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Nighttime, when (nearly) everything is asleep

Read in: Deutsch

It is early in the morning in the fascinating world of the aircraft hangar. Here I meet Laszlo Loerincz, Hangar Maintenance Production Manager, who has just finished a night shift. I need a cup of strong coffee to wake myself up properly. Laszlo on the other hand has had a busy night and is now ready to drive home to enjoy his well-earned time off.

Laszlo is responsible for making sure that all work on an airplane, both scheduled and unscheduled, is performed on time and in accordance with all the regulations. At night, when most of us are dreaming of tropical beaches or other heavenly places, when passengers are busy packing and making the final preparations in advance of a business trip or a holiday at some faraway place, a crew of professionally trained aircraft engineers is on duty at Zurich Airport and other locations, busy getting SWISS aircraft ready to fly the following day. Every night, a crew of 30 licensed aircraft engineers at Zurich is responsible for inspecting and testing the aircraft and, if needed, performing minor repairs and clearing the aircraft for operation.

Laszlo always arrives at the hangar at 19:30 and begins his shift by taking stock of the current situation and the planning of the work to be performed during the night ahead. The aircraft engineers arrive one hour later. During a short briefing the lead engineers assign them various jobs. Between 21:00 and 23:00 aircraft from all over Europe arrive and are towed to the hangar for major maintenance such as a change of engine, auxiliary power unit (APU) or landing gear. Less complex work is performed at the exterior parking spots, in all weather and at any time of year. All SWISS aircraft undergo a daily check every 24 hours and a weekly check in the course of a week. SWISS Maintenance also performs A-Checks on the Avro RJ100 fleet every 600 to 800 flying hours. Further checks and general overhauls are farmed out to specialist companies.

At 01:00 the night shift team members take a one-hour “lunch” break, after which they resume work until 05:00 at which point some aircraft are prepared for operation on the tarmac. The night shift lasts until 07:30 and includes the time required for completion of all the paperwork relating to the maintenance that has been carried out. After the handover of work pending to the Line Maintenance early shift Laszlo heads home. He enjoys working on a Sudoko puzzle or reading a book to help him unwind and relax before going to sleep.

He has been working at night for the past 20 years. It is clear that this is his world. He likes being awake and working during the hours that most people spend sleeping. His days off are spent together with his family, who live in a village on the banks of the Danube, some 50 km south of Budapest. Laszlo first came to Switzerland in 1990 as a licensed aircraft engineer, initially working in Basel as lead engineer on the Saab 340 and Avro RJ100, and later also as an instructor. In 2003 he moved to Zurich and has been a production manager since 2011. “No two night shifts are the same,” he remarks. Even though every step in the work process is planned and performed with precision, an unforeseeable situation could arise at any moment. The dynamics of airline operations make exceptional flexibility essential. A pro-active mind-set is called for. It’s necessary to always be thinking a step or two ahead, ready to adapt to any new situation and keeping a cool head at all times.

SWISS Maintenance employs more than 560 personnel at Zurich, Geneva and Basel airports and at 16 stations outside Switzerland. These specialists ensure the technical soundness of the entire SWISS fleet, so that each of our aircraft and transports you and all SWISS passengers in safety and comfort to your destination.

*APU: Auxiliary Power Unit is a self-contained unit that makes the aircraft independent of external pneumatic and electrical power. It provides bleed air to start an engine and run an air conditioning system. The APU also supplies power to the electrical system on the ground.