As the virus rages, Air India scrambles to ‘preserve’ its fleet

Ashwini Phadnis New Delhi | Updated on April 12, 2020

As many airlines are either shutting operations or operating with truncated fleets, the grounded aircraft have to be taken care of.

Looking after aircraft is not easy. Referred to as ‘aircraft preservation’, it involves a number of steps. Firstly, the manufacturer of the aircraft lays down a storage plan and airlines draw up air maintenance plans based on their aircraft. This is done to ensure that the aircraft is kept in an air-worthy condition to be able to fly again when the ban is lifted. One of the most significant aspects that needs to be taken care of is the number of openings on an aircraft where small insects, birds or debris may get stuck.

A senior Air India Engineering Executive told BusinessLine that one of the openings that needs to be covered is in the landing gear. The landing gear is exposed as the aircraft is on the ground and is a potential opening which can be used by insects and birds as a nesting area. So, the opening is covered with pins, he added. The aircraft’s engines are covered with thick plastic covers as well, as a part of aircraft preservation. In addition, chocks and studs are used to ensure that the aircraft’s wheels do not slip.

Further, during extended periods of grounding, several systems are deactivated and, where appropriate, covers are placed. The standard procedure to be followed is given in the maintenance programme for each type of aircraft. The number of precautions and coverings that have to be done on an aircraft depends on how long the grounding is likely to last.

Senior Air India engineering executives told BusinessLine that preservation of an aircraft is similar to steps that a vehicle owner takes when the vehicle is not going to be used for an extended period of time.

“Generally people park their vehicles in the shade, put covers on them and once in a while start the engine to ensure that oil flows smoothly and lubricates the engine. In the same fashion, we have to ensure that the aircraft is well protected,” said a senior AI Engineering Executive.

It takes about 50 hours to complete aircraft preservation for a narrow-body aircraft like an Airbus A 320 or Boeing 737 while it takes about 25 per cent more time to do this job on a widebody aircraft, said another senior AI Engineering Executive .

Published on April 12, 2020

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