Readying Finnair’s aircraft for the ramp-up
When restrictions around the world begin to ease and Finnair’s network starts to ramp up, getting aircraft primed and ready for action will be a key focus.
While cabin crew and pilots will undergo training to get them back up to speed after long absences, maintenance teams will need to get busy ensuring that planes that have spent months in storage are in perfect condition before they take to the skies.
“We are constantly monitoring the situation with the ramp up,” says Marko Anttila, Head of Engineering, Finnair “Our storage program is built so we can match it when it begins, so we can make sure we have enough capacity and aircraft to fly the routes we need to.”
A break in the South of France and Prague
While some of Finnair’s aircraft have remained in Helsinki in flight ready parking mode, meaning they’re able to fly at short notice, a large number have been flown to long term storage across Europe.
A total of 26 narrow body and six wide body Finnair planes are in storage in Tarbes and Prague at the moment. The airport in Tarbes in the South of France is designed to keep planes stored for the long term. This location, away from the coast and the saline air which can be damaging to parked aircraft, is perfect for keeping planes in good order when they’re not flying. The aircraft have also been parked at Prague Airport, where they have been looked after by Czech Airlines Technics.
Storing a plane involves a lot more than just flying it to a warm climate for the winter. “It’s quite a big maintenance task to put the aircraft in storage and involves quite a lot of processes,” explains Marko. “For example the landing gear and windows are covered and sensitive areas are treated with special corrosion protection compound. Then, during the actual storage, there are checks after seven days, 15 days, one month, three months and six months. At three months we check the flight controls to see if they’re functioning and every six months we do landing gear tests.”
Getting ready to come home
When planes are needed back in service, though, taking them out of long term storage requires a lot of effort. Getting them out is, says Marko, “...at least as big as putting the aircraft into storage.”
System tests are required to check that the plane is working properly. “Plus you have to keep in mind that every time an aircraft leaves storage we need to perform a non commercial flight to verify that everything is working as it should be.” This entire process, says Marko, can take at least a week, depending on how many maintenance staff are available to do the work.
Once all of this work is done, Finnair will be able to steadily start bringing its aircraft home as demand for flying increases and destinations around the world open up. The first three narrow-body aircraft will be flown from Prague to Helsinki during the end of May and mid-June. Although exact timescales remain difficult to pin down, the next few months look set to be a critical time for everyone involved in ramping up the network.
“We are confident we can match the requirements to bring the aircraft back home,” says Marko. With everyone pulling together, the chances of traveling all over the planet are growing stronger by the day.