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All moving parts are subject to wear and tear. Airplanes have very many movable parts in wheels, engines, wings and tail. All this must be in excellent technical condition to prevent accidents.
Daily line maintenance
Airplanes are maintained almost between all flights. Passengers may have noticed pilots who check the aircraft externally before takeoff and make sure that everything is in order. As soon as they detect something suspicious, they call technicians. If the technicians cannot fix it fast enough, the flight can be delayed. In aviation, safety is everything and nothing is overlooked, no matter how marginal it might seem. Technicians also check the aircraft in the morning, before it makes its first flight. They check body parts, measure the pressure in the tyres, etc. Air Maintenance Estonia carries out line maintenance to all aircraft of Estonian Air.
Base maintenance is more comprehensive
Once an aircraft has operated a certain number of hours, depending on the type of aircraft and maintenance plan, it will go into base maintenance. Since the aircraft idle time is expensive and owners want their aircraft to start flying as soon as possible, engineers and technicians of Air Maintenance Estonia work round the clock. Comprehensive maintenance may take from a week up to a month. In every maintenance, technicians disassemble certain aircraft parts and replace the components required by the aircraft manufacturer. If they discover additional components and structural parts that do not comply with the requirements, they will also be replaced. In aviation, the key is to prevent breakdown. The engineers who design aircraft, calculate the durability of all components, their weaknesses and, depending on this information, determine the maintenance intervals and repair procedures. If technicians find an error that is not listed in the maintenance manual, they contact the manufacturer. All unauthorized solutions are prohibited. Aircraft makers deliver accurate instructions on how to repair faults.
It starts with prevention
Prevention is the key. Car owners know that they need to change engine oil based on mileage or once a year at the latest. So should be done to the wearing parts. They often postpone car maintenance and replace worn components once they are broken. In aviation, this kind of behaviour is out of question. While a Ford car service can change oil also in an Opel, an aircraft maintenance company that is licensed to maintain only Airbus aircraft cannot work on Bombardier. Air Maintenance Estonia provides base maintenance for Airbus 319, 320 and 321, Boeing 737 Classic and Next Generation type aircraft. Other types of aircraft used by Estonian Air are serviced in other countries. Line maintenance is provided for aircraft in the SAAB 340, Embraer 170, Bombardier CRJ900, Boeing 737CL/NG and Airbus 320 family. For maintaining a new type of aircraft, a suitable building, special tools and technical conditions for aircraft maintenance are necessary, as well as trained technicians and maintenance permit from the local civil aviation authority. A proper maintenance hangar has special premises and ocations for each operation – for painting, for metalwork, for tyres, leather, sewing and composite operations. The composite and painting workshop has a special space for sanding and other jobs. Powerful air ventilation guarantees that even the finest dust is sucked out. Everything is clean and every tool has its place. When the aircraft arrives to maintenance, technicians remove parts that must be maintained and take them to a specified workshop. Components that are waiting for maintenance are kept in special interim storage rooms. The tool room is a dream for every technician: shelves filled with powerful tools and an RFID system tracking which tools are being used at which aircraft. If a technician doesn’t return his tool at the end of the shift, a special metal detector is used to find them.
In Air Maintenance Estonia, aircraft maintenance is managed by David Williams. He is British with 38 years of aviation experience, but has worked abroad for the past 25 years. David has been managing aircraft maintenance for SAS in Stockholm, for Emirates in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and is now working in Estonia. „I have had the unique opportunity to open three maintenance hangars in the last six years,” says the man whose team organized base maintenance for the world’s largest passenger aircraft Airbus A380. This was also why he was offered to manage the expansion of Air Maintenance Estonia. The company’s new hangar was opened last September and tripled the company’s capacity. Until then, aircraft maintenance was done in one hangar. „Modern buildings, professional technicians and financial support,” says David, listing the essential components of successful aircraft maintenance. The company plans to open an aircraft painting hangar in Estonia that needs to meet extremely tough environmental requirements for air ventilation, sewerage and heating. David is not attracted to maintaining new and bigger aircraft. „Essentially, all aircraft are similar – aircraft body, wings, engine and cockpit,” he says. Estonia is a popular location for maintenance for European and Russian aircraft. It is well situated and a modern facility. At the same time, the technicians are very highly qualified. This has attracted many new customers to maintain their aircraft in Estonia.
Safety is priority
David Williams emphasizes that in his work flight safety comes first. „Aircraft that comes out of maintenance is not usually flight tested. It will take passengers on board and start flying,” he explains. This means that work must be impeccable. „The most important jobs are double-checked. When a technician completes maintenance, it is checked by an engineer who did not participate in the process, so the decision would be independent and nothing overlooked.” Aircraft maintenance must comply with strict requirements. Before starting work, a technician prints out a document that lists all maintenance operations that must be done. Every completed job is signed. „The aircraft owner must preserve this document for a certain period,” explains David. Then, if something happens to the aircraft, it is possible to identify the source of the problem and find out who exactly did what and when. Inspection in aviation is everything. Before a new airline sends its aircraft to maintenance in Tallinn, they audit Air Maintenance Estonia. „The hangar must be clean and everything in its place. No-one wants to maintain their aircraft in a place that’s a mess,” says David. Audits are conducted frequently. „If everything is in order, it’s not hard to prove that we work well.”
AME was supported by Enterprise Estonia for expanding market and export revenue, opening new Airbus base maintenance capability and enhancing diversity of aircraft maintenance and repair services with enterprise development grant.
"This new hangar is actually our second maintenance hangar at Tallinn Airport and it represents a major expansion for us at Air Maintenance Estonia. We can now offer our customers a new and efficient three-bay hangar for base maintenance works of narrow-body aircraft, as well as two additional lines for lighter checks and modification works located to our first hangar," said David Williams, the Estonian MRO’s CEO at the September grand hangar opening ceremony.
"The new hangar is tailor-made for us. It features the latest technological solutions available for materials, spare parts and tools logistics, as well as two unique docking stations for horizontal and vertical stabilizer works. These are specially developed by us in cooperation with the manufacturer and are fully adjustable to fit any aircraft in the Airbus 320 family as well as all versions of Boeing 737 NGs and Classics," continued David Williams
"This hangar has been my goal since I came to Air Maintenance Estonia five years ago, and when it is now a reality I would like to thank Tallinn Airport Authorities and all involved in the construction works for a very good cooperation throughout the project. David Williams, who joined us as CEO this spring, will now have a state of the art infrastructure to work with. This, combined with our professional and well reputated team gives us a strong competitive edge on the market," said Lars-Olof Bolinder, Member of Air Maintenance Estonia’s Supervisory Board.
Located within easy reach for the Nordic, European and Western Russian markets, Tallinn Airport could see the number of aircraft movements increase with 26,4% and the number of passengers increase with 20,5% during the first eight months this year.
"No airport is complete without an efficient and professional Maintenance and Repair Organization. Air Maintenance Estonia provides these resources and their expansion goes hand in hand with the growth and increased interest we experience at Tallinn Airport," said Einari Bambus, Member of Tallinn Airport’s Management Board.
"We define our potential geographical market as being within some two hours ferry flight time from our location at Tallinn Airport. This means that in addition to the Baltic and Nordic markets, we also cover Northern Europe, U.K, as well as a great part of Central Europe and Western Russia. All together, it is indeed a market big enough for a sustainable growth," concluded David Williams.
Air Maintenance Estonia’s market driven expansion goes hand in hand with Estonia’s equally solid and sustainable development on the international markets.Being an EU member since 2004 and part of the Eurozone since 2011, Moody’s recently affirmed Estonia’s A1 rating. “Estonia’s conservative budgetary policies, a strong balance sheet, low levels of indebtedness and sizable fiscal reserves, make the country’s susceptibility to external shocks to be considered low,” said Moody’s.
On April 2, 2012, Air Maintenance Estonia AS (AME) appointed David Williams as Managing Director / CEO succeeding Lars-Olof Bolinder who will continue in AME as a Supervisory Board member. David Williams has more than 38 years of experience in the Aviation Maintenance industry, holding managerial positions in SAS Technical Services, Emirates (airline) and Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies. I am looking forward to being part of Air Maintenance Estonia, with all the exciting developments that are happening in the company and Tallinn Airport. With the building of the new hangar we have a great chance to develop AME into being a leading aircraft maintenance services provider in Northern Europe.Based at Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport, Air Maintenance Estonia – AME - is now in the process of a major expansion of its capabilities.
AME’s market-driven expansion goes hand-in-hand with Estonia’s equally solid development on the international markets. Being an EU member since 2004 and part of the Eurozone since 2011, Estonia’s GDP growth is among the highest and its foreign debt among the lowest in the EU. Simultaneously with the downgrading of the US credit rating last summer, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s upgraded Estonia to an AA- level, placing the country in the second best so called high grade global rating. In May this year, AME will celebrate its 10-year anniversary.