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Case Study: Critical AOG (Aircraft on Ground) Logistics

A large commercial airliner was grounded in a popular Caribbean destination during a busy winter holiday season, and was in urgent need of AOG logistics services.

335 passengers boarded the plane at Nassau International Airport in the Bahamas heading for Frankfurt, Germany from their Caribbean vacation. However, the plane was not able to take off due to an Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) failure. After intense troubleshooting, the mechanics concluded that the ECU, the APU's Electronic Control Unit had to be replaced. Already having spent 2 hours parked in 30 degrees Celsius heat/86 degrees Fahrenheit, without the air conditioning that the APU provides, the airline was forced to ground the aircraft (AOG). The ECU controls the APU, a smaller type engine that provides an aircraft with air conditioning and electrics while on the ground and is also being used to start up the aircraft engines.

Nassau Airport is the largest airport in the Bahamas and an important international gateway into the Caribbean. With thousands of passengers traveling from and to US and European destinations, grounding a large commercial airliner introduces great logistics challenges. Finding accommodations for a large group of passengers and arranging transportation is both costly, challenging and time consuming, not to mention that the situation tarnishes the airline's reputation. To minimize the loss of revenue and protect brand image, our client needed the ECU urgently. With no local suppliers or on-site stock, the airline's AOG Team had to rely on their closest supplier in Phoenix, Arizona.

Challenge:

To urgently deliver the APU Electronic Control Unit to the grounded aircraft in the Bahamas during the busy winter holiday season. 

Transportation Options

Sterling's AOG Desk received a call from the airline's AOG team at midnight EST (2100 Pacific time) to arrange the urgent delivery of the ECU from Phoenix, Arizona to Nassau. The search for fast and secure solutions began immediately.

The most economic option involved shipping the ECU via our Next Flight Out product. The unit would arrive at Nassau airport at 1215 the next day. Although shipping the part on the next available flight allows for expedited delivery, there is a certain degree of risk that the shipment's ETA might be delayed. During the holiday season, passenger baggage and other perishable commodities take priority over cargo, therefore increasing the risk of the shipment not reaching the destination when expected. With stakes so high in this AOG situation, the client needed a higher level of security.

The safest option was to have a Sterling employee personally escort the part from the supplier all the way to Nassau airport via a Handcarry service. Sterling's dedicated courier was available to pick up the part within 60 minutes from receiving the call, board the next available flight with a connection in Atlanta, and personally deliver it to the engineers waiting at Nassau airport by 1200 EST the next day.

Another secure and by far the fastest option was Sterling's Air Charter service. The part would be picked up within an hour from the initial call and then put onboard the charter aircraft with wheels up shortly after. The expected arrival time was 0600 the next day, gaining the airline 6 valuable hours to install the unit and get the aircraft operational again.

The Sterling Solution

To manage cost and still provide the highest level of speed and chain of custody, Sterling's team suggested yet another option: Handcarry/Charter hybrid solution -- using an On Board Courier/Handcarry service from Phoenix, Arizona to Miami, Florida, where it would be placed on a small charter plane and flown to Nassau Airport early morning to reach its destination by 10:00.

Solution highlights:

Fast, secure and cost-effective option
Sterling's highly experienced AOG team specializes in creating comprehensive logistical solutions that ensure that parts are delivered on time and within budget. Security and speed are crucial in an AOG situation, but so is managing costs. The Handcarry/Charter hybrid solution offered by Sterling was faster than the standard Handcarry service, yet more economical than a direct charter from Phoenix to Nassau, and it still maintained a high level of reliability, traceability and profitability to our client.

Security maintained throughout transit
With 335 passengers stranded at Nassau Airport and the domino effect a grounded aircraft can have on our client's operation, providing safe, secure and urgent delivery was paramount. In such situations, Sterling helps to eliminate the potential risk of offloading the part during the shipping process in error. Sterling's bonded courier personally safeguarded the shipment throughout the entire process, from pick up at the supplier in Phoenix, to delivery at Nassau Airport, Bahamas.

Longstanding relationships with the aviation community
Operating 24/7/365, Sterling Global Logistics' has been supporting OEMs, MROs, FBOs and Operators for over 30 years. These personal longstanding relationships play an important part in expediting the delivery process, as they allow Sterling to communicate with the suppliers directly, even after hours. In this case, Sterling was able to arrange the pick-up from the supplier late in the evening to be able to board the plane on the same day.

Sophisticated tracking systems that monitor your shipments
The customer was informed about the location and status of the shipment through Sterling's sophisticated tracking system that monitors shipments, sends alerts instantly with updates, or possible threat of delay. This system enables Sterling to reroute or make contingency plans immediately.

Summary:

Sterling's expertise in providing unique solutions to critical AOG situations provided the client with a fast, secure and profitable option. The ECU was handed to the engineers in Nassau at 10:00 next morning and the plane was ready for take off within just a couple of hours.