Aircraft technicians around the world have been maintainers of Airbus aircraft for decades. However only a select few have yet to turn a wrench, or more appropriately analyzed an electrical fault, on the largest of them, the Airbus A380. One of these groups is the technicians from the new Lufthansa Technik (LHT) A380 maintenance facility located in Frankfurt, Germany. Inaugurated in 2008 this facility is more than just another large hangar, it’s a culture born to maintain this largest of the latest generation of aircraft. Some of the words I heard from technicians and managers alike describing this organization were innovative, proactive, lean, spirit, flagship, and technology.
Innovation in an organization
Thomas Spriesterbach, head of A380 maintenance for LHT, describes the facility as “Innovation in an organization.” He explains that when it came time to build the facility because the aircraft was new technology LHT decided the best approach was to build an entirely new maintenance organization to support it. Spriesterbach explains, “We approached this with a clean-sheet not only with the facility design, but the technology, the organization, processes, and leadership.” One of the many examples of what he called “in-housing” was rather than using the centralized maintenance planning group, they developed their own group dedicated to only the A380. An A380 maintenance control group is located right near the facilities duty managers. Also located in the facility are technical representatives from Airbus, Rolls-Royce, and Aircell. The facility will house two A380 aircraft tailed in with one nosed in-between.
The LHT A380 maintenance organization currently consists of approximately 55 people responsible for maintaining the airline’s young fleet of four (at the time of this article five) A380 aircraft. The organization consists of himself as the responsible manager, maintenance duty managers, planners, maintenance controllers, engineers, technicians, and a few others. Spriesterbach shares, “It’s very important to have a high team spirit when you are working a flagship aircraft. Everyone here was chosen and is highly motivated. We have a small group of highly skilled and highly trained technicians.”
The German Aviation Authority (the LBA) and the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) were involved early on in the planning process. The LHT MRO holds EASA approval for line and base maintenance on the A380.
New philosophy and proactive approach
Spriesterbach says, “Maintenance on this aircraft is very much about fault code analysis.” One aspect of the proactive approach to maintenance on the A380 is for technicians to have immediate access to historical operational information. The knowledge data base (KDB) was developed where all historical operational and maintenance data from the A380 fleet resides. Spriesterbach says, “If you don’t start with a good knowledge data base you won’t catch up.”
Data analysis is important and takes place 24/7. LHT troubleshooters can see the faults and the data while speaking to the flight crews. The aircraft transmits a current flight report (CFR) to maintenance control in the facility every 15 minutes; a system snapshot every three hours, and a post flight report which is a summary of all faults during that flight segment.
“We always know what is happening with the aircraft,” Spriesterbach says, “and we must have a proactive approach to aircraft ground time. The technicians stay very close to the aircraft at all times and the repair process begins when a fault first occurs, rather than when the aircraft arrives. The approach taken is to accomplish 100 percent technical dispatch reliability and always use the next ground time for troubleshooting any fault of the aircraft.”
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