Intensive aircraft operations are putting increasing pressure on cabin maintenance teams, says Lee Butterfield, group operations director, Trenchard Aviation.
The Trenchard Aviation Group currently incorporates Aero Technics, Airbase, Servecorp and Reheat International, which provide complementary engineering and maintenance services in the aircraft component repair and manufacture markets.
Aero Technics specialises in aircraft cabins, including seat cover and curtain manufacture, carpet cutting and fitting, IFE repair and cabin cleaning.
For the latter activity, the company has found that modern commercial aircraft operate increasingly challenging flying programmes, as airlines (particularly low cost carriers) look to maximise daily utilisation, with maintenance downtime slots narrowing in duration and lengthening in interval.
In addition, fewer airlines can afford to have spare aircraft on standby so any problems have to be resolved quickly and correctly. This means it is essential, given the expectations of airlines and their customers, that cabin maintenance use emerging technologies and innovative planning that can be fully optimised around the commercial schedule.
Aside from malicious and/or accidental damage, there are a number of other sources of potential damage, such as passengers, cabin crew and handling agents standing on seats; pen marks; and spillages and staining.
Heightened security requirements and checks can call for seat bases to be regularly removed on turnarounds, while damaged security seals have to be replaced, including the removal of any adhesive residues. Of course, weight reduction programmes for materials and structure can run the risk of introducing reduced durability.
Another factor is the change in aircraft maintenance procedures from regular A checks, when the aircraft would be available for a reasonable time to equalised maintenance schedules, to pre-defined packages of work designed around the aircraft’s brief downtime. The result could be that cabin repairs get deferred, as there is not enough time to carry out the work or there are technical delays.
For the airline, this could mean degraded cabin standards, poor customer survey results and the potential for lost revenue and reputational damage. For the maintenance provider, it could mean poor Net Promoter Scores from the airline along with service credits and penalties from breaches in service level agreements.
Aero Technics has responded to these challenges in a number of ways. Dedicated planning teams have been introduced for each customer, integrated into their IT systems and platforms.
Talking to customers, they have come up with jointly agreed and measurable standard and maintenance schedules that are matched to their operational requirements, including zonal inspections for greater flexibility.
Better inventory control and inventory management has produced smarter purchasing, including EASA EPA and FAA PMA alternative parts, and improved availability. For the crews carrying out the work, they are multi-skilled to ensure for cross-functional working. They
have been relocated airside, to the line maintenance area, granting faster access as they will no longer have to pass security each time. Kits for the day’s work can be loaded into their vehicles beforehand, while mobile technology means they have access to approved maintenance data, including optimised task cards, while they are on the aircraft.