PETALING JAYA: Although most of AirAsia’s 282 aircraft have been grounded at airports all around Asia since late March, engineers have to make sure that these aircraft are kept in good condition when they are ready to fly again.
AirAsia has since activated the Long Term Parking Procedures as part of the Aircraft Maintenance Manual prescribed by the aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
The stringent manual outlines procedures and recurring maintenance actions to preserve the safety and airworthiness of the aircraft during a prolonged parking period.
“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 the aircraft will be kept in excellent condition when we are ready to take to the skies again, ” said AirAsia Group head of engineering Banyat Hansakul.
After deciding on the parking location and duration for each of the aircraft comes the most labour-intensive step – covering up parts of the aircraft exposed to the environment.
Any cavities or exposed equipment of the aircraft will have to be shielded using approved covers by the manufacturer to protect it against elements such as dust, insects, birds or any other foreign objects that might damage the aircraft system.
He said engineers run daily checks for technical anomalies such as leakage of engine oil or hydraulic fluid from the aircraft while ensuring covers on exposed equipment are always intact.
Besides daily inspection, periodic flushing and cleaning of the air data probes and other parts of the aircraft are also required to make sure there is no residue build-up as it remained mostly static on the ground.
To ensure that the prolonged pressure put on the wheels of the aircraft will not cause any flat spots, 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.
In preparation for a longer period of ground time, 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, as well as disengaging the air data probe and window heating system to prevent the melting of air data probe covers.
Hansakul said the hibernation of the aircraft fleet has provided them a rare opportunity for deep cleaning and upkeep maintenance of the cabin.
“Maintaining such a big fleet is 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.”