Helicopter aviation is often a 24/7, 365-days-a-year job. In today’s global economy, there are always commercial helicopters flying a mission somewhere in the world, and to support that mission maintenance is always the order of the day. Sometimes the helicopter maintenance professional needs some information to do the task at hand that is beyond their reach. They need assistance in the way of additional technical data, or just where to find some more information about what they are trying to do. Just about every company that manufactures equipment for helicopters has a department to provide that assistance. We are all familiar with the words “product support” or “customer support” or the “help desk,” but in reality, just what do those words mean? Just what is this support all about? To help us with the answers, we had a talk with staff at AgustaWestland’s Fleet Control Center at its North Philadelphia location.
AgustaWestland, the Anglo-Italian helicopter company owned by Italy’s Finmeccanica, is one of the largest helicopter OEMs in the world.
Through its rotorcraft systems design, development, production and integration capabilities, coupled with its experience in integrated operational support solutions, it delivers mission capability to military and commercial operators around the world.
AgustaWestland operates globally in the helicopter market through a number of joint ventures and collaborative programs with major European and American helicopter primes where the company has leading or primary roles. There are also partnerships with a number of other leading aerospace and defense companies to deliver mutually beneficial programs.
AgustaWestland says it is more than just a helicopter manufacturer, but rather it is a total rotorcraft capability provider.
Helicopter Maintenance – How many help desks do you have and where are they located?
AgustaWestland – AgustaWestland currently maintains three fleet control centers and help desks. One in Lonate Pozzolo, Italy, another in Yeovil, U.K., and the third is located at AgustaWestland’s facility in Philadelphia, adjacent to the Northeast Philadelphia Airport.
Helicopter Maintenance – What are their hours and days of operation?
AgustaWestland – We are available to our customers 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Helicopter Maintenance – Does the help desk have a mission statement and/or core values?
AgustaWestland – Our mission is to provide total management of AOG events in order to minimize customer down time due to technical, material or logistics issues. We also strive to provide our customers with a single point of contact for information about their requests.
Helicopter Maintenance – Is the Northeast Philly help desk just for the U.S. or is it international also?
AgustaWestland – The Northeast Philly location supports both U.S and international customers. The fleet operations centers (FOC) and the fleet control centers (FCC) provide international support to AgustaWestland customers. They work seamlessly together to monitor and resolve AOG situations for the worldwide fleet of AgustaWestland aircraft. The FCCs are focused on managing service and support for the U.S., Canada, Central America and the Caribbean, while the FOCs concentrate on the rest of the world. However, each center maintains visibility of the others requirements and the staff members at each center work hand in hand to ensure that the worldwide fleet is receiving technical and material support around the clock from the closest possible support center and logistics hubs.
Helicopter Maintenance – Do you have an 800 number and a direct line?
AgustaWestland – Yes. (See the table below.)
Toll-free number - 800 160950 (Italy only)
Global number - +39 0331 664444
Fax number - +39 0331 664545
E-mail - 24.7FleetOperationsCentre@agustawestland.com
Toll-free number - 1-888-248-7822
Global number - 1-888-248-7822
Fax number - 1-215-281-1366
E-mail - firstname.lastname@example.org
Helicopter Maintenance – How many members are on your help desk team, and are they generalists or specialists?
AgustaWestland – During normal business hours, the FCC maintains four AOG specialists who concentrate on the material logistics and coordination of each event. They also staff a minimum of one technical representative and one product support engineer to provide detailed technical assistance. The staff can also do research and provide alternate solutions at times where an event may go beyond the realm of material support. During non-business hours, we staff the department with two AOG specialists, with both a technical representative and one product support engineer on call for immediate support when necessary.
Helicopter Maintenance – How are the specialties identified, engines, airframe, avionics, rotor head, etc?
AgustaWestland – Both the technical representatives and product support engineers supporting the FCC are trained from nose to tail and support the entire AgustaWestland in-service product line. In the event that a more focused discipline may be required, the FCC can task the incoming queries to the product support engineering team for more specialized support. These queries are then worked with the utmost urgency by specialists, in place of their normal workloads, until the query is fully resolved.
Helicopter Maintenance – What are the qualifications of your specialists?
AgustaWestland – The majority of the AOG specialists typically carry a background as order administrators with specialized training in AgustaWestland technical and logistics data and processes. This background is essential, as the prior experience allows the specialists to locate and process orders efficiently from one of our three remote stock locations throughout North America or from our large on-site warehouse here at AgustaWestland Philadelphia.
Prior to coming on staff in the FCC, each specialist is further trained on general rotary wing maintenance concepts and technical knowledge as well as a detailed course on all the AgustaWestland interactive technical publications. They are also trained on the use of AgustaWestland’s customer relationship management (CRM) software, and the processes of each customer support department. This training allows them to understand and analyze the incoming queries, collect and enter the necessary data into AgustaWestland’s CRM system, seek alternate parts autonomously, or to route any queries for additional technical support or engineered solutions from AW’s technical representatives or engineering team when necessary.
Due to the critical nature of the incoming queries, it is essential that the correct data is received and stored in AW’s CRM system so that each interfacing department can manage relevant subtasks immediately and without delay in order to provide timely solutions for the customer. The additional training is focused on these aspects so that the AOG specialists are able receive the queries, task other departments if required, and expedite each query to resolution in the most efficient timeframe possible.
Helicopter Maintenance – Which AW aircraft models do you support?
AgustaWestland – AgustaWestland Philadelphia supports all of our models currently in service in North and Central America. This includes all variants of the AW109, AW119 and the AW139. The FCC will also be managing the AW189 and AW169 aircraft as they enter service in North and Central America within the next year.
Helicopter Maintenance – Is this support for both commercial and military operators?
AgustaWestland – Our support in Philadelphia extends to commercial customers, as well as a growing fleet of para-public customers in law enforcement and other areas. The FOCs in Italy and the U.K. support our military customers.
Helicopter Maintenance – What do you not support with the help desk and why?
AgustaWestland – In order to keep the staff of the FCC focused on resolving the logistics and technical concerns of our customers, we do not currently support in a dedicated manner, inquiries regarding commercial concerns. In order to facilitate commercial or financial concerns, we maintain a network of customer support managers responsible for the management of more general assistance and support of our customers. In the event that any commercial concerns may be involved with any particular query, the FCC will ensure that the technical and logistics portion of the request is worked without delay, and any subsequent commercial concerns are routed to the relevant customer support manager for a parallel resolution.
Helicopter Maintenance – How often does the help desk team get a question that is “new” to them?
AgustaWestland – The diversity of our customer base, as well as their unique missions, and the growth that the North and Central American fleets have experienced certainly presents us with new questions on almost a daily basis. The goal of the team is to have a set of processes in place which allow for resolution to every query, regardless of how new or different it may be from previous queries. By having robust processes and a searchable system such as CRM to capture all of the event data, we ensure that a “new” question is only “new” one time.
Helicopter Maintenance – What do you recommend an operator do before they call you?
AgustaWestland – We like to have a certain set of basic data with every query. We suggest that they collect and have all of the following data ready to present to us: A/C SN, total time of the affected aircraft, part number(s) affected, total time of the affected P/N(s), a brief description of the failure mode(s) and the next scheduled flight information. Detailed photos of any discrepancies are also very helpful. This baseline of data ensures that we collect the necessary variables for our entire customer support team to understand the situation at hand. This, in turn, gives us the best chance to achieve the value our customers expect from the FCC to have their aircraft back in the air for the next scheduled flight with the quickest solution possible.
Helicopter Maintenance – What should an operator not do before calling you?
AgustaWestland – If they are not sure what the problem is, just call us. Along with our fielded tech reps, we’re happy to be the first stop for our customer’s technical issues and operational questions. We’re here to help!
Helicopter Maintenance – In today’s digital world, do you receive many e-mails with photos to show you the problem the operator is having?
AgustaWestland – In this digital age, you would think that we would get inundated with photos. We do receive a few initial queries with photos, but often we need to specifically ask for them.
Helicopter Maintenance – How helpful are the photos?
AgustaWestland – Photos are extremely helpful. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth 1,000 words.” In the event that product support engineering needs to be involved for repair creation or another alternate solution, they are absolutely essential. Having photos available in advance is extremely useful in any subsequent communication flow between the customer and AW. This helps us resolve these queries as soon as possible and without further requests for additional data from our customers.
Helicopter Maintenance – On a percentage basis, what would you say are the numbers of maintenance questions as opposed to flight crew questions?
AgustaWestland – The vast majority of the requests are typically parts related. AW also maintains a large number of technical representatives in the field which is our first line of support for technical and maintenance related requests. Our technical representatives are already in communication with the customers on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the size of any customer’s fleet, and actively working to resolve these requests through our normal support channels. This can also involve flight crew questions, but most operators’ flight crews channel their questions through their own maintenance organizations first, so we typically receive flight crew questions through those channels.
Helicopter Maintenance – How important are your field reps to the help desk and where are they located?
AgustaWestland – Our field technical representatives are essential to the communication flow for these requests. They are located strategically throughout North and Central America so that they can be on site at a moment’s notice. Since they are in constant contact with our customers, they understand exactly how each query is impacting a customer’s operations and are a very useful link for ensuring that our customer support organization can make informed decisions on how to best support each query. In fact, a good amount of the queries are often received and already filtered through our field technical representatives. In the event that a query has not been reviewed by one of our technical representatives in the field, we also maintain at least one in-house technical representative in the office as a part of the FCC team to provide the support needed. The technical representatives are instrumental in seeking alternate solutions which can keep an aircraft airworthy until a part will arrive at the aircraft location.
Helicopter Maintenance – What kind of presence do you have on the internet?
AgustaWestland – We have a customer portal called Leonardo. It offers a wide range of services directly from the Web, with the objective of ensuring a faster response and a quicker solution to any type of assistance the customer may need to successfully operate their aircraft.
Customer users have access to all documents that have been published by AgustaWestland since their last visit to Leonardo.
Customer users have access to their personal information (such as contact data) while administrator users also have the possibility to create, manage and update the profile of all the users of a same customer. Users have the possibility to modify or update their contact data, helping us in always keeping our database up to date for any type of communication.
Users have the possibility to display the list of helicopters managed, having information retrieved directly from AgustaWestland databases. When selecting one aircraft, it will also be possible to display all its details, updating the total flight hours and also updating the availability data.
These data are very important for us to keep AgustaWestland database always up to date for any type of communication to the operator, ensuring also a continuous monitoring of our fleet worldwide.
Through this function users have the possibility to create service requests directly into our SAP customer relationship management (CRM) system, automatically addressing them to the most appropriate department, and to monitor the progress online up to conclusion through a dedicated tracking number. In this area it is possible to submit and monitor:
Users have the possibility to display, depending on their active subscriptions, the following documentation:
The frequently-asked questions area provides useful information relevant to all AgustaWestland World, focused on, but not limited to, Leonardo and the customer support and training offered services.
(Leonardo is organized into various sub-sections; see the table above for some examples.)
Helicopter Maintenance – When a customer takes delivery of a new aircraft, what do they get in the way of publications and how do they learn of your existence?
AgustaWestland – When a customer takes delivery of an aircraft, they are given a full set of publications for the aircraft, and introductions are made to key members of our customer support team, including their dedicated tech rep and customer support manager who can facilitate contact with the fleet control center.
At this time they are also enrolled in revision service for those technical publications and given access to our online customer portal, “Leonardo”, where they can access any revisions as soon as they are updated.
Helicopter Maintenance – Are the publications paper or have you switched over to all digital media?
AgustaWestland – AW still maintains and distributes paper publications. However, they are all also available in digital format and some customers have already begun to opt out of paper delivery. The AW tech pub solution is not only digital but is available on many mobile platforms.
Helicopter Maintenance – Does anyone at AW take on the role of customer advocate?
AgustaWestland – At AgustaWestland, we like to state that everyone in our customer support organization is an advocate for the customer. One of our large initiatives in the past year, and for which we would consider a part of our culture is the “think customer” mentality. We create and measure all of our processes and procedures for supporting our customer base in terms of how they are meeting the value that our customers define.
Helicopter Maintenance – What is the hierarchy for the customer to reach you starting at their location?
AgustaWestland – As mentioned previously, our first line of support is typically our field technical representatives. Each customer also has an assigned order administrator, product support engineer and customer support manager who handle the majority of each customer’s routine queries through our normal processes. We encourage them to utilize those lines of communication first, but are available to handle any questions or concerns from any level and through any of our customer support departments. Our help desk or FCC is primarily dedicated to serving AOG needs. Once the aircraft is returned to service, any longer term actions to complete the resolution to a query are routed back through the assigned personnel and standard support processes. We also maintain and distribute a full list of all the associated managers for each of our customer support departments to our customers. We encourage feedback through all levels of our organization, either positive or negative.
Helicopter Maintenance – What suggestions would you offer an operator that would help them take better care of their aircraft?
AgustaWestland – We continue to instruct our customers and operators to follow the maintenance manuals and allow for frequent inspections of their aircraft. As issues arise, our product support engineering team works in support of our operators to continuously develop new and improved solutions for maintenance that we continue to convey through AgustaWestland maintenance publications. For some of our models we have developed different maintenance plans so customers can choose which best fits their type of operation.
Helicopter Maintenance – As an educated guess, how many aircraft and in how many countries does the help desk currently support?
AgustaWestland – From Philadelphia, we support nearly 600 aircraft operating in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Panama and the Caribbean.
Helicopter Maintenance – On average, how many inquiries do you get on a monthly and yearly basis?
AgustaWestland – On average, the center processes about 200 inquiries per month and over 2,500 per year.
Helicopter Maintenance – Talking with each of your specialists, what do they say are the three most asked operator questions, and what is their response to those questions? I am asking this from a maintenance perspective and not a flight crew perspective. This is the heart and soul of the help desk. The operator contacts you with a problem and what do you do, step by step, to help them to resolve the problem?
AgustaWestland – The three topics most inquired about to our fleet control center pertain to parts, repairs and serviceability limits.
Regarding parts, we immediately check our current stock and move forward to obtain the part and ship it to our customers ASAP.
When we have a repair question, we begin with the data collection process to troubleshoot the issue and begin with less costly replacements until we find the root cause of the problem.
Lastly, in terms of serviceability questions, we evaluate the issue and pursue flight hour extensions to allow the customer to continue to safely operate while our support team continues to develop solutions in accordance with proper maintenance procedures.
Help when you need it from AgustaWestland — available around the corner and around the world.