Aircraft Lease Returns: Balancing Maintenance Programs and Asset Value

Aircraft lease returns represent a complex intersection of Aircraft Maintenance Programs (AMPs), lease return conditions, and the preservation of asset value for subsequent leases which often use MPD (Maintenance Planning Data) information. Understanding the interplay between these factors is imperative for both lessors and operators to facilitate a seamless transition at the conclusion of a lease term and it is a good example of where airworthiness which is based around the AMP meets commercial lease obligations often built around the MPD which is essentially a more generic document.

Traditionally, operators relied on a phased or block maintenance approach, where standardized checks (A-checks, C-checks, etc.) were performed at fixed intervals. While this system offers predictability, it can lead to calling tasks before they have reached their full potential and required longer blocks of ground times for scheduled maintenance inputs at A and C checks for example.

In an attempt to optimize aircraft availability during a lease period the operator might use equalized maintenance which breaks down larger phased or block maintenance events and distribute tasks over time when the aircraft has operational ground time.

During a lease period the operator or lessee might prefer the equalised approach as it offers operational flexibility but can introduce complexities when it comes to lease returns.

Task intervals and thresholds spread across multiple smaller checks and so the aircraft’s maintenance status and the agreed-upon lease return conditions might well not align. This will need to be re aligned to lease return conditions (typically Maintenance Planning Data thresholds and intervals) and necessitate bridging checks to retain lease conditions and in turn maintain asset value.

During a lease return, aircraft lessors stipulate the minimum remaining service life for tasks or and many life or time-controlled parts within the lease agreement. As a consequence of the selected operator maintenance program (the AMP) the tasks or components may be functioning within operational airworthiness standards but fail to meet the remaining contracted intervals to be remaining at lease hand back. Typically the AMP will be revised for lease return either to the MPD intervals and thresholds or if a new lease is ready in place it might transition directly to a new lessee AMP.

This can trigger the need for ‘bridging checks’, where additional maintenance must be performed before the aircraft can be returned and re-leased. A bridging check is when one maintenance plan is transitioned to another, in these examples where additional maintenance is performed to meet lease return requirements, however as we mentioned it might also be carried out to transition from one lessee to another directly.

From a lessor’s standpoint, ensuring the residual value of their aircraft assets is paramount. Lease agreements are designed to specify the acceptable condition of the aircraft at the end of the lease, and this includes the minimum remaining time on tasks and components alike. If the selected AMP by the operator consistently leads to maintenance discrepancies in this regard, the lessor will at the lessee’s expense require bridging checks to be carried out to ensure the aircraft is attractive for the next lease and be lease compliant.

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