27 Nov ARTS team takes over Beluga Line Maintenance
Sabena Technics’ customer base includes aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus, Boeing, British Aerospace, Bombardier Aerospace and ATR. After Sabena won the long-term contract for the maintenance and repairs of the Beluga fleet, the MRO service provider was looking for a reliable partner to support it in line maintenance. This is where our ARTS project team comes in. Since 2018, we have been carrying out the C-checks on the A300-600ST Beluga aircraft types, enabling Sabena to complete the order quickly without increasing fixed costs.
Sabena Technics, a leading provider of maintenance and modification services for both civil and military aircraft, was founded in 1968 as Touraine Air Transport and is now represented at 15 locations worldwide with around 2,200 employees. Headquartered in Paris, Sabena is a global player in the aircraft business with approximately 500 customers.
Due to the positive developments in recent years, Sabena intends to hire a total of 250 new employees over the next few years. The company also plans to invest in a new hangar at its plant at Bordeaux-Mérignac airport (France). More and more freighters are conquering the skies of Europe and more capacity needs to be created. The 10,000 square metre hangar can then accommodate one freighter or three military transport aircraft at the same time.
The challenges for our team
In 2013, Sabena Technics won the long-term contract to maintain and repair the aircraft of the Airbus Beluga fleet. It was agreed to carry out the C-checks on the aircraft types A300-600ST Beluga, which will be carried out at the Bordeaux site. The Beluga fleet is operated by the Airbus subsidiary Airbus Transport International (ATI).
The outsourcing of the Beluga basic maintenance has been part of the ATI project “Fly 10000”, which aimed at increasing aircraft availability and doubling the annual flight hours of the fleet from 5,000 to 10,000 flight hours before 2017.
The fleet currently consists of five Beluga and one Beluga XL and is used for internal traffic throughout Europe. Due to the XL’s increased loading capacity, Airbus will be able to increasingly handle its freight traffic by air and reduce shipping traffic. This means that an increase in flying hours is foreseeable and the greater load on aircraft will result in increased maintenance costs.
Since October 2018 our ARTS project team, consisting of six certifiying staff CAT B1 and B2, has been responsible for the line maintenance of the Beluga fleet. In order to be able to carry out the mechanical maintenance of the Beluga aircraft, the entire ARTS team completed a special type rating in Bordeaux within eight weeks. This course was a basic requirement for the job in Bremen. There the team was enabled to work on the Beluga and Beluga XL. All ARTS team members undertook six weeks of theory and two weeks of practice. The course was modular and completely in English. After each module, there was a multiple choice test, which needed to be passed. After passing the course, our colleagues went to Bremen and could start directly at Sabena Technics. They do not only work for Sabena in Bremen, but also in Hamburg and Getafe. Our team bears full responsibility for the operability of all mechanical components on the Beluga machines. This means that problems occurring within the scope of line maintenance are noted in the electronic logbook and then remedied by us. This is the so-called troubleshooting, i.e. minor repairs that are carried out quite quickly. The biggest challenge here is the time limit we have for maintenance, since the plane is only 1 to 1.5 hours on the ground. Recognizing the issue with the plane, solving it in the given time, and getting it to take off again on time is a big challenge. At night, we do the Daily Checks, which are valid for 48 hours and must be carried out on every aircraft.
It is interesting to note that there are indeed various technical differences between the Beluga and the Beluga XL. The Beluga is based on the A300, the Beluga XL on the A330, so you can see the permanent development and the technical progress.