The final day of Star MegaDo 5 saw our very own charter flight take wings over North America. If you’ve never experienced something like this, let me put it this way: imagine flying on a fully-catered flight with 130 of your best friends and fellow travel enthusiasts, all the while exchanging tips and tricks about how to make the most of your travels. The flight itself was an absolute blast – even though I did get stopped at Customs for a brief amount of time (Pro traveler tip: when asked “Do you have any food to declare…” on your customs form: popcorn and chocolate counts - even if you brought it from the United States), the flight and airport experience was an absolute blast! This will be a flight I’ll be talking about for quite a while to come.
Our travels took us from Toronto to Tuscon, Arizona, where we were treated to a tour of the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – otherwise known as the place where military aircraft goes to retire. The tour was an awesome experience, and allowed us to stretch our legs before hopping back on the airplane to our final destination: San Francisco.
At San Francisco, we were treated to a one-of-a-kind hangar experience with United (our public charter carrier), and got to go behind the scenes with their aircraft repair operations. United sees and repairs aircraft of all kinds at the San Francisco facility – and not just mainline aircraft! Many pieces and parts were stripped for our inspection at the hangar – with many specialists there to explain how it all works!
At the hangar, we learned all about how aircraft are kept safe and sound, starting from the ground up. New technology allows for new ways to keep passengers and crew safe at 30,000 feet above the earth. Here’s some of the ways aircraft crews are making sure you stay safe at cruising speed:
Regular maintenance isn’t just for engines and moving parts
When an aircraft comes in for maintenance, it’s not just the moving parts that get inspected. Advanced technology allows for the continued testing of everything from avionics to in-flight entertainment. And in the event that something is detected as malfunctioning, or comes up questionable, maintenance facilities make sure that testing equipment is available, and prepare backups if necessary. This allows them to switch out the bad gear for testing and repair, and keep you flying as scheduled.
Making sure only qualified parts make it to the airplane
Everything on an airplane – from wings and flaps to landing gear – has a finite operational life. So how do they make sure everything runs safe and secure throughout that life? In the case of landing gear, at least two full landing gear assemblies are kept in stock at all times. This ensures that parts are available as needed, and full landing gear can be replaced. With this stock available, maintenance crews can pull apart old landing gear, and replace or rebuild as needed. In the event that a part has reached the end of the road, that part is pulled and destroyed, so that it can’t end up as a compromised part in another plane. Many of those parts can then be recycled into something new.
Recording safety is priority one
In addition to the moving parts and pieces that are managed and rebuilt, the “Black Boxes” (which are now orange, entertainingly enough) get regular maintenance and rebuilding as well. Made out of an incredibly durable construction (so that they don’t get destroyed), the boxes are regularly serviced and switched out as well, to make sure they record what goes on in flight properly. The “Black Box” unit is actually comprised of two units – one that records two hours of cockpit voice communications, and one that records 20 hours of flight mechanical data. In the event of an emergency, these two items can give valuable insight on what went wrong – and how to fix it for future flights.
Going behind the scenes at United gave a lot of insight as to how everything operates at a major airline maintenance facility, and gave me new respect for what it takes to keep hundreds of flights in air every day. Have you had a flight safety experience that was mitigated by ground crew? Let me know your experiences in the comments below!
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