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Safety In The Skies Relies On Maintenance On The Ground
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Last year, there were over 15 million flights in the United States. At any given time, there may be up to 5,000 aircraft in the skies over North America. With a global commercial passenger fleet of approximately 20,000 jets, and thousands of another military, cargo, and private planes, aircraft maintenance is a high priority to ensure that the sky is a safe place to travel.
Commercial and private sectors rely on highly qualified and skilled mechanics to evaluate, prep, repair and maintain the complex machines and technologies that make flight possible for millions of passengers and aviators. Ground personnel plays a critical role, working with other aeronautical professionals, in the daily flight operations of everything from small four-seater Cessnas and medevac helicopters, to wide-body Airbus jets and unmanned aerial vehicles.
Overall, MRO — maintenance, repair, and overhaul — of aircraft is a booming industry worldwide. In 2015, the MRO market was valued at over $135 billion.
A Matter of Schedules
Like automobiles, aircraft require regular maintenance. While most car owners may take a casual attitude about oil changes, tune-ups, and other preventative attention and required repairs, aircraft owners are bound by more strict and demanding schedules. International and national agencies and organizations mandate most aircraft airworthiness and maintenance schedules. In the United States, the FAA updates and publishes federal regulations.
Additionally, all maintenance is recorded and logged as part of the aircraft’s permanent history and hours. When it comes to aircraft servicing, paperwork is as important as the mechanical end of things. Without proper documentation to verify scheduled inspections, repairs, and modifications, it does not matter how well an aircraft is maintained to comply with airworthiness directives and required service bulletins.
Maintain Repair and Overhaul
Maintaining an aircraft requires a precision skill set that allows mechanics to work on the most critical technical systems of an aircraft, from avionics to hydraulics. MRO may include everything from simple pre-flight checks to a complex engine change. The anticipated engine market alone is expected to be $25 billion in 2018.
Engines are among the most critical and highly valued components of any aircraft. Their on-the-wing time and life-limited parts are monitored more precisely than any system. Aircraft engines have a defined lifespan to ensure safety and meet regulatory guidelines, but precision repairs and overhaul may extend the life within acceptable standards. However, when an engine has met its limit, aircraft mechanics are trained to complete entire engine changes to give an older aircraft new value.
As Good as New
In addition to complex engine work, mechanics often schedule extensive downtime for commercial airliners in need of “heavy maintenance.” In mechanics’ parlance, that means an aircraft is parked in a hangar and stripped of every screw, plate, and a panel of the wings, tail, flaps, and rudder. Once bare, the underlying cables, hydraulic lines, avionics, and other components can undergo MRO before reassembly.
Heavy maintenance usually includes a teardown of landing gear and interior cabins, too. Finally, engines are removed, inspected, and overhauled or changed before the aircraft is reassembled and returned to service. Completing regular MRO ensures the safety of every passenger and crewmember using the equipment, whether it’s a short intercity commuter flight or a coast-to-coast long haul.
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