Aircraft Breakdown Assistance: Help Away From Home

Sportys new Breakdown Assistance Program gets you going again when your airplane breaks and its a long way home.

It’s the nightmare that too often becomes reality: You’ve stopped for inexpensive, self-serve fuel at Resume Speed, Indiana. You strap in for the remaining two-hour leg of the flight to your destination, twist the key to start, there’s a strange noise, the prop makes half a turn and everything goes silent. You try again—nothing. You’ve already noticed that the airport is deserted.

Now what?

If you’re a member of Sporty’s new Breakdown Assistance Program (BAP), no matter what time of the day or night it is, you pull your membership card out of the glove box, call the phone number on it and provide your membership information. Within 15 minutes—current average wait time is five minutes—you’ll get a call from a person who is an A&P and IA, is looking at the file on your airplane and will start the process of troubleshooting the problem and getting you on your way. From our perspective, it’s a 24/7 AAA service for general aviation.

broken airplane

BAP is a result of cooperation between Sporty’s and Savvy Aircraft Maintenance Management Inc. (SAMM), a company that has been providing professional aircraft maintenance management for owner-flown piston singles, twins and single-engine turboprops for eight years. According to owner Mike Busch, SAMM averages dealing with 350 aircraft-on-ground away from home situations for its customers each year. It has both built up a database of reputable shops around the country and an approach to AOG situations that focuses on troubleshooting the situation carefully before putting a wrench on the airplane.

Because of SAMM’s experience in dealing with AOG airplanes, Sporty’s and SAMM are now offering the new standalone Breakdown Assistance Program. Full disclosure, Mike Busch has been a contributor to this magazine and I’ve been a Savvy customer for some years.

Troubleshoot First

Busch emphasizes that troubleshooting is at the heart of BAP because his company’s experience is that over 50 percent of the time the problem is something that can be solved without opening up the airplane. He gave us the example of an owner who called when he couldn’t start his Cirrus SR22 away from home base.

The owner and Savvy’s A&P/IA went through the symptoms and diagnosed a slipping starter drive adapter. The solution proposed was to have the local FBO use its 28-volt APU for an external-power start because often a failing drive adapter will have a few starts left in it if driven with 28 volts instead of the airplane’s 24-volt battery. Shortly thereafter Savvy’s technician received a call from the owner and could hear the sound of the engine running in the background as the owner reported success.

If the problem requires getting a hands-on mechanic, Savvy will contact a shop—even if there’s not one on the field—and get help on the way. It will also brief the mechanic on the results of troubleshooting to date and suggest what part the mechanic bring to the airplane. Savvy stays in touch with the shop/mechanic to manage the needed repairs until they are complete—even if you decide to go on with your trip and come back for the airplane later.

At $149 for piston singles, $199 for piston twins and $249 for turboprop singles, we think Sporty’s Breakdown Assistance Program is cheap insurance for any owner who uses a GA airplane for travel.