17.12.2013

Focus on systems and components

Under the direction of Dr. Rainer Sebus the Lockheed Super Star Engineering team had moved its offices to an industrial building a few kilometers away from the maintenance hangar back in 2011. All the defects identified by Production as part of the repair process are reported on-site to the Super Star Engineering team, which then prepares the appropriate repair instructions, working closely with the Designated Engineering Representative (DER) and the FAA. The Lufthansa Technik engineers are also supported by a team from consulting engineers Aeronautica.

Dr. Rainer Sebus uses the example of the wing repairs to illustrate the far-reaching consequences that decisions made by the project engineers have. "At the start we had considered whether we should get all the skins milled from whole pieces and replace all the panels. After considering in-depth the time, effort and cost that this would entail, we chose the approach that we have in fact followed, of developing a repair procedure for every defect. With hindsight I would say that the full solution would definitely have been the fastest and cheapest option due to the many complex findings. But at that time we simply hadn't yet learned all the lessons we were later to learn and we were not yet aware of all the technological possibilities of the repair station."

The fact that it was not obvious right at the start of the project just how many repairs would be necessary is mainly due to the fact it was not possible to see all critical points immediately. It was only after the aircraft had been elaborately jacked up in a stress-free state and the structural parts had phase by phase been dismantled that it became possible to visually explore every nook and cranny of the Super Star.

As well as the current restoration work, Engineering is also mindful of the financial side of future Super Star flying operations. As Dr. Sebus explains: "The question of whether to repair or to fabricate from scratch arises not just in connection with the wings. A good example here is the engine nacelle fittings. A new fitting only has to be inspected after several thousand flying hours, whereas an old one may need inspecting after just a few weeks. So which is the more cost-effective? Fabricating from scratch, even if right now this takes longer and is more expensive, or reinstalling the old component, which will then incur costs after the aircraft has been flying only a short time? Weighing up the pros and cons is very difficult."

Having completed the engineering work on fuselage barrel four, the point where the fuselage and wing meet, the team is now concentrating on the systems and components. Sebus: "Installation of the systems and components in the flightdeck, fuselage and wings is a complex jigsaw puzzle that awaits us in the New Year." One of the tasks entailed is the installation of the digital Honeywell suite, which is replacing the analog flight instruments. "Here we can draw on good experience of other aircraft on which analog flight controls have similarly been combined with a digital cockpit world. The Honeywell glass cockpit is of course quite a comedown from the purely ‘historic' point of view. But if Lockheed were to build the Super Star today, it would inevitably also install the screens. There is no other way to present the many flight safety features of the 21st century on the narrow panel."

By contrast, the flight engineer's panel requires only marginal changes. Thus, for example, a cylinder head temperature display that offers continuous access to the data of all the cylinder heads is being installed. Dr. Rainer Sebus: "In this way the flight engineer has comprehensive real-time information about the condition of the engines. This is another sensible addition in terms of enhancing safety."