As new technologies emerge to bring aviation into the 21st century and beyond, the industry has begun moving forward – slowly, but surely – as the people and companies that make up the whole of aviation have started adopting ways to streamline their process and optimize their workflows through automation.
Five years ago, while I was the director of sales/marketing for a Part 145 repair shop that focused on the Cessna Citation line of aircraft, I came up with the idea of MRO Insider that could use automation to bridge the gap between aircraft and the people and companies that service them. As I worked to promote the experience and superior quality that our 145 had over our competitors, I watched as operators I had met face-to-face were flying over my head to take their aircraft somewhere else for maintenance – even though our years of experience on the hangar floor were significantly higher than the competitor, while our labor rates were lower. Adding insult to injury, we also learned the competitor was renting our tooling to complete the work. I remember thinking "how could we possibly compete with these large, powerful MRO facilities?”
Fast-forward 4 years and our quoting platform has now helped many small- and medium-sized service providers gain new business opportunities that would have otherwise been missed by creating a dynamic platform that promotes value over cost. When boiled down to its simplest form, MRO Insider is simply a one stop solution for maintenance, fuel, ground service equipment, parts, and AOG. The mission we started with is the same one we continue to move towards – improving transparency and efficiency by making people’s jobs easier.
Starting with scheduled maintenance, our proprietary cloud-based platform links requests with the 145’s that can complete the work per the FAA. In keeping with our goal of efficiency and improving automation in aviation, we then added an AOG (aircraft on ground) search that pings any subscribed provider within a 300nm radius of where the aircraft is sitting. The providers respond back within minutes with an ETA to the aircraft and the hourly rate charged. We also perform a similar function with aircraft parts, ground service equipment, and aircraft detailing.
As we expand our product’s offerings, we are consistently finding ways in which old problems have solutions to which MRO Insider can adapt. We have built our brand on transparency in a sector of our industry that has previously been shrouded in secrecy and behind-the-back handshakes that ultimately result in a higher cost to the aviator – whether that be from multiple brokers who are overseeing a transaction, or a finder’s commission paid out to the maintenance decision maker that is rolled into the final invoice.
Beginning in January of 2022, we now offer requests to be sent through our platform to FBOs by aircraft schedulers and dispatchers. By charging a nominal flat-rated admin fee for an MRO Insider-initiated arrival, FBOs are now able to dynamically quote fuel, hangar rental, ramp fees, ground transportation and more, without having to give away percentages of their revenue margin.
Our vision with this process is that despite contract fuel and other programs, the price each FBO is capable of quoting will be lower with the outside programs removed.
As we continue building our eco-system of dynamic and on-demand services and solutions, we hope that the entryway to aviation becomes larger. Starting within the business aviation sector, we have seen how aviation is a significant differentiator to the growth and success of a business. Eliminating barriers, improving efficiency, and applauding transparency are all important goals that we need to strive for to maintain the growth and popularity that business aviation has seen since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The culture is the challenge. We can’t blame anyone – since the arrival of the FAA we have cultivated our culture with a structure based on a foundation of safety above all things, and it’s worked out well in the realm of safety. This tunnel vision has come at a cost, however – we’ve given up growth as we’ve been too laser-focused on this single goal to see the other areas of our garden that need to be tended. Changing this culture won’t happen overnight, but will be easier with the adoption of technological solutions to manage the multiple aspects of managing an airline, flight department, or owner-piloted aircraft.