More work is needed to maintain a parked aircraft than a flying
In the middle of April, airlines around the globe had put 62% of worldwide aircraft fleet into storage, which brought new challenges of maintaining a record high number of stored aircraft. While it may seem that a parked aircraft requires minimal maintenance during its grounding period, the reality is far different.
Challenges of parking the aircraft
Sending an aircraft into storage is a hard and time-consuming process. Emirates, boasting a fleet of 256 Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft, has said that parking one aircraft takes 4-6 employees working a 12-hour shift, which in total could take up to more than 18.000 man-hours to securely park their whole fleet of aircraft. The process of preparations for long-term parking includes covering intake, exhaust points found in aircraft, pitot tubes, static ports, temperature, and angle of attack sensors. At the same time, the airline has to make sure to have protected its cabin product by covering up in-flight entertainment screens and systems. There is also a need for greasing and cleaning of landing gear and flight control systems, with further steps being the preservation of aircraft fuel tanks and potable water systems. At last, the team makes sure to have every switch found in the cockpit turned off, batteries disconnected, control lever locks installed and window blinds blocking direct sunlight entering the cabin.
Periodic checks during the storage of aircraft
When the engineering team has successfully preserved an aircraft, the next step includes periodic checks performed at 7, 15, and 30-day intervals across the fleet. The team has to perform simple checks like walk around inspection or more complex ones which include the startup of engines and bleed systems checks.
Bringing the aircraft back into service
With more than 100 man-hours already invested in the preservation of aircraft, the airline at some point may want to reactivate at least some of its aircraft fleet, which is also a time consuming and complex process. In Emirates’ case, the airline has to dedicate 4-5 employees and at least 18-24 hours to return an aircraft into service. In an event where Emirates had to ground its whole fleet, the airline would need more than 30.000 man-hours to reactivate its entire fleet. The process would include complex checks and tests to make sure that an aircraft is safe to operate and transport passengers.
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