PARIS, 10 March 2013. Aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) expert Sabena technics in Paris has won a five-year contract from aircraft designer Airbus in Toulouse, France, to perform C Check maintenance on the Airbus fleet of A300-600ST Beluga cargo jets. Contract details were not released.
The Airbus Beluga super transporter is a version of the standard Airbus A300-600 widebody airliner modified to carry aircraft parts and oversized or awkward cargo. The Beluga is designed to carry entire aircraft sections between Airbus manufacturing centers.
Sabena will maintain the five-aircraft Beluga fleet at the company's facility in Bordeaux, France which has five separate hangar positions large enough to accommodate the Beluga aircraft.
The Beluga's wings, engines, landing gear, and the lower part of the fuselage are the same as the A300 while the upper part of the fuselage is an enormous horseshoe-shaped structure measuring 25 feet in diameter. The cockpit is moved below the cargo floor level, and the tail is enlarged and strengthened.
The Beluga fleet is operated by Airbus Transport International (ATI), a division dedicated to the logistics between Airbus and its partners.
The outsourcing of the Beluga base maintenance is part of ATI's "Fly 10000" project that aims at increasing aircraft availability and doubling the annual flying hours of the fleet before 2017.
ATI's own maintenance division will continue to take care of light maintenance at the main base and in the outstations, Airbus officials say.
Aircraft maintenance checks are periodic inspections for commercial, general-aviation, and military aircraft. Commercial and general-aviation aircraft operators follow inspection programs approved by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or by other airworthiness authorities such as Transport Canada or the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA).
C Checks are done about every 15 to 21 months, take the aircraft out of service, and go over the entire aircraft. The C Check usually takes one or two weeks and as much as 6,000 man hours of maintenance work.
An A Check, by contrast, happens about every 500 to 800 flight hours, and requires about 20 man-hours of maintenance done overnight at an airport gate. B Checks are done about every four to six months and require about 150 man-hours of maintenance work done over one to three days at an airport hangar.
D Checks are the most comprehensive and demanding aircraft inspections, and also are known as heavy-maintenance visits (HMVs). The D Check happens about ever five or six years, and essentially takes the entire airplane apart for inspection and overhaul. Paint often is removed for close inspection of the fuselage metal skin. D checks usually take about 40,000 man-hours of maintenance work, and can take as long as two months.
Following this contract, Sabena technics will acquire EASA Part 145 base maintenance capability on the Beluga. In a separate contract award, Sabena technics training was selected by ATI to develop maintenance training courses on the Beluga.