Far and away
by Christine Anne Berger
It is late on Saturday evening when Sergio’s phone rings. A Falcon 900EX EASy is grounded in Lahore, Pakistan, with a hydraulic leak. Sergio knows he must quickly find a solution for his customer. “In ten minutes, I know who the technician is, when his flight is and when he will be there,” he explains. Sergio Reis Da Silva is the Maintenance Manager in Geneva for RUAG MRO International and the first point of contact on RUAG Geneva’s AOG hotline.
Having an aircraft on ground (AOG) might not sound all that alarming to non-jet-owners or non-operators. So, if you are wondering, know that every minute a jet spends on ground (or worse is grounded), owners and operators lose money, time and opportunities. When it is impossible to fly their own jet, they must lease someone else’s and this pushes up the costs even higher. Accordingly, it is vital that jets fly again as soon as possible. Sergio explains: “It’s like being alone on the highway in the rain with a flat tire, without tools or spares, and you need help because in addition to losing money every minute you sit there, you also have to spend money to fix the situation.”
RUAG MRO International AOG team member welcoming an inbound Dassault Falcon for repairs.
The first thing Sergio has to do is alert his emergency AOG crew. RUAG MRO International always has four to six crews on call each weekend, each of which has different aircraft type certifications. It is like being a firefighter waiting at your station for that emergency phone call. Once the call arrives, the adrenalin kicks in. Most of the technicians have huge smiles on their faces, because they live for these moments. Once the crew is briefed on the situation, they grab their gear bags containing the appropriate equipment and download the correct aircraft documents, while administration organizes their travel tickets and plans. The RUAG AOG service is on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.
RUAG in Geneva has an important department called the “Store”. This is a secure area run by a group of dedicated people who house and care for the thousands of parts and tools an aircraft mechanic might need. They are also responsible for knowing what exactly the mechanic will need and putting those kits together for them as quickly as possible whenever required. Entering different countries with strange looking tools and equipment can sometimes cause problems for traveling mechanics, so it is extremely important that everything is labeled, documented and packed correctly. Thierry Duport, RUAG MRO International Supervisor and Team Leader in Geneva, explains: “Each AOG experience poses unique challenges, with an aircraft in a demanding situation. Our job is to get to the aircraft with all the tools and equipment we’ll need, resolve the technical issues as soon as possible and satisfy the customer.”
RUAG MRO International AOG Aircraft technician checking parts.
By your side: anytime, anywhere, even far and away!
AOGs can be extremely challenging and there are situations where not every MRO service provider can help. Mechanics Guillaume Soprano and Christophe Gonnet quickly responded to Sergio’s call to duty when he had received a call about exactly such a situation. Because of the location of the AOG, there were no other MRO service providers who could help. “Luckily, we could, and so we moved forward as fast as possible,” said Sergio. The mechanics’ visas were immediately organized in Bern, Switzerland, and two days later they arrived at the airport in Lahore – via Doha – where the Falcon’s two pilots were waiting for them. After ten hours of discussions in a small office with the local authorities, the mechanics were finally granted permission to access the aircraft. The hydraulic pipe was quickly repaired, and so Christophe and Guillaume returned to customs, got their passports stamped, boarded the Falcon 900EX EASy and were all set to return to Geneva. Unfortunately, however, the aircraft’s modular avionics unit (MAU) power supply was nonfunctional and needed to be replaced, which prevented them from flying home.
The mechanics had already stamped their passports, which effectively nullified their visas, so they were trapped in the airplane for hours until the pilots could organize extended visas from the Pakistani authorities. With quite a bit of difficultly the FBO managed to organize a safe hotel and transport. After four days of spending ten hours a day at the airport, the parts finally arrived, and after another 3 days the parts were actually released and installed and the gentlemen could fly back to Geneva. Christophe and Guillaume had actually finished the repairs themselves in just two hours, however due to administrative complications and other unfortunate circumstances they ended up spending two weeks away from home! That was one exciting, far and away, AOG mission!
The AOG team
Time is of the essence during an AOG. Antoine Barbonnais, Maintenance Technician for RUAG MRO International in Geneva, remarks that “time is always an exciting challenge and we need to get things right quickly. I do this by checking the details thoroughly and being extremely well organized with my team.”
What kind of people does it take to be on an AOG team?
AOG team members are people who like adventure and the excitement of new challenges. Each and every AOG situation is unique. Often the mechanics must travel alone, so they also need to be self-reliant, confident and motivated. They must carry with them a “go team” attitude similar to that possessed by firefighter teams, and they must be ready to move 24 hours a day. Thierry elaborates: “I have a great team that loves AOG challenges! They are reliable, responsive and motivated to work together as hard and as long as it takes. When we’ve mastered the technical issues and the customer is happy, well that makes us all happy, too.”
Thierry Duport, Supervisor & Team Leader PC-12 at RUAG MRO International in Geneva, Switzerland.
Antoine Barbonnais, Maintenance Technician at RUAG MRO International in Geneva, Switzerland.
Whether it’s the Geneva shop floor or a shop floor far and away
The most important goal is to make customers happy and to have happy shop floor AOG mechanics, because they are the ones who fulfill customer needs. RUAG MRO International in Geneva has a specific system set-up which enables everyone to work together more successfully. Maintenance Manager Sergio explains: “We have put in place a structure that clarifies who is responsible for what, and most importantly we have a culture which supports the attitudes and behaviors that improve the quality of life for our team. This allows our mechanics to focus on their passion, which is fixing aircraft wherever they might be and whenever their dedication and expertise are needed.”
Thierry has been with RUAG for ten years now, and he still loves the troubleshooting aspect of his job. “Solving an issue for an AOG with the team is exciting. The team works together so well because we are each motivated to collectively accomplish the challenge.” If you look around on your travels, you might see a technician on the road firefighting all alone. However, if you take a closer look, you will see that the technician has an entire team in their bag of tools.
Dassault Falcon 900LX departing after successful AOG services are performed.