Small Operator Safety

Smart Tech Stops

March 9, 2020

Security considerations and crew limits, as well as maintenance capabilities, are factors in identifying a good tech stop.

The range capabilities of the latest intercontinental business jets are making the ability to fly nonstop between previously unreachable city pairs feasible. While this theoretically reduces the need to make tech stops, taking on fuel is only one of several reasons to land at least once before arriving at your final destination.

“As aircraft continue to offer more range, tech stops as we’ve always considered them will change,” said Greg Hamelink, senior manager of flight operations and maintenance at Stryker Corp. “The challenge now becomes how long a crew is on duty, do you have supplemental crew that can travel with the aircraft, and does the crew have adequate ability to get acceptable crew rest? Even though the aircraft has the capability to stay airborne for 14-16 hours, the crew may not be able to, still forcing some form of tech stop to change out crews.”

Indeed, not all tech stops are about fuel, notes BJ Ferro, senior demonstration captain for Bombardier Aerospace. With more than 19,000 hours flying business aircraft in the U.S. and internationally, Ferro knows that it takes forethought and planning to ensure that any stop made does not negatively impact the overall schedule.

“There are times when a tech stop is planned to change crews due to duty-time limitations, and considerations include the availability of proper airline service and accommodations should a change in transportation needs become necessary,” Ferro explained. “By that, I mean an aircraft technical issue or having a passenger’s needs change en route.”

“The tech stop would typically be considered in the planning phase, with a flight planning vendor able to sup-port the operation through its handling network,” Ferro continued. “It reduces time on a tech stop when charges and fees go through the planning vendor, which minimizes the requirement to carry cash for unexpected charges.”

Hamelink, who regularly travels aboard his company’s Bombardier Global Express and two Falcon 2000LXS aircraft as a flight technician/flight attendant, says main-tenance contingency planning is an important part of determining where to make a tech stop. He says it’s always wise to utilize the “call before you go” flight-following services that many manufacturers offer.

“After you provide them [an OEM] with your flight itin-erary, they’ll track your flight and notify their respective tech reps and service center facilities prior to your trip commencing,” explained Hamelink. “If a technical issue should occur, you at least have resources already standing by if needed. This is pre-flight planning that is essential to a successful international trip, as knowing what mainte-nance resources that might or might not be available can help to mitigate the risks and difficulties of an unsched-uled maintenance event.”


When planning tech stops on international routes, the importance of considering the security of passengers, crews and the aircraft itself is critical. While decisions for available fuel and maintenance services need to be made, knowing what security resources are available at a planned stop – and any alternates – is an important part of pre-flight planning.

“Security when traveling internationally is always an issue at a tech stop or final destination,” said Hamelink. “We evaluated a tech stop location in the past to determine what resources were available and changed that tech stop location because of the lack of service and security. This can include evaluating the handler at our tech stop or final destination,

Hamelink pointed to a recent Asia trip, with Hong Kong as a planned stop on a multi-leg flight plan. “We utilize a service called International SOS, which can provide us with personal and corporate travel security assessments. From this due diligence, we learned of the civil unrest at our stop, specifically at the airport and also throughout town. After consulting with many resources, we encouraged our passenger to not make the stop. Each scenario is different, and most companies do their best to reduce risk when it comes to executive travel because no one wants to make the front page of the New York Times after a poor travel decision.”

Ferro also emphasizes the importance of proper pre-flight security planning at any planned tech stops. His crews and company dispatchers use information and advisories provided through sources such as Medaire, the U.S. State Department and flight planning vendors.

“There are many ways to monitor situations around the world,” Ferro said, “and when a stop or arrival is to a location determined to be of high uncertainty, that stop is eliminated from a flight plan if possible.”

Scott Harrold, president of business development for SkyAviation International, emphasized the importance of networking with industry peers to stay in front of rapidly changing world events.

“Networking is key to international flight security, as it is the best learning tool you can get,” declared Harrold. “I highly recommend attending the annual NBAA International Operators Conference scheduled for March 16-19 in Charlotte, NC (see sidebar), where we will thoroughly review every region around the world.”


The need to plan for alternate airports is as important to determining the right tech stop location as it is to flight planning for a final arrival.

“They [alternate airports] are always important and not to be overlooked!” Ferro said. “Destinations with one runway should always be considered unavailable for a multitude of reasons – weather, unavailable runway, unexpected winds.”

Hamelink said that “Plan B” tech stop options are important because “you don’t want to be making a last-second decision for a tech stop while transitioning the North Atlantic.”

With a well-thought-out tech stop plan in place, oper-ators can mitigate many of the risks of international flying and execute a quick turnaround that will include topping off the fuel tanks and making sure the aircraft, crew and passengers have what they need to continue the flight safely, securely and comfortably.


NBAA will offer two events in March that will provide important and timely information on international operations.

The 2020 Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference, to be held March 10-13 in Charlotte, NC, will include education sessions on flying to India, Africa, the Middle East, Mexico, Canada, Russia, China, Japan, Europe and South America. In addition, sessions on flight following and international regulations will be offered.

The International Operators Conference, scheduled for March 16-19 in Charlotte, NC, also promises to have a full slate of sessions that will provide detailed information on flying to various regions of the world.