Star Air Maintenance is one of those largely unseen centres of competence based on the east side of OR Tambo Airport, Johannesburg.

STAR AIR MAINTENANCE (SAM), is an independent Aircraft Maintenance Organisation (AMO), and has been operating since June 2008. With 59 permanent staff, it is headed by both Peter Annear and Marcel ‘Lieb’ Liebenberg.

Lieb is a heavy jet maintenance veteran with valuable experience as both a Tech Rep and an AME running major C-Checks for many African airlines. The company occupies the old east-side fast jet testing centre at Hangar K7 which can accommodate four B737-300s within the Denel compound at OR Tambo International Airport.

With 25 fully qualified Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AMEs), the company carries out third-party heavy maintenance as well as taking care of Star Air Cargo’s contract and charter fleet of Boeing 737s. The AMO is further licensed to work on McDonnell Douglas MD-series aircraft and DC-9s.

Unlike his contemporaries in larger maintenance bases in South Africa, Lieb is usually found in his overalls directing work from the shop floor. His hands-on style is rare in this high technology industry where paperwork skills have become as important as mechanical knowledge.

“A vital part of today’s large jet maintenance is to keep overheads down”, says Lieb. “Staff thus need to be kept busy, and that means supervising workflows and making sure there is always something to do. Due to events such as the current supply chain crisis there could be delays in obtaining spare parts, and some tasks may take longer than others, so it is important to avoid periods where our engineers may be idle whilst waiting for colleagues to finish off.”

“There are some costly ADs and SBs related to heavy jets. Boeing 737s for example require landing gear removal and overhaul every ten years. That can cost up to $150 000 per gear leg.

A C-Check can come in at around US$43,000 for labour if the aircraft does not require heavy maintenance. It is unscheduled maintenance that makes the C-Check costly. Boeing’s Corrosion Preventative Control Program (CPCP) is a good example. It has several three, four and eight year calendar-based cycles and these can require an extra and substantial 3500 hours of additional work.

Lieb’s experienced approach to workflow and tasking has a valuable spin-off. With knowledgeable and experienced management, the customer Tech Reps can benefit from integrated work packs that avoid repetitive work shared by both the major C-check and the CPCP requirements, thus reducing the final bill.

Star Air Maintenance also offers its clients the option of sourcing their own parts for a nominal handling fee. Star Air Maintenance subscribes to Partsbase, a database and tracking organisation that’s able to source new and used components from around the world.

Lieb says his relationship with the CAA is excellent and he finds their inspectors helpful when needed to resolve issues. “We occasionally need CAA approval to move aircraft stranded because of a technical issue and have found the Authority’s personnel very helpful in such cases,” Lieb adds.

Whilst Star Air Maintenance would like to grow their AMO, Lieb is wary of growing too fast. “Having more people makes it easy to lose day to day control, unless systems are in place. At the moment we happily bring in experienced and skilled contract engineers when needed.”

“Some things we have chosen to outsource as running several departments is costly and requires dramatically more regulatory monitoring and oversight. Thus, we contract out our safety equipment needs and some other tasks like borescope inspections – at least for the time being,” Lieb says. In this way Star Air Maintenance is able to operate with maximum efficiency and pass these cost benefits on to clients.

Star Air Maintenance Pty Ltd (SAM) is a subsidiary company of Star Air Cargo Pty Ltd, that provides all the AOC’s maintenance requirements up to C check. We are based at O R Tambo International Airport and our team of highly qualified engineers offer line maintenance to third parties. Boeing 737-200Boeing 737 ClassicsBased at OR Tambo International Airport, Johannesburg South Africa.

Contact: lieb@starcargo.co.za or peter@starcargo.co.za Tel: 011 395 3756 and 011 973 5512

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