May 2020

A month with reduced activity carried the usual mishaps, albeit in reduced numbers. Smoke, engine problems, one runway excursion, turbulence incidents and some fatal accidents with smaller aircraft. As an extraordinary occurrence a man was killed by a 737 when he was talking a walk on an active runway in Austin, Texas.

What stood out in May was of course the fatal accident with a regular airline involved. PIA pilots made a very surprising attempt to land an A320 in Karachi from a high and hot approach, ignoring the need for a landing gear normally required for a smooth arrival, touching down on the engine cowlings – and then deciding that a go-around was a good idea. None of this went well, to no-ones surprise, but as usual speculations should be kept to a minimum until a full investigation is complete. Self appointed aviation experts are always keen to jump to conclusions, but should they they this time bet on ‘judgement error’ as a contributing factor in this fatal accident killing 97 people, they most probably wouldn’t loose any money. (In the air force, pilots forgetting the landing gear, were always told by the tower controller to go around. That kind advise, saving the scrapping of a perfectly healthy fighter and the pilot from major embarrassment, rendered the controller a nice cake from the local bakery. It seems that KHI tower may not have qualified for any cake in this case.)

One major activity, when not much else is happening, is keeping parked aircraft in shape. Every tenth day the seals have to come off the engines for a short run-up, the APU is run, the air-condition turned on, the flaps are run to exercise the hydraulic systems,  batteries are energized or unhooked, the wheels are turned , etc. in an 8-hour days work, with a more extensive program every 30 days. For extensive parking desert climates with minimal humidity are preferred, where among other things cabin and cockpit windows have to be covered to protect the interior from the sun. 100 MUSD+ investments have to be pampered in order to be ready for service on short notice.      Quite a feat.

Reactivating a plane for service, which takes about three days, basically reverses the storage intake process. Mechanics take off the coverings; restore and purify the water systems; check the fuel tanks and lines to clear any algae; and finish any maintenance checks still on the aircraft’s calendar.

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