A question for dispatchers on Autopilot MELs (Airlines)

CrippleHawk

Well-Known Member
#1
Is it a new policy for airlines to fix the autopilot MEL when they go back to base? Or is it based on airline OPSPEC?
The airline I work (name REDACTED) for requires the autopilot to be repaired when it heads back to an MX base.
Basically it's a one leg trip from an outstation.

They use to allow the airplanes to gone on without autopilot. But for some reason they changed.
 

bbmikej

Well-Known Member
#3
I think that is a company policy more than an OPSPEC. If anything, the MEL book would say. Non of the airlines I have been at had it as a must at a MX base. I have had an airplane fly a few days without one, but on short hops everyday where the effect wouldn't be as noticeable.
 

QXSOUP

Well-Known Member
#4
The amount of time that an item can be deferred is per the FAA MMEL.. the Master MEL. IF the MMEL says it has to be fixed once back at a MX base then it has to be fixed there.
 

Flagship_dxer

Legacy Airline Dispatcher
#6
I wonder if this is a case of an airline seeing a lot of autopilot placard refusals and wanting to get the placards fixed as soon as possible to prevent pilots at outstations from refusing and stranding a plane somewhere without company maintenance and parts.

Everywhere I have worked, autopilots would stay on placard until either scheduled maintenance or the placard expired. Even if refused, the plane would stay flying unless they couldnt find a crew willing to take it (almost always there would be at least one crew willing).

If it is an airline that does a lot of flying in low visibility prone areas, they might need to keep the autopilots working so they can do CAT II-III approaches. That could be a reason to get them fixed as soon as they get to a station with maintenance and parts.

It would be strange for there to be an Ops Spec or MEL requiring autopilots to be one leg placard. However, if it is an airline with a lot inexperienced crews that have done stupid things I can see the FAA making that a requirement.
 

flynryan692

Well-Known Member
#8
From my very loose observation it would seem we keep them flying until that night and then fix it, or the next night depending on what base it is at, unless it HAS to be done now, but there is usually a good reason behind that. Like I said, it's a loose observation because I don't pay much attention to when it actually gets fixed.
 

CrippleHawk

Well-Known Member
#9
I wonder if this is a case of an airline seeing a lot of autopilot placard refusals and wanting to get the placards fixed as soon as possible to prevent pilots at outstations from refusing and stranding a plane somewhere without company maintenance and parts.

Everywhere I have worked, autopilots would stay on placard until either scheduled maintenance or the placard expired. Even if refused, the plane would stay flying unless they couldnt find a crew willing to take it (almost always there would be at least one crew willing).

If it is an airline that does a lot of flying in low visibility prone areas, they might need to keep the autopilots working so they can do CAT II-III approaches. That could be a reason to get them fixed as soon as they get to a station with maintenance and parts.

It would be strange for there to be an Ops Spec or MEL requiring autopilots to be one leg placard. However, if it is an airline with a lot inexperienced crews that have done stupid things I can see the FAA making that a requirement.
The CAT II thing does sound like a reason why they want the plane fix
At our company the plane loses CAT II status as well as RVSM if the Autopilot goes MEL
 
#11
Just looked at my updated MEL. Now the MEL is classified as a CAT A (1 day MEL). It used to be a CAT C (10 Day MEL)
It now states the following in the remarks section

(a) Comply with MEL procedure 22-XX-XX. (REDACTED)
(b) Repairs are made within one flight leg

We do quite a bit of flag flights to Canada and Mexico. I wonder of that has anything to do with the change.
 

FXMXC

Well-Known Member
#12
I wonder if this is a case of an airline seeing a lot of autopilot placard refusals and wanting to get the placards fixed as soon as possible to prevent pilots at outstations from refusing and stranding a plane somewhere without company maintenance and parts.

Everywhere I have worked, autopilots would stay on placard until either scheduled maintenance or the placard expired. Even if refused, the plane would stay flying unless they couldnt find a crew willing to take it (almost always there would be at least one crew willing).

If it is an airline that does a lot of flying in low visibility prone areas, they might need to keep the autopilots working so they can do CAT II-III approaches. That could be a reason to get them fixed as soon as they get to a station with maintenance and parts.

It would be strange for there to be an Ops Spec or MEL requiring autopilots to be one leg placard. However, if it is an airline with a lot inexperienced crews that have done stupid things I can see the FAA making that a requirement.
In the airlines I have worked for I have never seen it a requirement to have the autopilot fixed at the next maintenance station. The only MEL that comes to mind with that requirement is the flight data recorder and even with that as long as an "attempt" was made at the maintenance station to fix it. It could still be allowed to fly. However, that MEL has a 3 day limit and is a category A MEL as is the cockpit voice recorder. Again any airline can make their requirements more restrictive then the MMEL as long as it's not less. Also most aircraft have more than one autopilot most have 2 and the Boeings have 3 so all of them would have to be inop to have RVSM out usually. Also if all the autopilots are inop the crews usually refuse the aircraft especially at my last airline with the DC-9 I guess that airplane was easy to bust altitude with an inop pitch channel.
 

z987k

Well-Known Member
#14
Just looked at my updated MEL. Now the MEL is classified as a CAT A (1 day MEL). It used to be a CAT C (10 Day MEL)
It now states the following in the remarks section

(a) Comply with MEL procedure 22-XX-XX. (REDACTED)
(b) Repairs are made within one flight leg

We do quite a bit of flag flights to Canada and Mexico. I wonder of that has anything to do with the change.
While this wouldn't force a change to the MEL (the FAA doesn't care), It's usually a pretty high fuel burn to keep your jets out of RVSM, which is probably more expensive than just fixing the fraking plane, which you have to fix in a few days anyways(when it was a C item for you)
 
#17
While this wouldn't force a change to the MEL (the FAA doesn't care), It's usually a pretty high fuel burn to keep your jets out of RVSM, which is probably more expensive than just fixing the fraking plane, which you have to fix in a few days anyways(when it was a C item for you)
Many airlines loss sight of that in the name of achieving completion factor and mitigating delays.
 

pljenkins

Resident Knucklehead
#18
All the airplanes I've worked with could operate with the AP deferred, so this seems to be an airline specific decision.

Bear in mind, there is certainly some good solid reasoning behind it. No autopilot=no RVSM, which costs a lot more in gas. Also, you're stuck with CAT I approaches that don't require autopilot, your risk for incidents, excursions, and/or failure to comply with flight path and altitude restrictions goes way up, which makes pilots nervous. And let's face it, hand flying a 3 hour leg in a jet just sucks.
 
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