What Are the Challenges of Aircraft Storage and Maintenance During Down Time?
When an aircraft is removed from service for an extended period of time, it faces unique, environmental challenges. Upon first removing the aircraft from service, it must be prepped for storage and down time. Additionally, aircraft must go through certain processes prior to returning to flight. Whether the aircraft is parked for a brief period of time or out of service for an extended period of time determines the procedures that must be taken before the aircraft is once again deemed airworthy. This blog will cover the specific challenges and maintenance procedures involved in returning aircraft from storage.
There are three categories of planes returning to the air for flight: airplane in service, airplane returning from maintenance downtime, and airplane returning from parking. An airplane in service is subject to regularly scheduled maintenance checks between flights, while the other two categories of flight status require additional in-depth procedures. An airplane that is grounded for maintenance may be out of service for an extended period of time or a short period of time, as little as overnight. Either way, one must assess the operational status of airplane systems, the airplane configuration, and the airworthiness of the airplane prior to its next flight. Part of the reason that these procedures are necessary is because maintenance can include the disassembly of major portions of an aircraft for extensive overhaul, which means that there is a likelihood of incorrect reassembly. In such inspections, panels are removed, systems are dismantled, and electrical components are exposed. Therefore, careful reassembly and preparation must be practiced to ensure the aircraft is of airworthy status.
Specifically, maintenance performed on wiring and electrical components must be diligently reviewed, as there is a lot of room for error. For example, if an inspection involves unplugging 100 wires, then 100 wires must be correctly reconnected to avoid malfunction. As this requires great detail, the risk of error is high, so all systems that have been disturbed during maintenance should be operationally tested according to the airplane manufacturer's instructions or equivalent operator instructions. In some instances, a check flight might be additionally required to ensure the reliability of the reassembled systems.
For aircraft that are grounded for short periods of storage due to business or operational factors such as overcapacity, company restructuring, market conditions, or regulatory action, preventative measures must be taken to protect the aircraft from harmful environmental factors. Some aircraft are parked outside, where they are exposed to heat, humidity, cold, ice, snow, rain, lightning, hail, wind, sandstorms, and insects. The build-up of debris can lead to long-term damage, corrosion, and drag, so it is important to cover or clean all exposed surfaces. Additionally, components like pitot tubes, static ports, total air temperature probes and angle-of-attack sensors should be specifically protected from debris, while external openings should be closed and sealed. When parked, aircraft may face a lack of regular maintenance checks, so component mechanisms may lose lubrication, batteries may discharge, contamination of potable water systems or fuel tanks may occur, and some systems or components may lose pressure. All systems should therefore be checked prior to the plane’s next flight, and the airplane should be electrostatically grounded while parked.
While many measures may be taken to handle the challenges of grounded aircraft, the best way to prevent problems for your aircraft is to keep it in regular service. Of course, maintenance checks and parking will always be required; however, regular operations typically ensure greater, more frequent care and attention to your aircraft. With a great deal of factors to consider during maintenance checks, having reliable parts for your aircraft is crucial to efficient operations. Fulfillment by ASAP is a leading online purchasing platform for aviation, NSN, and electronic parts for various applications. With our ever-expanding inventory of Airbus, Boeing, and other top aircraft components, we are your parts procurement partner for any new, used, obsolete, or hard-to-find item you require. Browse our inventory today for parts you require, and fill out a Request for Quote form on any item to receive a personalized quotation within 15 minutes. Our team of market experts works around the clock to offer our loyal customers premium products and services, “as soon as possible, as simple as possible,” so call or email us at any time.