Episode 72: Discussion with Mark Leeper on Transforming Aviation with Electronic Records

Dive into the world of aviation innovation with our latest podcast episode featuring Mark Leeper, the visionary behind Vision Aircraft Records! Discover how electronic record-keeping is revolutionizing the aviation industry, enhancing safety, and streamlining insurance processes. Don’t miss this insightful conversation that takes you from paper logbooks to digital breakthroughs in aviation!

Welcome to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. The podcast that helps aircraft owners and aviation businesses learn and understand the complex world of aviation insurance and risk management. From the basic principles of aviation insurance to risk management techniques and updates on the aviation insurance market, the Aviation Insurance Podcast is your guide to traverse the world of aviation insurance. Now, here’s your host, Tim Bonnell. Well, welcome to the Aviation Insurance Podcast. I have another great interview to bring to you today. I’m excited to have Mark Leeper with us. Mark is the principal and the managing partner of Vision Aircraft Records. As a seasoned professional in the aviation industry, he brings to Vision over 25 years of experience, game while owning and managing an aviation consulting business. Mark is a licensed pilot and an advanced upset recognition and recovery training in single multi-engine and multi-engine jets. He’s a member of the NBAA, the National Business Aviation Association, the Arizona Business Aviation Association, and past board member of the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University Safety Committee. Founding Vision Aircraft Records in January of 2022, Mark has assembled an experienced aviation records management team that has developed a new state of the art FAA compliant electronic record keeping software. And Vision Aircraft Records is the gold standard in aircraft digital logbooks and in ushering business aviation into a paperless environment. So, Mark, welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for giving me this platform to talk about our mission.

It was certainly a great meeting you at NBAA, and I look forward to communicating to all of your clients the importance of our mission and where we’re headed.

That’s great because it’s not only important to business aviation customers, but aircraft records are important things when it comes to aviation insurance and that’s kind of the tie-in a little bit Besides just what what you do for business aviation, but we’ll talk a little bit about that later, but it just just up front There is an aviation insurance That’s a twist, but you know factor here, so we’ll get to that later Let’s just start with you know explain to me what you do with aircraft records today What’s this new technology, and how is it serving aviation?

Well, as you have mentioned the importance of it, just to restate that, then I can move into the process. But the importance value of aircraft maintenance records, they just can’t be underestimated. It’s recognized by the FAA aviation laws. The one true source of an aircraft’s history, it represents up to 40% sometimes of the aircraft’s value. So the security, accuracy, and accessibility of the information contained in these records are critical to ongoing efforts to keep an aircraft safe, legal and airworthy, and certainly of full value, which everybody wants to do. You have such a huge investment. You definitely want to make sure that that’s secured. So we’re a little corner of support for your industry in terms of ensuring that asset. So our process is really a three-step process in terms of let’s call it remastering these records, I coined the phrase. scans with the scanning or going out and digitizing these records. And as you and I have discussed before, that’s the Achilles heel of the whole industry is finding these historical records and identifying the correct records that we want to scan. The logbook consists of airframe engines, APUs if they’ve got it, propellers if they’ve got it. You know, critical documents, 337s, 8130s. It’s not necessarily work orders and all of those things. All those supporting documents can be housed in our system. But what we’re after is those critical records that the FAA deems as a logbook. And so since you, it’s difficult to ever have an insurance on those logbooks. We’re out hands-on in person with these records, typically in hangars and records offices throughout the country. We do have a huge scanning network with our scanning partner, Arc Document Solutions. So we have locations in most of the major cities and locations throughout the country to bring these records to in person, but typically we’re on site and identifying these records. So step one is finding these, identifying the correct records, and then of course scanning them. And then the next phase of that is the upload or transfer of that information to our processing are processing centered, where they’re encrypted, OCRed, and then organized. And so the level of organization is dependent upon the condition of the logbook. We run into logbooks, of course, that are in perfect shape. And all we have to do is take a picture of them and then put them through our system. Other times, they’re in extremely disarray, which each situation is completely different. So we’re we’re on site our team is on site at hangars throughout the country and or these documents are being transported in person to our document solution. So they’re processed and then the whole package is then housed in a aircraft digital logbook compliance a compliance system through the FAA. It’s 12078 alpha is the compliant matrix that the FAA has put out and our system is force compliant with that. It’s locked in that system and then then you have a logbook. It’s it’s not just a duplicate of the paper but it’s actually a living living document, you can manipulate the data in the system just like you can paper, etc. You have a complete system that can run in parallel to paper if that’s what you need to or want to do, or it can stand alone as a complete logbook on its own two feet.

What is the, if I’m a business aviation operation, what’s the key, what’s the biggest selling point? What’s the one major reason that I would want to invest the time and energy into taking all my logs into this electronic or cloud storage or what it might be? Right, well, I think there’s probably

three major benefits the first of the first is what you do in the insurance industry courses you eliminate the the risk of Something happens. So, you know One of the things we say is what’s the second worst thing that can happen to your airplane?


of course the worst thing is You know It runs into something at low speed or high speed and and breaks it right and that’s that’s where the you know Your industry steps and well, the next thing is is that if you if you lose you know misplace or have your maintenance records destroyed or held hostage that would be the second worst thing because records can be uh or maintenance records can be you know valued up to 40 percent of the airplane value um and i can we can we can talk about you know some of the some of the losses and the situations that we’ve run into. So, you know, eliminate uninsured risk with damage or robbery of your documents, your maintenance log books. That would be our version of fire insurance, so to speak. The next thing is that, and I’ll rewind just a second. When this product was being developed, and our core group of people have been involved in digitizing the business maintenance industry, business aircraft industry, since 2006. But when this first started, it was a risk management tool. So it was a duplicate of that logbook itself. And so you could fall back on that and rely on that to reproduce the logbook if you had a catastrophic extirpolation with your records. And then in 2016, the FAA came out with a new version of that AC that I just cited, which allowed it to move from just a backup system into actually an electronic record keeping system. So they changed that. And that was the point where we could produce a electronic record keeping system. Our system is coined SMART, Secured Managed Aircraft Record Technology. We produced a system that can work with all of the information just like paper can. Data can be moved around, it can be substituted, it can be voided, it can be updated. Everything you can do in a paper log book, you can do in our system. Plus, it’s searchability and accessibility. That’s the big thing. So it’s moved from that backup system into a huge return on investment for your customers because it can eliminate up to 50% of the time spent you know in the maintenance department searching for records and moving records around and and having to overcome the lack of accessibility to these records so the big big return on investment there and so it’s it’s a very enjoyable to go into a company and show them how we can save them, you know, 30, 40% of some of the expenses that is involved in the management of an airplane. So we’ve got eliminate risk, reduce aircraft meanness research, and then the next one is is that, you know, our company vision is becoming the actually like car facts, but it’s the aviation facts, so to speak. So if you have two like airplanes sitting there and one has a complete digital aircraft record management system in place and the other has got 27 boxes of shuffled paper and we’ve seen that before with no rhyme or reason what’s in any box. Between those two airplanes if they’re alike, you’re going to be wanting to select the airplane that has an organized maintenance record history. And so it’s really become a pre-buy, transactional support product also. So those three things would be, and of course I can elaborate on those more, but that’s what they are. Oh, that’s great.

I mean, and, you know, probably the next question I have for you, I can almost see where it’s going, but you know, we’ve all been through these transitions from analog to digital over, you know, the last couple of decades at different times in different ways. But what are those key challenges or obstacles in getting this new – these electronic records implemented or agreed to by various business aviation operators?

Yeah, I think that would fall into two categories, physical and mental. I was talking some of the challenges with the physical, you know, finding these records. Then we’re on site, and the records are a disaster. So, you know, it’s dumpster diving. It’s difficult in our industry to project costs sometimes of that taking place, which typically we don’t ever move that cost forward to the customer. So we end up enduring that cost as a company. So that’s a challenge is moving those historical records, you know, into that digital format, finding them. And then location-wise, we solved a huge problem with our partnership with Arc Document Solutions. They’re one of the finest companies in the world at, you know, going out and reproducing or digitizing records. And so when we formed that official alliance with them, now we had professionals in every major city around, you know, to accomplish that. But we still have a lot of the airplanes stuck in different places throughout the countries, you know, and we’re, you know, big expensive airplanes that, you know, are in airports that aren’t close to anything. And so getting to the records would be, would be the major thing that, you know, that would be the, that would be the physical, uh, in addition to working with the FAA, uh, to understand all of their, you know, the compliance process of how our product is scanned under 43.12 FAR 43.12, which means that you just can’t take your records down to the corner local scanning shop and drop them off. There’s got to be an information chain at command. So we’ve worked with and overcome those physical restrictions. The biggest one is the mental resistance. And it took years and years for Boeing to get the 707 in place with the airlines because one of the major CEOs said that nobody would fly on it unless there were propellers out on the end going around and around. It took winglets. And my partner’s got a great story on that. I won’t go into that. But it took winglets many years of being out in the market. And everybody knew the efficiencies of it, but it didn’t move on into everybody needing those winglets or wanting them, knowing that the efficiency was there, but there was a mental hurdle. So I think we’re all resistant to change in aviation some, I think in every industry. That resistance is based on being very conservative. We don’t want to do things that are too far ahead. We’re taxed with safety first, safety first, safety first, and let’s do things that we know that are proven. So that’s been the biggest resistance, or the biggest roadblock, is this resistance to change. It took – and it’s still ongoing now – it took the doctor’s office, you know, 30 years to go from that wall of charts that you can remember walking into to a digital environment. And it’s still not thoroughly completed. A lot of the older doctors still write things on the sticky notes and slap it on the arm of an assistant in the office and say, well, put it in the charts and put it in the digital. So that, you know, this isn’t going to happen overnight the beauty about Our mission is is that we know it’s the right thing to do this Let me put my glasses on here for a second, but and look at this. I’m you know our research has indicated that I believe I Believe it costs the business aviation industry about a hundred and twenty five million dollars a year to keep things in paper. And records like we talked about, they’re lost, they’re stolen, they’re held hostage, they get burned up in fires, they get drowned. And so the beauty is that as people understand the benefits, we’re gonna go from having to push the market to be able to receive the market as people get into it.

Yeah, any type of transition, you know, there’s a time factor, there’s a fear of change factor. Sometimes there’s an economic, but I don’t think that’s such an issue in this case. But, you know, obviously the world is becoming digital and the access to digital things is obviously has a lot of efficiency. So I kind of want to relate it now, kind of getting an idea exactly what we’re doing with aircraft records and those technologies. So kind of relating it to that aviation insurance side of thing, which you’ve done already. But you know, in an aircraft claim, you know, there’s a claims adjuster assigned by the insurance company and they have to go out and part of their job is to examine the aircraft logs, you know, and if there’s a pilot involved, the pilot’s logs to ensure that, you know, coverage is applicable basically. You know, they have to make sure that, you know, all these different things were done. So obviously it would seem to me that having digital records would make that process easier. What could you describe? Like what all would that, you know, you talked about the OCR search. How would that become much easier for both the operator and the insurer in just, you know, being able to locate and, you know, get that claim processing, adjusting process done quicker?

Well, yeah, the huge, the amazing thing about, you know, Electrak recordkeeping systems, what it used to take literally days and sometimes weeks to accomplish with hunting for paper, not just the FAA or people that are trying to find information regarding a claim, but anybody that needs that information for any type of transaction in an airplane. We have customers that have 30 aircraft and they’re housed in multiple locations throughout the country, but all of the records are in one location in a huge room, a fireproof room someplace else. And so, they’re constantly having to endure the inconvenience of finding those records. And so, relating to what your question says there, you can literally walk up or have on your iPad you can query The system of good electronic record-keeping system you can put in the the company or aircraft It takes you right to the logbook itself Yeah the the digital logbook is formatted just like the paper logbook is and can be Manipulated or adjusted to the specifications of that director of maintenance or whoever is managing the airplane. You go right to the file or folder where it is in paper and it’s right there. You can type in, and recently by the way we’ve adapted our system and upgraded it to it reads handwriting. So you can type in any key search words. You can type in damage, you know, work orders, parts numbers, dates, who did the work, what type of part are you looking for or issue are you looking for. You can put in anything you want to and as long as it was in print, it will find it. in the conformity process, our companies that use our product or electronic record keeping systems can accomplish those conformities in 500% to 1,000% faster time because they don’t have to search multiple hangers and multiple files and multiple books. And I’m sure you’ve seen some of these maintenance logbook, the collection of maintenance logbooks. But when we do a 20 or 30 year old Gulfstream or whatever it is, I mean, there’s literally 15 to 20 boxes of logbooks. And so I can’t imagine how diligent these director of maintenance is ours and the EMAX control people are dealing in paper. It’s just, it’s crazy. And this makes it, it makes our life so much easier.


And obviously just, you know, knowing where things are at, you know, when there’s a loss, you know, and it’s a little more difficult when you got a, an individual owner operator and, and, you know, they’re the only ones who were their pilot logs are and their, you know, their aircraft records, but, you know, in any organization when, you know, here’s where our information is, I mean, that just that can save days and weeks itself. And then then you add in the technological aspects of being able to search by all those things you just talked about. I mean, it can it can take a claim settlement process and reduce it by months and months in some cases, in those cases where, you know, the person who knew doesn’t can’t tell you where they’re at. And then be you know, there’s there’s books and books and books of things that have to be searched through. And so just having good quality digital records, I can imagine just, you know, could save loads of time. And obviously, any time you’re saving time, that’s saving money, which is good. But yeah, I mean, it’s, you know, for aircraft insurance, having good logs is a very important thing. And so this seems like a very natural fit. Now, on a little bit different note, you’ve kind of alluded to this earlier, but the aircraft records typically are not insurable at a value that is their true worth, right? If having the log books adds 40% to the value, you can’t insure that with these books. So have you seen any specific issues related to that come into play during your time in the industry?

Oh yeah, you know, I’m sure like you, Tim, you’ve seen all types of losses, but we’ve seen a large charter company that purchased an airplane overseas and cash was exchanged. They did a pre-buy inspection on the other side of the world and paid for it and the airplane flew over to the United States and there were no log books in the airplane.

And so now you have a paperweight,

a multimillion dollar paperweight that’s gonna sit on the ramp until you can get the right to write log books there to do conformities and put it into charter. And so on this particular airplane, was on the ground for over a year and multi-million dollar loss, it’s just sitting there. And it wasn’t a small jet, it was a very, very large jet. You know, we’ve seen a 727, for instance, that was in the hangar and they did a run up and jumped the chocks and ran into the fire suppression system. And so now all of the log books conveniently were set out on tables in the hangar because they were doing a major on it. And so it drowned all of the records. And they just totaled the airplane. They threw it out, is what they did. You know, you unbolt the parts that you can verify as being good. You know, we see all the time parts or pieces of paper you know parts are pieces of paper that verify times of of certain limited parts in airplanes and they you know they lose the paper and they end up just buying a new part 30 40 50 80 thousand dollars of of checks written and the shame about that is that sometimes they just you know, they buy the new part. The CEO, CEO, write the check. They just get, they just find out that, well, gosh, we’ve got to buy a new, you know, widget for the airplane. And it wasn’t that the old widget was bad. It’s just they can’t prove it’s any, it’s compliant. And so we just had a customer up, you know, or down South that lost the whole log book for a Gulfstream. And it cost them over a million dollars to reproduce that. And all they would have had to do is spend the two, $3,000 to have the aircrafts scanned and put into a system like ours. And they could have avoided all that. If we have all of the records in place and in our system, a customer that loses a logbook and they still want the paper or somebody wants the paper, all we have to do is press the P button and it can print out a complete compliant logbook. Our system is each page is watermarked. It shows it’s coming out of a compliant system. Those losses really can’t happen anymore, which is we’re very proud of that.

Yeah, I mean, so, you know, as you’ve been talking about it, it really occurred to me that, you know, having, you know, high-quality, accessible, compliant aircraft logs is really a strong part of an effective risk management process or even management system because you’ve got the financial risks, you’ve got the time risks involved, you’ve got, you know, not having good records obviously can lead to other risks. And so, you know, this is just one of the new technologies that helps improve the safety and risk management system that a business aviation operation would have, I would think. Well, just looking at our time here, being respectful of that, is there anything that we’ve not discussed or missed that you feel beneficial to share or any other stories or do you just have any other closing thoughts?

Well, again, I just want to thank you so much for giving us the platform to talk about this mission. And it takes awareness in the industry about the needs for this. And any time that we can have somebody like yourself help us do that, we’re just very, very appreciative. I think I’ve covered most everything. You’re welcome to share my information with anybody that might have questions or need some help or advice on aviation records keeping. Our company is as good as they get when it comes to the personnel that we have on board to help people with that. So we would love to help any of your clients at any time. So please refer them to us and we’ll be glad to support them in any way we can.

Well, sure.

And, you know, we just love that, you know, you’re giving them your time to help educate people. And like you say, create that awareness. You know, people have kind of converted slowly to some pilot log books digitally over time. But, you know, this aircraft logs, it can be a big issue and in a claim and again just based on what you’ve shared it you know there’s a obviously a big risk management component and so it’s good for people that didn’t have that awareness to have and that’s why you know when we met and we started talking through this I’m like this is something a message that we definitely want to share with our audience not only of clients business aviation and other aviation customers but of aviation insurers just so they have an awareness as well, which is part of our audience. So I’m glad that you were able to bring that message. So in doing so, just thank you for that. Thank you for your time. Thank you for sharing it. And thank you for being committed to this mission of improving business and aviation operations. So thank you for what you do.

Thanks, Jim.

Well, that’s all for this episode. Join us again next time as we continue navigating the waypoints in aviation insurance. Until then, enjoy clear skies and unlimited visibility.

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