance and repair of airplanes will continue to strain the economy. The aviation industry is expected to continue to grow and thrive as it evolves into new technologies and services that meet military, civilian, and commercial demands. Cost-friendly inventions and innovations should be adapted and implemented so that the repair and maintenance of airplanes do not create an unnecessary burden. It is essential, but it should not strain the economy.
The military has been known to be one of the most significant users of aviation maintenance and repairs. The United States military has been seeking to improve its fleet of planes to meet the nation’s needs. The main goal is to increase the efficiency of these planes’ refueling, reclamation, and maintenance. This increase in efficiency will help reduce costs as pilots and mechanics can focus more time on actual flying missions than keeping up with pre-flight inspections and cleaning (Claire, 2021). The increase in efficiency will also allow pilots to fly without refueling in the middle of their missions. The US military is also seeking to improve its fuel efficiency by switching from lead to unleaded and using different fuels for different purposes. The National Commission in charge of military aviation safety acknowledged a need to improve airplane maintenance and repairs in a press conference released on December 4, 2020.
Airlines have continued to experience costs that have spiked in recent years. The industry has been subject to regulations from the FAA. Airlines are being painted with a darker hue by this self-regulated organization as they continue to pay ever-increasing fines (along with other costs). These fines can reach up to $30,000 per hour for violations not yet addressed. Because of these recent fines, airlines are struggling to make ends meet. The maintenance of airplanes continues to be an ongoing issue in the industry as they become more expensive (Mofokeng, 2020). This effect has caused airlines to cut jobs, put funding towards the maintenance of the fleet to help ward off the costs, and lay off workers.
The aviation industry is continuing to evolve despite new issues arising for maintenance and repair. As more planes are added to the fleet, it will only continue to strain the airlines’ resources and maintainers that keep these planes in operation. With new technologies in development, such as the digitization of aircraft, social distancing technology, and predictive maintenance, we will see a rise in efficiency as this industry continues its search for better ways to keep up with current technology and regulations. These advancements will help reduce costs and improve efficiency. An example is when aerodynamic technology is used to help improve fuel burn, thus reducing actual combustion.
Labor costs have increased by 10% in the last decade. This has forced airlines to fire mechanics, contributing to a decrease in efficiency and a cost increase. In the last decade, airlines have experienced a decrease of 20% in efficiency, which has caused an increase in maintenance costs (Herbert, 2019). In order to keep up with these financial obligations, airlines hire contractors to conduct maintenance functions so that they can focus more on actual flights. Airlines are still responsible for inspecting and approving airplanes after contractors have repaired them. With an aging fleet of planes, airlines are forced to ensure that these planes are safe enough to take passengers on flights. A decrease in efficiency among the airline stakeholders, such as contractors and management teams, has resulted in a decreased profit for airlines and a spike in costs. In order to stay profitable, airlines have had to fire mechanics and outsource their maintenance practices to contractors. Flights have become more expensive due to the increase in aviation maintenance costs.
Dickstein (2020) claims that the general aviation industry has seen a decrease in funding and maintenance that has affected maintenance programs. Small aircraft such as Cessna 172 owners have also experienced significant issues with maintenance and funding due to their small size. With the aging fleet of planes and the lack of funding, small aircraft owners have to cut corners to ensure that their planes will pass inspections. This has led to a decrease in the efficiency of these planes and an increase in flight costs. With the current funding state, general aviation has been forced to seek other ways to keep up with these costs by leaning on larger funding organizations such as banks and the government for support. Small aircraft owners can focus more on flying missions rather than keeping up with post-flight inspections and repairs (Dickstein, 2020). This has ultimately forced contractors to cut corners and increase costs for airlines. The cost of flight tickets continues to climb as airlines seek to keep up with these costs. The military and significant corporations continue sending contracts to private contractors to reduce maintenance and repair costs on their fleets.
This military funding decrease has resulted in a budget that only covers active aircraft maintenance. Future research studies will continue to focus on reducing aviation maintenance costs.
The Aviation Council estimates that airports must spend $10 billion annually over the next 20 years to maintain and add capacity to existing airports. By adding capacity to existing airports, airline partnerships will be improved, and thus, more airplanes will be introduced, leading to increased airplane service delivery due to increased competition. The $10 billion must be divided between local, state, and federal funding sources. According to Elias (2022), Alaska is one state that has not kept up with necessary aviation maintenance and is facing challenges because of it. The state’s integrated aviation system is not adequately funded. As a result, Alaska’s airports have been unable to improve their facilities or expand their runway capacity. There are currently only 33 airports in the state, which is half of what the FAA predicted in 2007. Alaska has not been able to update its air traffic control network due to reduced funding for maintenance and repairs of navigational facilities responsible for monitoring aircraft in the state and national airspace. The number of airports in a state does not necessarily correlate with the state’s population. For example, Texas has a population of over 28 million people and over 250 airports, while Rhode Island has a population of just over 1 million but only has eight airports.
One of the leading causes of maintenance costs increasing is the lack of funding needed to keep up with improvements in planes and airports. Improving aircraft and airports has increased maintenance costs, negatively impacting airlines. This is due to the increased time necessary for airlines to maintain their fleet and airports. A maintenance funding decrease has resulted in a lack of fuel efficiency and increased airline costs. In such a case, an increment in the prices results in a decrease in the airline demand, thus reflecting in loss of revenue as well as market losses. A government budget that does not include amounts for maintenance has led to a rise in fuel prices. An increase in fuel prices has increased airline ticket costs for passengers (Mofokeng, 2020).
The government has recently issued new mandates for the aviation industry, one of which requires airlines to use airports and aircraft that are more environmentally friendly and efficient in their use of fuel. The decrease in efficiency that has occurred as a direct result of these increased demands has led to an increase in both prices and the amount that must be spent on maintenance. The rise in the price of fuel and the cost of maintenance has led to an 11% decline in the profitability of the aviation industry (Dickstein, 2020). Because of insufficient funding, there is a rise in the cost of maintenance, which in turn leads to a reduction in profitability.
Moreover, Dickstein (2020) points out that the rise in maintenance costs is affecting airlines due to the decrease in efficiency caused by increased costs. Maintenance costs have increased by 10% over the last decade, resulting in a decrease in efficiency and fuel consumption and increased ticket prices for passengers. Maintenance costs have also led to a loss of profit for airlines as they have had to cut corners on their programs. This has resulted in a decrease in revenue for airlines and an increase in costs that have forced them to lay off workers or implement pay cuts. A lack of maintenance funding has led to airlines’ declining efficiency control, which requires approximately $4.5 billion to operate out of the $47 billion spent annually on aviation maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) services.
The FAA is responsible for fixing what the airlines cannot afford to fix (Dickstein, 2020). The FAA spends about $4.5 billion yearly on air traffic control, or one-sixth of the MRO market. Air traffic controllers are responsible for monitoring airplanes in flight and maintaining separation. The FAA has suffered from a lack of funding for air traffic control and equipment over 20 years old. This decrease in funding has resulted in a decline in the efficiency of air traffic control, which increases costs for airlines and passengers that travel by plane.
Lack of funding for the military and airlines has resulted in a rise in maintenance costs. The increase in costs has negatively impacted profitability for airlines. The government budget must include the necessary funds to update equipment and aircraft and maintain airports. This will increase efficiency and decrease maintenance costs causing airlines to lose money. The aviation industry is struggling to survive due to a lack of funding. It is forced to cut corners on its maintenance programs, ultimately increasing passenger ticket prices.
Aircraft maintenance ensures a guaranteed increase in aircraft life. The safety of passengers, workers, and airplanes are significant reasons why aircraft maintenance is essential. Security is a priority for any aircraft owner; thus, avoiding accidents resulting from mechanical issues with a plane is crucial. Additionally, timely aircraft maintenance and repairs help avoid unnecessary expenses such as shortened aircraft life (Herbert, 2019). In conclusion, it is only fair to say that despite aircraft maintenance and repair is expensive, it is necessary and should never be taken for granted.
Clare, J., & Kourousis, K. I. (2021). Learning from incidents in aircraft maintenance and continuing airworthiness: regulation, practice, and gaps. Aircraft Engineering and Aerospace Technology.
Dickstein C. (2020, December 3). Report: Lack of training time, budget cuts among top contributors to 224 military aviation deaths since 2013.| Stars and Stripes.Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://www.stripes.com/theaters/us/report-lack-of-training-time-budget-cuts-among-top-contributors-to-224-military-aviation-deaths-since-2013-1.654114
Elias. (2022). Federal Civil Aviation Programs: In Brief. Retrieved October 9, 2022, from https://sgp.fas.org/crs/misc/R42781.pdf
Hebert Jr, T. (2019). The impacts of using augmented reality to support aircraft maintenance. AIR FORCE INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB OH WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB United States.
Mofokeng, T., Mativenga, P. T., & Marnewick, A. (2020). Analysis of aircraft maintenance processes and cost. Procedia CIRP, 90, 467-472.