By the time the last flights of the day take off from Zurich Airport just before 11 p.m., the 30 or so aircraft engineers on the night shift in the hangars will be well into checking over the SWISS aircraft parked there, conducting inspections and readying them for the next day’s operations.
One Avro RJ100 has just had a power plant changed, and is now being towed to the noise absorption hall for an engine test run. Meanwhile, work continues on two further RJ100s and an Airbus A320 within the vast hangar. “For our Avro RJ100 fleet we perform what we call an ‘A Check’ every 800 to 1,000 flight hours. The same goes for the 777, the C Series and, as of April 2017, for the whole Airbus fleet, too,” explains Aircraft Engineer Raphael Martin. “And we also conduct a daily check on all our short- and long-haul aircraft every 24 hours, and an additional weekly check some time during each week.” “This is all plannable work, which accounts for the bulk of what we do,” adds Head of Maintenance Stephan Regli, “though an unexpected engine change in São Paulo or replacing a landing flap in Nairobi will naturally be more exciting affairs.”
It’s Stephan’s job to ensure that all the work performed on the SWISS aircraft fleet is done in good time and in compliance with all the relevant legal provisions. “Basically, the regular checks on our long-haul aircraft are the most plannable component of all,” Stephan explains, “because they have the longest ground times at our Zurich home base.” For the short-haulers it’s a different matter. “With them it’s generally all about fixing various minor issues.” Like the trouble rectification of the navigation system. “For things like that we have a kind of rapid-response team of around ten aircraft engineers, who work directly out on the aircraft stands.” More complex and more time-intensive tasks are performed at night. “The further checks, along with the heavy maintenance visits, are conducted by specialist companies,” says Stephan. “But what’s vitally important to us in all these cases is that every piece of work that is performed on any SWISS aircraft is done by licensed aircraft engineers – with due and full regard to each individual’s training and expertise.” The paramount priorities here are crystal-clear for Stephan Regli and his team. “SWISS is a byword for quality,” he observes. “This means to us that every one of our aircraft must be able to take off safely and (generally) punctually at any time. And our teams work around the clock every day of the year to ensure maximum safety and optimum punctuality in all our flight oper ations, with safety always being the top priority of all.”
The challenges are manifold. “Just take man – aging our stores, where we permanently keep a stock of some 50,000 aircraft parts,” Stephan points out. “Or the fact that we currently operate aircraft from four different manufacturers. And then there’s the whole dynamic of flight operations, which means we have to operate 24/7, too. All this, plus some 100 app rentices to train and develop as well!” It’s a challenging range of tasks, as Stephan Regli admits. But a hugely exciting one!
Text: Tamás Kiss / Photos: Jen Ries