Our SWISS Airbus A330-300 has just touched down. The aircraft taxis over the airport apron. Through the window I can see palm trees in the distance. As soon as the aircraft doors open I sense pleasant warm temperature, a nice change from the autumn climate I was already getting accustomed to in Switzerland.
Within minutes of deboarding I am welcomed by Oliver Groves, our Technical Station Manager in Tel Aviv. Together with his nine-member team he is responsible for checking the technical condition of SWISS aircraft on their arrival at Ben Gurion Airport. During the airplane’s time on the ground a review takes place of its general condition and specific functions, such as the engines, hydraulic system, tires and brakes, along with other components and systems. If needed, minor repairs are performed. This ensures that our aircraft are in flawless condition when they take off again for Switzerland!
Oliver and his family have been living in Israel for the past year and a half, in a town near Tel Aviv. He is one of the 80 highly qualified station engineers responsible for the technical condition of our aircraft at the following 17 locations across the SWISS network:
Maintenance work stations not shown on the map is performed by other companies with the relevant qualifications.
In addition to performing maintenance on SWISS aircraft, Oliver and his crew do the same for other airlines under the terms of line maintenance contracts. Oliver’s Tel Aviv team’s customer portfolio comprises the airlines of the Lufthansa Group and aircraft operated by US/AA Airways, British Airways, Korean Air and many other carriers. The onsite station engineers therefore require the necessary credentials qualifying them to work on the A320 family of aircraft, A330-300, A340-300, MD11F, B777F, B777, B747F and B744. Becoming a fully qualified and licensed aircraft engineer is a challenging process that can take up to seven years to complete.
The son of a Swiss mother and English father, Oliver completed his training during a two-year stay in Florida, where he acquired his FAA license. With the permits he needed in place he launched his career in aircraft maintenance with the line maintenance unit of Swissair / SR Technics at Zurich Airport. “But it wasn’t long before I was on my way to another country,“ he says, referring to stints as a station engineer in London, New York, Rome and numerous other stations. Consequently, sons Timothy and Jamie (now 5 and 7 years of age) have had international childhoods already. They were born in Rome, spent a short period in Venice and then relocated with their parents to Tel Aviv early in 2013.
Oliver is very dedicated to his profession, with a palpable passion for his highly varied day-to-day work as a station engineer. Each and every day he and his team are confronted with new challenges, most of which are unexpected. The have to act and react, and be prepared to deal with demanding situations that require extreme concentration. The telephone rings incessantly, various flights have just landed at Tel Aviv and several aircraft require attention at the same time. “In such situations, it is essential to set priorities,” Oliver states. And then he’s off, on his way to the tarmac to attend to an airplane.
Another challenge come in the form of local language difficulties – for example when an official form needs to be completed. Because Oliver cannot decipher the Hebrew alphabet he receives support in such situations from the SWISS city office and his local colleagues. He and his team interact with many different units in the course of their work. Cooperation and communication with cockpit and cabin crews is always of great importance.
Oliver can readily imagine spending a few more years in Tel Aviv. As a first-generation wind surfer he enjoys the benefits of life right at the sea. But he is already wondering where his career will take him and his family next and excited at the prospect. SWISS station engineers rotate to another station after every five or six years in one place. The future is sure to be exciting in any case. In the not too distant future, the SWISS fleet will expand to include the B777 and the CSeries.