Airbus A380 –
Maintenance in new dimensions

The catalog of tasks which had to be completed by the handover of the first Airbus A380 to Lufthansa in May 2010 was long. First of all, there was the preparation of Lufthansa Technik´s facilities. For the incredibly huge dimensions of the world´s biggest commercial airliner, two new hangars were constructed in Beijing and Frankfurt. The latter was completed in December 2007, exactly on the date that was planned, and entered service in mid January 2008. With its size of 180 x 140 meters and its height of 45 meters it is one of the largest industrial buildings in Europe. The hangar provides enough overhead clearance (27.5 meters) to lift the aircraft to any height required for maintenance, even for the huge tailfin of the A380, which is more than 24 meters tall. Covering more than 25.000 square meters, the hangar can easily accommodate two A380s, three Boeing 747s or a combination of both types at the same time.

To cover future demands, the facility can be extended to an overall length of 350 meters in a second stage of construction, increasing floor space to more than 49,000 square meters. Neighbouring the new hangar, Lufthansa Technik Logistik has set up a new spare parts pool with more than 8,500 square meters of space and more than 70,000 different parts in its inventory, ranging from the smallest screws to the largest components, for example seats or engines. If the latter need to be tested, the new facility provides three new aircraft parking positions, two of them suitable for engine run-up tests. For safety reasons and to prevent the jetwash from damaging the surroundings during these tests, a completely new blast fence had to be set up. With its own concrete foundation, 80 meters in length and twelve meters in height it is now capable of deflecting even the strongest jetwash of the A380´s four engines, which are mounted wider than on any other commercial airliner.

The next step following the completion of the A380 hangar was the acquisition of all necessary tools and equipment for servicing the new aircraft therein. At Lufthansa Technik´s A380 homebase in Frankfurt and other destinations, the demand of new items for the A380 had to be analyzed. Using a special tooling list issued by the aircraft manufacturer Airbus, the project team identified and purchased all necessary new items. Especially the long-lead items had to be ordered very soon. A huge number of operations on the A380 can not be carried out with the current equipment used for other aircraft types, simply because the A380´s size completely disrupts normal dimensions. This made the acquisition of bigger and stronger devices inevitable, for example tripod jacks to lift the aircraft for landing gear maintenance or special torque wrenches to remove and install the engine mounts. Component support for the new aircraft has also already begun, benefiting from the experience gathered in the "Spairliners– joint venture with Air France Industries that began servicing the first Airbus A380 for Qantas in October 2008. 

A further need for upgrades was also identified in the field of ground support equipment. To carry out smaller repairs and maintenance services at the front section of the A380 but also the Boeing 747, for example the replacement of cockpit windows, a new nose dock was brought into service in the beginning of 2008. An even bigger challenge was the construction of a new tail dock. In order to provide easy access to the A380´s systems in this area, for example the APU, the flight control actuators, the elevator, stabilizer and tailfin itself, the scaffolding and maintenance platforms have to be more than 24 meters high, much more than on any other aircraft currently in service. It is also be able to accommodate all other widebody aircraft currently in the market. To move the new aircraft between the terminal and the maintenance area, which is quite remote in Frankfurt, new tow tractors were needed. Because the giant A380 is too heavy for the current machinery, Lufthansa LEOS inaugurated the all new AST-1X tow tractor. With its 1300hp engine and six driven wheels, it is capable of towing the Airbus A380 (560 tons a maximum take-off weight) theoretically with up to 32 kilometers per hour. The tractor is also state of the art for long distance towing to save ground time and to ensure a safe operation. 

Technology and training for a smooth service entry

The service entry of the world´s biggest commercial airliner was accompanied by many challenges. Improving technology was important, but even more important is the qualification of the people that will use it. To prepare its already highly trained personnel for working with the A380, Lufthansa Technical Training (LTT), a 100 percent subsidiary of Lufthansa Technik, is offering a new comprehensive A380 maintenance training program in Frankfurt. The program has been developed in cooperation with the aircraft manufacturer and LTT´s customers over a period of five years. In theory as well as in practice, they teach up to twelve participants in one course how to deal with the complex systems of the new Airbus.

Before the training commences on the real aircraft, training course participants are working in a special simulator called 2D-MFTD (2-Dimensional Maintenance / Flight Training Device). On two computer screens each, a virtual cockpit simulates possible system failures that can occur and teaches the students how to deal with the problem. Expenses for the simulator were 1.5 million euros. This investment proves to be valuable, since in times, when only a few A380s will be in service with Lufthansa, the aircraft type will rarely be available for practical maintenance training. Because of the complexity of the A380s systems, the training courses will take up to 62 days. The B1 and B2 training courses finish with a certification after EASA regulations. The course prepared the Lufthansa Technik employees for the arrival of the first Lufthansa A380, paving the way for a smooth entry in service.