When leasing an aircraft, what are your maintenance obligations during and at the end of the lease term to ensure that the returned aircraft maintains its value?
Focused on that residual value, the lessor will designate a qualified inspector or auditor to perform periodic records reviews and/or asset inspections, throughout the lease period. The intent is to verify the aircraft’s general condition and ensure it remains in compliance with lease requirements.
After each check, the inspector will send the lessor a report with the graded condition of the aircraft and any specific findings. If anything can or might affect the residual value, you’ll be required to take corrective action to bring the aircraft into compliance.
At term end, the lessor will conduct an “off-lease” inspection (similar to a pre-purchase inspection) at a factory-owned or authorized service center. All components and systems must be in full working order; or repaired if not. If the major components are near their life limit, you’d be responsible for covering these costs: either a pro-rated percentage based on time consumed, or 100% of the cost to overhaul if it’s close to the event.
If the aircraft requires repairs for damage or corrosion, you are responsible for the repair cost. Once any repairs required by the lease are completed, any diminution in value due to damage history will be the lessor’s responsibility.
So what can you do to preserve the value of the aircraft?
- Review the lease document fully to understand the operation, maintenance and return of the aircraft requirements. A good lease-return scenario always starts with a well-defined and documented set of return conditions. Ask questions for clarification prior to signing, to be sure you fully comprehend the broad scope of your obligations.
- Keep the aircraft clean and polished to protect from corrosion and paint deterioration. Unprotected aircraft deteriorate faster than you might expect. The aircraft interior will be inspected for wear, cleanliness, and damage. The exterior will be checked for oil leaks, paint condition, and structural damage.
- Store the records in a secure, dry, fireproof storage cabinet or safe. Damaged or missing records devalue an aircraft and will change residual value. The lessor will come out either annually or bi-annually to see the aircraft and review the records for accuracy and airworthiness.
- Keep up with routine and scheduled maintenance tasks, even if the aircraft is not flying for extended periods of time.
- Address interior and exterior wear items immediately. Waiting can compound the problem and cost more to correct.
- Assume the lease document allows for the aircraft to operate under different regulations or use than originally defined. If the aircraft flies only for you under FAR Part 91 regulations, don’t move your aircraft into a for-hire Part 135 air-taxi arrangement without consulting the lessor; it may not be allowed.
- Leave the aircraft outside. Store it in a hangar when not in use. Sun, humidity, and high temperatures deteriorate interiors and paint exterior, diminishing the residual value.
- Let the aircraft sit inactive for long periods of time. Your aircraft still needs to be flown and systems exercised to keep systems lubricated and reduce risk for damage.
- Ignore missing paint and erosion strips. This leads to corrosion and will be expensive to correct.
The lessor always requires hull insurance at a specific dollar amount, and generally seeks high liability insurance limits. If you acquire an hourly cost maintenance program (HCMP), it can help ensure that the aircraft meets return conditions. The lease should state clearly that the maintenance program was current at lease inception and that the HCMP will be transferred to the lessor. An HCMP is very desirable in a lease transaction. It helps preserve the aircraft’s residual value, and helps you avoid penalties and extra costs. BAA