18.09.2013

Change of faces in Auburn

After five years and nine months Michael Austermeier, who has been working on the Super Star project right from the start, took his leave on 1 September. He is succeeded as manager in charge of production in Auburn by Edmund Weber, who took up his post officially on 1 April this year.

When Michael Austermeier and his wife Emily moved to Auburn in April 2008, apart from two Lockheed L-1649As parked out in the open and various containers whose content was unknown, there was no infrastructure in place. Recalling the early days, Michael Austermeier says: "I set up the project office in the cellar of my rented house, and over the summer of 2008 we practically lived our days outside around the two aircraft on the edge of Auburn Lewiston airport." It was not until the present production hangar was completed in November 2008 that the project acquired, in the literal sense, a "roof over its head" and what has remained its home to this day.

Michael Austermeier is fully aware of just how unusual the project is. "This is a project that is only offered once in a lifetime. It doesn't fit into any pigeonhole, and very little of one's experience from one's previous working life is transferable to this project. It is not exactly the standard overhaul of a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320. Instead, everything has to be accomplished working from first principles."

Starting with the infrastructure, which he and his wife built up locally from nothing from the first paperclips to tools and ladders from the building market, to the computer from the local IT store. Everything had to be personally selected and procured. "There were no guidelines or rules as to how such a specialist project should be tackled. So from the start we built up the structures in such a way that they served the purpose, but without being too complex." As an example, Michael Austermeier mentions the introduction of the WinAir IT system, which served as the project database. This system designed for the overhaul and operation of small fleets was specially adapted to the needs of the Super Star by the project IT team and today is an indispensable planning and implementation tool for the project.

Michael Austermeier says: "We not only reproduced all the parameters of the maintenance work in WinAir, but we also incorporated all our supplier and supporting overhaul operations contacts. Valuable data records which to my mind suggest that the DLBS may well continue to use WinAir to support their flying operations later on."

When asked what have been the highlights of his five-year stint in Auburn, Michael Austermeier spontaneously mentions building networks, not only with external suppliers, but also making use of the unique Lufthansa Technik network and the outstanding competence of its employees, not least the trainees at the German sites: since 2008 over 60 groups of the best of the third-year trainees have travelled out to Auburn. Or the highly skilled staff of JetBlue, BizJet, Lufthansa Technik Budapest and Lufthansa Technik Sofia, whose specialist knowledge proved invaluable in overcoming a variety of challenges in production. Another success story in Michael Austermeier's view is the involvement of external personnel service provider GAS, which has recruited overhaul specialists for the project from all over the USA. Thus, it was primarily GAS staff who worked on the extremely demanding overhaul of the wing structure and are currently involved in the structural completion of the fuselage.

It is no accident that the Super Star project is so highly regarded in Auburn Lewiston and the US state of Maine and has had several awards bestowed on it. "I have also always viewed this project as an advertisement for the Lufthansa Group in North America," Michael Austermeier says. Thus he has taken countless groups of visitors around the production hangar in which the Super Star is being restored to an airworthy condition ready for its second career at the DLBS.

Michael Austermeier recently received an e-mail from Germany. A young graduate engineer thanked him for the fascinating time he had spent in Auburn several years earlier when he was still a Lufthansa Technik trainee. "It is moments like that when you realize how a new generation has grown up with this project and how they too were gripped by the 'Super Star bug'."