The Savvy Aviator #62: What's That Going To Cost?
The First CommandmentIn almost every such case, these unpleasant surprises occur because the aircraft owner authorized the work to be done without first asking what it would cost. In doing that, the owner broke the first commandment of aircraft maintenance:
Never permit a shop or mechanic to perform maintenance on your aircraft until you have received and approved a work order and cost estimate in writing. If and when you approve the work to be done, instruct the shop or mechanic explicitly not to exceed the cost estimate without first obtaining your explicit approval.I find it amazing how often this commonsense commandment is broken. In almost every other sort of commerce, it would be absolutely unthinkable for someone to purchase goods or services without knowing what they will cost. Most of us would never buy a headset, a pair of sunglasses or a gallon 100LL without checking the price. Nor would we consider hiring a plumber to install a new water heater, a roofer to fix a leak, or a garage to replace a muffler without first obtaining a quotation or estimate. Yet more often than not, aircraft owners put their plane in the shop and authorize work to be done without obtaining even a verbal estimate, much less a written quote. Frequently, the first time they learn what the work will cost is when the work is finished and they are presented with the invoice. At that point, it is too late for them to influence the outcome; they can only complain and lick their wounds. (Show me an aircraft owner, and I'll show you an expert complainer and wound licker.) Why do we do this? I can think of three reasons:
- We're uncomfortable asking the shop or mechanic for a cost estimate.
- The aircraft has a known problem, but we don't yet understand what's wrong sufficiently for the shop or mechanic to estimate how much work needs to be done or what parts need to be replaced.
- The aircraft is in the shop for an inspection, so we don't yet know what problems are going to be found, much less what parts and labor will be needed to fix them.