Ever wondered what happens to aircrafts when there’s no flights?
Since late March, most of Air Asia’s airline group’s 282 aircrafts have been hibernating in airports around Asia. That said, there is a lot of maintenance to be done when the aircraft are kept on the grounds.
AirAsia tells us how they’re keeping their aircraft safe and ready for us when it’s time for us to fly again.
“Our fleet of aircraft may be in hibernation, but there is still much to be done to maintain these technologically advanced pieces of machinery. Our engineers have to make sure that all aircraft will be kept in excellent condition when we are ready to take to the skies again,” says Banyat Hansakul, Head of Engineering for AirAsia Group.
That said, where do they keep these 282 aircraft for maintenance?
“The first question we asked ourselves was, where do we keep all of these 282 aircraft? Our biggest regional hubs are Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, but even klia2 and Don Mueang International Airport do not have enough parking bays for all of our aircraft.”
“In Kuala Lumpur, we resolved to park some of our aircraft at the cargo terminal instead of our operating base at the klia2 terminal; while in Bangkok, there is not enough space even after parking some of our aircraft on the taxiway which was transformed into temporary parking bays by the airport authority. After much deliberation, we decided to move some aircraft to nearby hubs such as Phuket International Airport and Utapao Rayong-Pattaya International Airport.
While keeping a few aircraft in active service at each hub to be deployed for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions or cargo and charter operations, they have also identified the parking duration for each of the aircraft as the maintenance actions are different based on the duration they’re parked.
Once they’ve decided on the parking location and duration for these aircraft, then comes the nitty-gritty part of maintaining an aircraft.
The parts of the aircraft exposed to the environment need to be covered. From daily inspections to periodic flushing and also cleaning of the air data probes of other parts of the aircraft, the team need to put in the work to ensure that the aircraft is in tip-top shape even when it’s on the ground.
“The daily inspection is very important as we will never know what challenges mother nature brings other than the changing weather. For instance, not long after the hibernation was announced in March, my team of engineers found a bird’s nest under one of the wings of our Airbus A330 aircraft parked at Don Mueang International Airport.”
They safely removed the ‘stowaway guests’ away from the aircraft and no animals were harmed in the process.
The aircraft is also required to be towed forward and backwards or be jacked up for wheel spinning from time to time to release the pressure on the tyres.
The engineers will also power up the aircraft engines and APU periodically to keep a tap on the engines’ health while some of the settings of the aircraft will have to be reconfigured too, such as disconnecting the battery, activating “ditching mode” to close the air valve and other air inlets of the aircraft.
For an airline group that operates hundreds of flights a day, this hibernation also presents a rare opportunity for deep cleaning and upkeep maintenance of the cabin.
All the removable panels in the cabin will be opened and thoroughly cleaned, from the cabin wall panels, the galley (pantry), lavatory, and even the cockpit overhead panel. The carpet and the curtains will be washed, and all surfaces in the cabin such as the armrests and tray tables will be wiped with a high-grade disinfectant.
“Maintaining such a big fleet of aircraft is definitely not an easy feat, even putting these aircraft into hibernation requires around-the-clock work and careful coordination among our team of engineers and ground teams,” said Banyat.
“But to rest is to walk further. When this pandemic is over, we will be ready to carry our guests again, and it is paramount that we keep these aircraft safe and well maintained for our guests in the meantime.”
We can’t wait to travel the world again, but stay safe for now, ok?
By: Siti Farhana Sheikh Yahya