By Joe Braddock
As the market continues to ebb and flow, competition has reached an all-time high. Some companies are doing whatever they can do to make a sale. Desperation leads to cutting corners, cheating customers, and sometimes even flat-out ripping someone off. Many of us are very price driven. Most customers and even some government agencies, make it very known that the “low bidder” wins. Understandable for the most part, but a problem in the aviation industry.
From the outside looking in, most people tend to believe that the aviation industry is heavily regulated, secure, and not the type of industry that would lend itself to ‘bargain-basement’ practices. However, that is not the case. Often when people who are not in the aviation industry hear that some people remove parts from crashed aircraft and resell them to put in other aircraft, they are very surprised. However, it happens every day and has for decades. It’s not illegal but some of this is certainly questionable in the whole picture of aircraft safety. Most of the companies fly well under the FAA regulatory radar because they have no connection to any regulatory practices or agency so they are in this “gray market” as it has been named.
Many companies who are not repair stations outsource the 8130s and certification for what they sell usually to the shop that will do it for the lowest price. Makes sense, right? In most cases, when the low bidder shop provides the piece of paper that this parts sales company wants, they are not providing any sort of support. The bargain shop issuing the 8130 may do a quick function test and that’s about it at best. With that, no knows what could be growing inside that unit or what else might be going on with it other than it might turn on. For some, it’s just that piece of paper the 8130 is printed on that matters and that’s all.
SO, WHO CARES?
How does this affect the ultimate end user?
The cliché – “You get what you pay for” – never seems to be irrelevant. If you want cheap, then in most cases you will get cheap. However, with aircraft parts, we are talking about more than a cheap pair of $2 sunglasses falling apart in your hands.
JUST A PIECE OF PAPER
An FAA Form 8130 should mean something more than the paper it is printed on. Unfortunately, to many of these companies it is not. An 8130 form is meant to show proof that a part conforms to its original design and is in a condition for safe operation. “Safe” is the keyword – do you want to feel safe when flying on an aircraft? I’m sure most people would say yes, but I guess you never know. Low bidding and 8130 printer shops are taking the quickest, easiest route to bench test a unit. Some are not even doing that as seen by what they reference (or do not reference) on the 8130 form. As mentioned earlier, the unit is not opened up to see what might be going on inside. Using the car analogy, if you want to make sure your car is safe and will get you where you need to go, you might look under the hood at some point.
REALLY A WARRANTY AT ALL?
Beyond safety, what is your understanding of a warranty?
In most cases, low bidder shops are not backing 8130s they issue with any warranty. Therefore, the question then gets directed to the company selling the part. Since they have no way of knowing the performance or potential reliability of the unit they are selling, they just guess in most cases. 6 months? 1 year? – “Sounds good. That will help me sell it.”
So what happens when a warranty situation arises in this scenario? We have experienced many companies who just flat out will not support the unit. Some want to argue about the particulars of what exactly is covered under THEIR warranty. For example, the transmitter is not covered under their warranty because the shop that gave them the 8130 doesn’t cover the transmitter in their $100 or $200 bench check. Huh? But you said it had a 1 year “warranty”.
So I guess there is this new definition for “warranty”. Sure, some warranties have limits, terms, etc. such as mileage or years on a car. Or, time and/or cycles on an aircraft engine. However, that’s not what we are talking about here. When I bought the unit, I asked you if your warranty was a “unit” warranty and you said “yes” because you wanted to make the sale. Now, you’re telling me “well not exactly” because you have to spend money out of your pocket to fix the problem.
I realize that not all parts sales companies use these wishy-washy tactics. There are still some people who will just do the right thing and do whatever it takes to resolve a problem. I don’t know about you but that’s the type of company I want to deal with. I want to deal with people who mean what they say and back it up, even when it is an inconvenience or extra expense for them. I believe that a company shows their true colors not when they offer you great customer service during the sale, but when a support issue or warranty claim happens. How that company handles a challenging or adverse situation should be a big factor in determining who you call your preferred vendors. If it’s not, then you are taking an unnecessary risk. These types of parts companies know they are taking a risk when they sell you a part with any sort of warranty. They know this because ultimately they know they are just buying a piece of paper with their low cost 8130s.
YOU MUST LIKE RISK THEN?
Sure, one could argue that everything in life is risk inherently, however, why does buying aircraft parts have to be?
Risk management talks about controlling the probability of unfortunate events. So, why not steer away your chance of unfortunate events by asking your vendors these questions before you buy?
- What is your warranty and will you put it in writing?
- Is your warranty comprehensive or ‘bumper to bumper’?
- How will you handle my warranty claim if/when it happens?
- Can you replace the defective unit?
- Who will be responsible for any related expenses with a warranty claim?
If they can’t give clear answers to these questions, then maybe it’s time to look for vendors who will.
There are quite a few qualified, certified companies who sell parts with verifiable past performance and have a reputation for dependable support. For example, did you happen to check the other company’s website for any of these?
- Customer testimonials
- Awards & Recognitions
- Certifications & Authorizations
- Anything that gives you a sense of who and what that company is about
It’s not that difficult to make the right decision the first time. It just makes sense.