11 Feb Aircraft Line Maintenance
Successful aircraft maintenance depends on experienced extensively qualified employees, devoted to problem solving. Every aircraft requires maintenance checks from light, regular maintenance checks, to heavy periodical maintenance checks. Full technical support is what the operators seek.
Full technical support covers engines, airframes and modifications, components, landing gear changes and engineering. Modification, aircraft dismantling and storage can be included alongside aircraft maintenance.
Aircraft modification is primarily to improve older aircraft models through cost effective alteration works,including design and cabin furnishings & layout alterations. When offered as aircraft line maintenance it is part and parcel of supporting a fleet.
Approved line maintenance organisations
Any such work at outstations of an air carrier must be performed by approved maintenance organisations. A carrier is encouraged to apply for outstation line maintenance approval based on management by its main base. Equally, the maintenance organisation of a carrier is regarded as an independent organisation when it performs this work on aircraft that are not its own.
General servicing work is not regarded as line maintenance. Self-handling or entrusting to another company by agreement, the carrier submits application to its local civil aviation management organisation for line maintenance approval at outstations for specific aircraft under its maintenance agreement. A carrier’s maintenance organisation takes full responsibility for compliance between maintenance at outstations and 145 requirements to the approved standards.
Airworthiness documentation provided by the aircraft manufacturer must be available onsite at outstations.
Line Maintenance agreements
If a carrier’s maintenance organisation entrusts other companies to perform such work or release at an outstation, it has to sign a clear maintenance agreement with the contracted company. The maintenance agreement must include the following:
(1)Technical documentation, material, management procedures provided by the carrier
(2)Training instructions provided by the carrier;
(3)Work scope entrusted by the carrier and authorization instructions;
(4)Maintenance records and reporting methods.
A copy of all these must be kept at the outstation. A line maintenance organisation has full responsibility for compliance to 145 requirements and never performs work at locations out of maintenance certificate approval.
Organisations must have the tools & equipment necessary to perform work at locations listed in maintenance certificates, and special equipment belonging to the carrier by means of agreements.
The benefits of Line Maintenance Outsourcing
Line maintenance is seeing growth as more airlines, struggling with high fuel prices, see this as another area they no longer need in-house. New generation aircraft need outside maintenance specialists who can focus on high-tech entertainment systems, seating, galleys and lavatories.
The one qualification to this is the retirement of older aircraft, with replacement models that have longer specified intervals between inspections. As well as the high tech end, outsourced work will include cabin interiors, which is comparatively low-tech. When you consider repairing an armrest on a seat, for example, that is better outsourced, freeing up skilled mechanics for skilled activities.
Long-haul, widebody aircraft, operators offering a high degree of premium class services,legacy carriers, which typically operate large aircraft on long international flights, will start to shift more of their line work to third-party vendors. Line work has not been heavily outsourced to date, but overnight checks can be economically attractive offering efficiencies, without sacrificing operational performance.
Reciprocal carrier line maintenance contracts may be a casualty of these developments. High tech tasks will require additional training for people who work on some of the in-cabin systems, such as in-flight entertainment, galleys, lavatories and seating.
So, aircraft maintenance, including a comprehensive range of services from A checks and scheduled engine changes, through cabin cleaning and servicing, AOG service and total care programmes relating to cabin maintenance, particularly with respect to in-flight entertainment systems, on-wing engine support, LRU exchange programs and overnight checks with an efficient use of ground time, is the future. This future will be evolutionary, dictated by economics.