Hillwood Airways Looks to Modern Technology Solutions to Facilitate 121 Certification
Texas-based Hillwood Airways, formerly known as ATX Air Services, was founded in 2013 as a passenger and cargo charter air transportation service. The carrier operates one B737-700(C) from its base at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, providing corporate clients, sports teams, governments, entertainment and other special interest groups with domestic and international transport.
In 2016, the airline sought to move from a Part 125 certificate to a Part 121 supplemental air carrier certification as part of a strategic growth initiative to enhance its multi-modal global transportation capabilities – a shift that would require some internal adjustments.
Scott Bohnenkamp, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Hillwood Airways, responsible for running the day-to-day operations from staffing to budgets, has been with Hillwood Airways since the company’s founding, and was part of the team that made the decision to transition to Part 121. He understood the complexity of the certification process and how the unique features and use of their aircraft would bring challenges, specifically in maintenance compliance.
“We operate under a low utilization maintenance program (LUMP) that we want to continue to use. We knew we needed a maintenance program that could adapt to meet FAA-approved workflows to achieve Part 121 certification,” says Bohnenkamp.
That need led to the adoption of a modern maintenance, inventory and compliance system and subsequently opened unexpected doors of opportunity for operational efficiency, data accessibility and growth.
Limits and Conditions
As a single airplane operation, Hillwood Airways provides services in three primary configurations: cargo transport, VIP (32 first class seats) and high density (up to 90 passengers). As well, the 737 700C – one of only six in the world – also has auxiliary fuel tanks that allows for an additional 66,000 pounds of fuel that can extend the range to over 5,800 nautical miles.
The department has relied on a computerized maintenance tracking provider for years to support the 737’s operational objectives.
Robert (Bob) Everett, Chief Inspector and Director of Quality at Hillwood Airways, says, “Prior to seeking Part 121 certification, we had enrolled in a maintenance tracking program. However, once we began preparing our Part 121 application, we found that the program wasn’t meeting our needs in the way of functionality, data confidence or compliance. We needed more tracking modules and the ability to customize.”
Long-time employee and 30+-year aircraft maintenance veteran and Director of Maintenance for Hillwood Airways, Rob Adsett, added, “Sometimes the provider made changes to data on their own, unbeknownst to us, which threw us out of compliance. So we started looking for a new company.”
They sought a solution with the ﬂexibility to handle the unique aspects of a LUMP maintenance program with the FAA-compliant workﬂow.
After some extensive research and hands-on evaluations, the Hillwood Airways team came across Flightdocs. “It was a perfect fit. It had everything we need in terms of functionality and security and was easy to use so we knew that our maintenance folks would be able to adapt to it very quickly,” confirms Everett.
In 2016, Hillwood Airways enrolled in Flightdocs and began the intensive process to apply for Part 121 Certification.
“The enrollment process was seamless,” says Everett. “The Flightdocs team acquired all of our data from the old system and transitioned it into the Flightdocs program and we performed a 100% quality audit to make sure nothing was overlooked—and it was all there.”
For the maintenance crew, which includes five technicians, the new maintenance solution was well received. Flightdocs provided a short overview of the program including where to find templates, how to set up signatures, etc., and they were off.
The maintenance group quickly found value in the electronic mainte-nance program for daily activities. From the Maintenance Dashboard to Work Orders and Electronic Logbooks, the team improved operational efficiency.
As Director of Maintenance, Adsett regularly relies on the dashboard to see the complete maintenance management snapshot the 737. He adds, “It lets me focus on what matters most, take action immediately and save time and money. The system also has a great calendar that I can draw down to see what parts and systems are due for maintenance or replacement in the next 90 days. From there, I can order whatever is needed in advance so we’re prepared.”
Most importantly, the maintenance tracking program set the foundation for Part 121 approval.
Compliance and Customization
In 2017, the airline was awarded a Part 121 Supplemental Air Carrier Certificate from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and ETOPS authorization.
As a Part 121 supplemental carrier, Hillwood Airways is required to produce a Continuing Analysis and Surveillance System (CASS). CASS is used to monitor, analyze and optimize the performance and effectiveness of their air carrier maintenance programs, report every month that shows discrepancies, worked task cards, hours ﬂown, etc.
Everett says, “Our FAA inspectors join us for CASS meetings. We download the report directly from the maintenance tracking program, which comes in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. I can show all kinds of information out of the data that comes out of Flightdocs to the FAA to demonstrate compliance.”
As Chief Inspector and Director of Quality, Everett appreciates the Flightdocs auditing tools for checking to see what parts are coming nearing time/hour limits. He explains, “I also conduct quality control audits to make sure scheduled work was completed. Readily accessible real-time information about aircraft hours and due lists is vital to maintaining our FAA compliance. It’s about how our aircraft’s doing and what may be coming due to keep them in the loop. It also keeps everybody in maintenance aware of jobs that are coming up and plan accordingly.”
The Hillwood Airways maintenance team is now looking to deploy the inventory module of Flightdocs. Until recently, the company was using Excel spreadsheets for inventory maintenance because its inventory warehouse was very small. That warehouse has grown considerably in the last year, which prompted them to look at the Flightdocs inventory module.
Soon after, Flightdocs converted the spreadsheets to digital format and plugged it all in the system. Everett says, “We have one individual that tracks all of our purchase orders and work orders that go in and out. One of the best parts about the inventory is that we can be anywhere in the world with our iPad, we can hook up Wi-Fi or to the internet and see what’s back home, what’s in our inventory and our warehouse, see if we have that part, see if we need to ship to us wherever we’re parked.”
Partners in Success
The Flightdocs and Hillwood Airways partnership was forged by a unique operation that needed a unique solution.
Bohnenkamp said it best when he stated that, “for us the ability to customize is foremost. Our needs are not off the shelf. There are efficiencies that we capture with significant financial impact, efficiencies that we capture by the ability to customize the program and then, therefore, use a customized maintenance program. It also gives us the confidence to grow.”
This confidence and capabilities makes Flightdocs an extension of their operations, the feel, support and responsiveness of in-house IT and maintenance planning departments. It is this ability that Flightdocs provided and continues to provide that makes Flightdocs part of Hillwood Airways long term plan.