Aircraft Parking: What Happens Next?

It comes as no surprise that the commercial airline industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. So far in 2020, there have been more than 7.5 million flights canceled, more than $419 Billion in lost revenue for the world’s airlines and overall demand is down 54%.The recovery timeline for the industry is still unknown as many external factors play a role.

Why do aircraft get parked?

In an effort to reduce costs and meet the lower demand for passenger flying, airlines have been forced to park or store aircraft. Some airlines are eliminating larger aircraft from their fleet altogether. Qantas is a great example having recently retired their last 747 after having flown this aircraft type for almost a half-century, it was kind of a big deal for aircraft nerds like me. They have also decided to park its fleet of A380 aircraft until at least 2023, for some this tells a story of little confidence in the full recovery for international travel.

In an earlier post, I wrote about parking aircraft, long term storage, and its effects on the aircraft and airline operations. This following is a continuation of those thoughts.

Why is maintenance needed after being parked?

Aircraft love to fly and hate to sit on the ground. The longer they sit, the greater the chance for an issue to arise when returning to service. These unexpected issues will almost undoubtedly turn into an unexpected AOG situation if proper care isn’t taken before/during storage and when returning to service. But what happens when an issue is detected while an aircraft is in storage or when other aircraft of the same type have possible issues that could affect an entire aircraft type?

A recent Emergency Airworthiness Directive (AD#: 2020-16-51) issued by the FAA for 2,000+ Boeing 737 Aircraft that have been stored is just one example of the unexpected that can occur. An Airworthiness Directive (AD) is a legally enforceable rule issued by the FAA to correct an unsafe condition in a product.

In this case, it was found that the aircraft listed in the AD (Boeing 737-300, -400, -500, -600, -700, -700C, -800, -900 and -900ER) that have been parked for more than 7 days could develop a problem with an engine bleed air check valve is stuck open. Without getting too technical, the valve would open fully as normal during takeoff but get stuck in the fully open position. When power is reduced to the engine, the valve would remain fully open and cause the compressor to stall and the inability to restart the engine. Needless to say, this would not be ideal but thankfully this issue didn’t cause any incidents and the fix is easy enough.

On the plus side, this AD only calls for an inspection of the valve and if it fails the inspection, it calls to replace it. This is just one example of what can happen when aircraft are parked or stored; the AD very well could have called for the replacement of all these valves. If that were the case, the market for these parts would have been flooded with requests and parts would need to be moving across the globe at light speed. This is once again where a trusted AOG logistics partner would be required, especially if you were trying to return an aircraft to service with time, communication, and shipment visibility being key.

How to prepare for industry recovery

It is our hope at Airspace Technologies that the airline industry fully recovers quickly, not only for the sake of our valued airline clients but for the rest of our clients in other industries as well. The reduction in flights across the globe has brought on challenges with not only moving aircraft parts but also medical devices, tissue samples, lifesaving organs, or even a box of chocolates for Mr. Gump.

With Airspace Technologies being connected to airline schedules, weather, and traffic systems along with our intelligent routing system, we have an advantage even in these difficult times. With this advanced technology and personal commitment to our clients, it is our continued goal to assist the Airline Industry in returning and keeping their aircraft in the air and to aid in the overall COVID recovery any way we can.

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