Club Spotlight: How Clubs Can Benefit from an Aircraft Maintenance Management System

TSS Flying Club President David Yacono has been a fan of Mike Busch for a long time. Mike is the founder and CEO of Savvy Aviation, a professional maintenance management and consulting company that offers aircraft owners a variety of analysis and other maintenance services. He also writes the “Savvy Maintenance” column in AOPA Pilot magazine. 

Dave has heard Mike speak at Oshkosh and has been reading his articles about maintenance since his (Mikes) days as co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of AvWeb more than 20 years ago.  “I drank the Kool-Aid about overhaul at condition a long time ago,” Dave said.

Although Dave was a believer in Mike’s maintenance philosophies, that didn’t mean the club’s 70 members would all agree to use Savvy Aviation to manage its fleet of aircraft based at Montgomery County Airpark (KGAI) in Gaithersburg, Maryland.

TSS has three Cessna 182s, two Cessna 172s and a Van’s RV-12. The club completed the purchase of a Turbo C-182 RG this week which brings the fleet back up to six aircraft.

About seven or eight years ago, the club began using Savvy-Analysis Free, a free service in which owners can submit data from engine monitors and use web-based tools for self-analysis of the engine’s condition.

Last year TSS decided to enroll two planes, a 182 and a 172 that were nearing TBO, in the SavvyMX program. They also put the other two Cessnas in the SavvyQA program and the RV-12 in the Savvy-Analysis Pro program. 

We wanted to do a one-year trial,” Hank Williams, the club’s maintenance officer said. “Our renewal is coming up in June and we’re bringing all of our Cessnas up to MX.”

The SavvyMX program is Savvy’s flagship service and costs $750 a year per plane. It includes a Savvy Aviation account manager who is an experienced A&P/IA who provides analysis and advice to the aircraft owner on what work needs to be done and what work can wait and handles all interactions with the maintenance shop on the owner’s behalf.

The QA program, which is $375 annually, provides the same level of analysis without a dedicated account manager and is designed for owners who prefer to work directly with their maintenance shop. The SavvyAnalysis Pro service, which costs $129 a year, is one step up from the free analysis service and includes interpretation of engine monitor data to identify problems, rather than the owner’s self-analysis.

Savvy also offers Pre-Buy assistance for $750 and a 24/7 Breakdown Assistance service for $99 a year that allows customers to call a toll-free number anytime they experience a maintenance issue when the aircraft is away from home. Savvy likes to say, it’s basically “AAA for GA.” For more information about the different services, see this month’s Resource Spotlight.

Saving Money is Just the Starter

Even though Dave liked using the Savvy-Analysis of the club’s engine data, he and other members questioned the value of paying for Savvy’s more advanced services.  After all, the club’s plane captains and maintenance officers have always had good relationships with multiple shops they work with. “So, what’s Savvy really bringing to the table?” Dave asked.

TSS got the answer to that question quite quickly. One of the things an owner does when they first sign up for MX is scan all the logs, or at least the past three or four years, and send it in. “Within a day, Dave [Pasquale, TSS’s account manager at Savvy] goes you’ve got the wrong starter installed on that airplane,” Hank said. “You’ve got a 12-volt starter in a 24-volt plane.” 

The club’s 172 had gone through four starters in four years. As it turned out, “the part number that was installed in our plane used to be 12-volt or 24-volt depending on how you set the jumper,” Hank said. “A few years later they separated it and the part number we had was only for a 12-volt system. The 24-volt was a slightly different part number. I think the shop kept looking at the part number on the starter and ordering it without realizing it was a 12-volt. That right there saved us over $2,000.”

Besides the direct cost savings, having an outside expert provide recommendations has helped the club make important maintenance decisions. “In a club of 70 members you have a range of opinions,” Dave said. “We talked about going past TBO, with some resistance. We really couldn’t get over that hump. Savvy has helped us get past that by having a structured methodology behind what monitoring is necessary, and having the experts in our corner to make people comfortable that going past TBO is acceptable.”

TSS has been pleased with their Savvy account manager, Dave Pasquale. “He owns a maintenance facility in the northeast and he’s a very experienced A&P/IA,” Hank said. “Having his input, especially if our shop is having a little trouble finding exactly what an issue is, gives us a whole big backend of support that we wouldn’t normally have. Looking at the amount of work Dave Pasquale puts in, I’m wondering why MX is only $750.”

Another advantage is Savvy has a whole team of A&P/IAs with an immense amount of collective experience that an account manager can reach out to if there is an issue they haven’t seen before.

One of Savvy’s recommendations is that their clients don’t have the same shop do the annual every year, so they get a different set of eyes on the plane. Savvy will recommend shops and manage the entire annual. They will review the list of issues the shop has identified and anything that’s not an airworthiness issue, Savvy will make recommendations on what to do and why.

They look at every invoice and provide feedback on the time and cost estimates – whether they think the quotes are reasonable or excessive. “It’s a way of verifying that we are making the right decisions,” Hank said.

Pre-Buy Service

TSS also used Savvy’s Pre-Buy service. The club found a 182 for sale in Utah, which is a long way from Maryland. 

“Where they really came in handy is they helped us find somebody to perform the pre-buy inspection,” Hank said. “Boy, did they knock it out of the park. The shop we’re working with in Ogden, Utah—Cornerstone Aviation—has been phenomenal. We would not have found somebody like them on our own.”

Savvy provides a two-phase pre-buy assessment checklist to the mechanic. Once the shop completes phase one and provides Savvy a report that includes borescope pictures, they’ll determine whether to proceed to phase two. Dave likes Savvy’s structured approach and web site to upload information. “It forces the pre-buy shop themselves to be more methodical,” Dave said. “I’ve never seen a pre-buy done by a shop that was this organized.”

TSS also chose to go out and test fly the airplane. Savvy has a test flight profile on their web site that includes a kneeboard with the steps they want you to go through, including lean tests and mag checks in the air so they have good engine data to evaluate.

All the data is uploaded to Savvy’s web site, which both the pre-buy shop and the buyer have access to. However, the buyer can control whether the information they post can be seen by the pre-buy shop or not, so the buyer can have private conversations with Savvy before raising the issue with the shop, Dave said.

After the flight test, “Dave wrote up the most comprehensive test flight report that’s ever been written up in the history of man that wasn’t military,” Hank said. “The Savvy guy was blown away.”

But more impressive than Dave’s report was how quickly Savvy read it. “I wrote up the report and finished it at 1:30 in the morning Eastern Time,” Dave said. “Three hours later I had a response. The guy at Savvy had already read through it and gave some feedback on it.” 

That’s just one example of the excellent customer service TSS has experienced. “Everyone we have talked to over there has been high quality in terms of their knowledge of maintenance,” Dave said. Hank added, “They’re really easy to work with, and they’re a nice bunch of people too.”

Even when TSS has had a few hiccups, the issue has been resolved quickly and to the club’s satisfaction. “It’s worth noting on Savvy’s ticketing system they have an ‘I’m not happy button’ so if you aren’t happy with something, they give you a very easy way to give feedback,” Dave said.

As good as Savvy is with its customer service, what really matters is the level of service they provide to keep aircraft flying in a safe condition while keeping maintenance costs down. With Savvy’s input and analysis, the TSS Flying Club expects to run its engines well past TBO based on the condition-based inspection methodology that Savvy uses.

“We have one plane that’s at 2,100 hours. Five years ago, we probably would have overhauled it,” Hank said. “Our last oil analysis they said you should be able to get many more years out of this engine, it looks fabulous. I can see us going to 3,000 hours or maybe beyond.”

Savvy Aviation has been a valuable investment for TSS. Whether it has been expert analysis on its fleet maintenance or identifying a pre-buy shop thousands of miles away as they look to add another aircraft to the club.

“The result has been a positive,” Dave said. “Basically, it pays for itself.  It’s always nice to have another pair of eyes or an ear to bend to ask questions, but on top of that, they have saved us real money.”

For more on flying clubs taking their aircraft beyond TBO, see this month’s Question of the Month.



TSS Flying Club


Montgomery County Airpark (KGAI)

Gaithersburg, MD





Year formed



2014 RV12 ($115/hr Hobbs)

1979 Cessna 172N ($150/hr)

1999 Cessna 172S ($150/hr)

2000 Cessna 182S ($205/hr)

1981 Cessna 182RG ($205/hr)

Rates are Tach time, wet except for the RV12, which is Hobbs.

Joining fee

$1,200 Share buy-in

$100 application fee

Monthly dues

$165 per month






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