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An Airbus A321-211 (foreground), operated by FL Technics client Aeroflot, holds for departure at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia (Image source: Dmitry Zherdin).

FL Technics completes major upgrade project for Airbus A321s

FL Technics, which specializes in specializes traditional MRO areas such as line maintenance, component support, and engine management, has recently completed major modifications on Airbus A321s.

This A321, a variant of Airbus’ narrow-body, twin-engine, short- to medium-range A320 series, was the fifth and final A321 in series of client aircraft that FL Technics has upgraded.

“It is very uncommon for aircraft operators to entrust MROs with projects of such scope. They typically prefer to complete them at the manufacturer’s facilities to conduct such complex upgrades and modifications,” said Zilvinas Lapinskas, CEO of FL Technics.

The modification comprised fundamental equipment and furnishing changes in the cargo compartment, including the removal of one of the two additional center fuel tank in the aft cargo hold, installation of semi-automatic cargo loading systems to both cargo compartments, installation of a refuel coupling, and installation of a ventilation and heating system in the aft cargo compartment (for the safe transportation of animals). The passenger compartment seat layout was also reconfigured.

According to Lapinskas, although the project was extremely complex due to an extensive number of technical changes to the aircraft required by the customer, FL Technics engineering, planning, and base maintenance teams completed the project within the set time frame.

The upgrade was further complicated because the majority of work needed to be performed in localized areas with limited access, according to Ievgen Oleksandrov, Lead Engineer at Engineering and Planning Department of FL Technics. Most of the systems were interlinked and production planning had to be carefully organized to perform different steps of the various modifications in the most optimal sequence to maximize manpower efficiency in each zone at every step.

“Now the operator's may rely on FL Technics’ experience in complex modification process management that involves not just maintenance, but all the support activities in terms of logistics, engineering, and expedited negotiations OEMs. Some of the modifications required almost 40 revisions of the originally supplied technical data by the OEM during the installation process,” said Oleksandrov.

Although this type of work might not mark a growing trend for MRO providers, the scope of this work represents the opportunity for operators to switch to their company’s requirements regarding fleet commonality and configuration even if newly acquired aircraft significantly varies from the rest of a fleet.

“The benefit is that the commonality in the airlines’ fleet and its operational characteristics may be met even if the aircraft was originally produced in a different configuration. Another benefit is wider operational flexibility and lower turn-around time,” said Oleksandrov. “Usually the OEMs do not take requests to modify the aircraft at their facilities after it has been produced. Experienced MROs remain mainly the only option.”

Another significant part of this project was the installation of wireless ground link quick access recorder designed to provide quick and easy access to raw flight data. This upgrade removes the need for the operator to physically download data from the flight data recorder and enables operators to fully automate the recording and the transmission of aircraft flight data. It also reduces the risks of data loss and maintenance costs involved with typical manual procedures.

“From production planning and maintenance management to logistics and real-time technical data coordination with the Airbus—the entire project required not only in-depth technical know-how, but also advanced project management skills. Among the greatest challenges was the need to organize all the necessary resources for different project stages in advance. From the perspective of aircraft modifications, this calls for a completely new level of aircraft maintenance expertise in an MRO organization,” said Oleksandrov.

Our engineering team’s background in commercial airlines allows us to understand the operational impact of every modification that we are implementing. Moreover, FL Technics is a continuing airworthiness management provider for the list of airlines whose aircraft are registered in different countries under seven different civil aviation authorities, so our modification support is not limited to the maintenance tasks on the aircraft but its operational support as well.

According to FL Technics, the five-aircraft upgrade took between 30 to 20 working days per aircraft—or 25 to 15 working days not including aircraft owner delays.

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