“The simple is simply too simple”
by Hendrik Thielemann
“When it comes to teamwork, we’re one of the best in our industry,” says Robert Blob. 44 years of age, Robert heads up the MRO Bombardier Business Jet Center at RUAG Aviation in Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. He is in charge of the technical handling of all maintenance, repair and overhaul orders from customers flying Bombardier Jets.
Robert’s team consists of 30 aircraft mechanics, avionics technicians and aircraft electricians all working very closely together on the shop floor. His responsibilities include investments, coordination and administration. He and his team are firm believers in life-long learning and development, and therefore he ensures that every educational need that arises in his team is provided for, whether it relates to individual or team work.
Robert started out thirty years ago on the shop floor doing maintenance. “I was trained as an aircraft mechanic here in Oberpfaffenhofen, from 1989 to 1992. At that time the company was still called Dornier,” he remembers with a smile. Initially, he did maintenance work on military aircraft. When the military MRO business was moved to another location, Robert joined the regional airline Augsburg Airways. In 1999, he returned to Oberpfaffenhofen, to Dornier’s Business Aviation division. He obtained his license as certifying staff for the Bombardier Challenger 601. After that he became an industrial master craftsman and then studied business administration.
Robert has been taking care of Bombardier Jets for more than a decade now, but routine and boredom are unknown to him: “I am fascinated by the combination of technology and economy. This, together with the challenge of leading my team, is what makes my job so interesting.”
Business aviation is a very dynamic industry, says the Bavarian. “You never know what will happen tomorrow.” Projects rarely proceed exactly as planned in advance: operators often change their plans while their aircraft is in the hangar. Sometimes they need their plane back faster.
Sometimes they suddenly have more time because a flight gets canceled and they see an opportunity to have additional work carried out during the downtime. “Planning, re-planning: that’s part of my everyday life,” Robert explains. In addition, there are many unforeseen missions that might arise. One example is when an Aircraft On Ground (AOG) occurs. This is when an aircraft has a major issue and is declared unfit to fly. “Then we have to get to the jet as soon as possible, no matter where it stands.”
“To be successful in this business, you need the right team,” says Robert. “Qualifications can always be acquired – it’s the team that makes the difference. Because the greatest competence in the world is of little use if the employee is not a team player. Qualifications and team spirit must go together. And one is just as important as the other.” The highly successful American industrialist and renowned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie once said: “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”
Bombardier Global Express business jet MRO, Oberpfaffenhofen.
Robert does not deny that the work can sometimes become a heavy load to carry: “Anyone who works in the industry knows that this is not a nine-to-five job. We also have families and private lives, and sometimes that just doesn’t allow overtime. This is why everyone on the team has multiple qualifications, which gives the shop floor team flexibility and builds trust, because each team member knows that a colleague can always step in for them when needed.”
Team spirit is one of the main aspects of the job. “What also sets us apart is our facility. We are a one-stop shop. A customer doesn’t have to fly the aircraft somewhere else for painting after maintenance. Everything can be done here at one single location. We have the right people and the right place.”
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford
Alongside team spirit and the one-stop shop philosophy, Robert regards communication as equally important, both within the company and with the customer. “It’s all about responsiveness, reliability and communicating the technical feasibility of projects, being aware of downtimes and providing available slots to customers when they need them,” he says. Equally important is close coordination with the Aircraft Project Leader, the central point of contact for the customer. “We always want to create transparency for the customer. The customer wants to be informed about the status of their aircraft at all times – we get how important this is and we want them to know it. The flow of information can determine how successfully a project runs.”
Additional communication between all the teams is required when maintenance is combined with modifications or upgrades. In such cases, the design organization comes into play. RUAG Aviation is a Part 21J design organization approved by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The engineers design the modifications; Robert’s team then carries out the implementation and the engineer is always on site to coordinate the work with the certifying staff. Certifying can pose challenges, as aircraft are hardly ever still in the condition they were in upon their initial delivery from the manufacturer. This is because various customer-desired modifications and airworthiness-related retrofits happen during the course of an aircraft’s life.
When Robert was asked why he took this demanding job, he answered without hesitation: “I wanted to do something special in the challenging field of aviation – and business aviation is one of the most complex areas I know. I wanted to do something that combines the implementation of high-end technology with the creativity of esthetic design – I find this exhilarating. For me the simple is simply too simple.”