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Full speed ahead

The business of Delta TechOps is moving in a new direction and the pace of change is quickening. Ian Harbison reports

The long-term plan for Delta TechOps is to become a one stop shop, operating as a third-party MRO provider instead of primarily looking after the parent airline, says Peter Turner, Vice President, Business Development and MRO. Appointed last year from Rolls-Royce North America, Turner brought with him considerable experience of the Total Care engine support programme.


The business is based in the massive 250,000m² Atlanta Technical Operations Center (TOC) at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which is divided between TOC 1, with capacity for two widebody and four narrowbody aircraft; TOC 2, with capacity for six widebody and six narrowbody aircraft; and TOC 3, with capacity for three widebody aircraft, although one bay is used as a fully equipped paint shop. Another TOC 3 bay is used for intermediate maintenance and for hospital work. The hangar is equipped with teleplatforms, which have proved to be very useful in speeding up aircraft checks involving damage to the upper fuselage. This was certainly the case when a heavy hailstorm hit the airport, with one aircraft an hour able to be examined and cleared for service.


TOC 1 and 2 each have back shops and administrative support, while TOC 3 has four floors of back shop and material management support. Machine shops in TOC 1 and 2 are capable of most of the repair work likely to be encountered, which means delay is avoided in transferring the work to the main facilities in TOC 3.


Inherited from Northwest, following the merger in 2008, there is also a 32,500m² FAA Part 145 repair station facility at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. The facility has capacity for seven narrowbody and three widebody aircraft, 12 engine bays and two engine test cells, as well as various back shops. Currently used for hospital checks and lease returns, consideration is being given to establishing an Airbus A330 maintenance line there later this year.


One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the outsourcing of heavy checks on much of the Delta fleet. Some of this is now carried out in the US, some in Asia and some by Aeroméxico in Querétaro, Mexico. Here, a brand new facility is being built in a joint venture with Delta Air Lines, with capacity for up to seven aircraft to be serviced simultaneously. For lighter checks on Delta aircraft, the company is operating an equalised maintenance system, as per Maintenance Steering Group-3, using more frequent, smaller packaged service visits. This is a way of reducing downtime in the hangar, but it also means that work can be scheduled for less busy periods. As well as keeping more aircraft flying (Delta completed 99.5 % of its flights in July), it means that fewer spare aircraft are required. Talks are now taking place with the FAA to extend the service intervals where possible.


These developments have led to a more efficient way of working which frees up hangar capacity for third-party work and generates extra revenue. Turner says the emphasis will be on external nose-to-tail contracts, particularly under the Complete Fleet support package it offers for the Airbus A320 Family and the A330, as well as tasks requiring high levels of expertise, such as aircraft modifications.


As an example, there are two lines running at present to fit Aviation Partners Boeing winglets to the UPS fleet of Boeing 767-200 freighters. As the aircraft are not visiting as part of a heavy check (some have come straight from the production line), turnaround time is important, which the company has got down to less than 20 days.


The company also recently completed its first fuel tank inerting systems modification work on two Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200 aircraft, which was also the first retrofit in the industry on an aircraft already in service, as well as the first time an aircraft has had the work done outside the manufacturer’s facilities. The modifications were completed in conjunction with C2 check work ahead of schedule, allowing the customer to return the aircraft to revenue service sooner than planned.


The company is now offering the modification work to other operators, as there are approximately 500 aircraft in service across the world that will require the modification (it is now standard on all new aircraft). Aviation regulatory bodies around the world have issued directives that call for half the total fleet to be modified by 26 December 2014 and all by 26 December 2017. >>

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