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Flying Mr. Fix-it

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If you ever face the situation that your flight is delayed because of some technical issues, then it’s our maintenance department which swings into action to sort out the problem. Our airplanes at SWISS destinations all around the world are handled by licensed engineers who are always ready to do whatever it takes to get them up in the air again.

SWISS engineers are present at 16 outstations worldwide and are responsible for the maintenance of the entire LX fleet. In addition, some customer aircraft are also maintained by SWISS. Depending on the schedule for SWISS and our customers, the engineer count varies between 1–10 per station. For other destinations where SWISS Maintenance is not present, we buy the service from other providers. SWISS Line Maintenance International also consists of an administration team and relief engineer team in Zürich.

I have spent 11 years working as a station engineer in LHR and IST. And I worked as a flying station engineer with Swissair for six years, followed by three years with SR Technics Switzerland in the Line Maintenance Customer Team and then with SWISS as a FSE again for 2 years.

One night about four years ago, at around 3 am, I was working as a flying station engineer on an A330 in RUH (Riyadh) and asked myself if this would still be the right and satisfying thing to do? After speaking to my family, I decided that was  time for a change. Soon after, I was contacted by the SWISS maintenance management and asked to take over the position of Resource Management Line Maintenance International, which also includes the Relief Engineer Group. Due to my lengthy experience as a station engineer and also as a relief engineer this was the perfect move for me.

The relief engineer team consists of 14 engineers and covers the various absences that arise, such as vacation, training and sick calls from our station engineers at the outstations. In addition to that, there are occasions where the engineers cover special flights due to aircraft changes to certain destinations, flight training sessions for our pilots or even round-the-world trips for tour operators. I am responsible for the planning of the staff members in all the above mentioned duties in accordance with their corresponding aircraft licenses, absences and further criteria. Since all these duties are sometimes requested at very short notice, it makes it sometimes quite challenging, but due to my knowledge and personnel experience, I am always confident about finding a solution. I also know exactly how difficult and demanding the work of a relief engineer can be, as it can end up turning into a very demanding «one man – show» somewhere at a foreign airport with no proper equipment available and with people with a totally different mentality and cultural background. Sometimes it requires a lot of intuition and assertiveness, which is most important in order to repair an aircraft under these difficult circumstances.

When it comes to an extreme bottleneck situation, I am also available to perform a duty myself. Such as a few years ago, when a massive earthquake in Indonesia occurred and a humanitarian flight was organised by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs that required the presence of a flying station engineer for the technical support during the whole trip. Although it was a very serious situation, I learnt so much from this special duty. It was about dealing with situations such as not knowing whether we have a high loader or conveyer belt for the offloading of the 25 tons of material. How do we offload or load the tow bar if no loading equipment is available?  What does the airport look like? Do we get fuel? To me, it was very rewarding to see and feel how a team that has never worked together before grow together the longer the situation went on.

If I’m travelling on a private basis and a situation in or on the plane comes up which requires technical knowledge, I’m always happy to help out. The necessary documents, such as license, authorization and crew member certificate, are always travelling with me in my pocket.

In view of the new aircraft to be expected in our fleet in 2014, the Bombardier CSeries, our relief engineer team will be ready to provide support in the form of flying station engineer services, especially at provider stations, during the introduction phase.