Tahiti, February 24, 2021 – Forced to one flight per week, ATN had to resolve to send one of its aircraft to sleep in the Arizona desert. On the rest of the fleet, two aircraft are undergoing a maintenance program to continue to idle. As for the fourth, it is kept in “active storage” at home.
F-OMUA Fakarava touched down at Arizona’s Phoenix-Goodyear airport yesterday afternoon. Like all companies in the world, Air Tahiti Nui has no choice but to send an aircraft from its fleet to sleep in the Arizona desert. “You don’t need four planes to do one flight a week, explains Michel Monvoisin, CEO of the tiara company. During the confinement, we tried to make the four turn, which mobilized a lot of resources in the technical direction, and there, as we put the world in Diese device, it is better to shelter it in the desert “.
Since its arrival, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner has been carefully stowed in a parking space for a six-month contract. A “long-term storage” difficult to predict in Tahiti, where the humidity level is breaking records in this rainy season. The device also fears condensation and salty air, exposing itself to a risk of corrosion. “If we want to keep an aircraft active for operation, we cocoon it, but we can reactivate it quickly” ensures the CEO.
In the dry desert air, the device is pampered, its openings are blocked and its sensitive areas covered with fire-resistant silica fiber tarpaulins. This is because the electric and digital machine has no less than 1,400 software. This is why certain essential parts are dismantled, like the batteries and the electronic brain, and are then stored in cool storage areas with controlled hydrometry. “The only precaution that must be taken is linked to the heat which can dry out the hydraulic systems a bit, but we have protection systems” explains Christophe Barnier, ATN avionics manager.
Awakened every three months
But even stored in the desert, the device does not sleep indefinitely. “We come to wake him up once every three months, to make sure everything is fine, specifies the manager. When it is time to put it back into service, we will put all the parts back in place after having checked them. It is a long process, it will not be done in half a day as you have seen at the end of the containment at the exit of hybrid active storage “.
Implemented by the company during containment, this maintenance program consists of putting the device on standby. “We let him doze off without letting him fall asleep completely, that is to say, we wake him up every three days to run his priority systems, we make sure everything is functional” develops Christophe Barnier. This is what awaits two of the aircraft in the fleet. “Today, only one plane does the rotations, with another in back-up, on which we apply the same process as under confinement”. Two devices that should alternate every six weeks or so.
The fourth aircraft in the fleet, on the other hand, is in “storage actif” short. The difference : “We wake him up less often, about once a week, we watch what’s going on, but it’s not a plane that serves as a back-up” indicates the manager.
There is therefore no question of sending a second aircraft to the desert as relayed by several sites, including Air Journal or Simple flying. Michel Monvoisin is categorical, only the F-OMUA Fakarava is targeted for now. Especially since several thousand planes being nailed to the ground, parking spaces are running out. At the same time, and in the absence of any prospect of recovery, the company did not consider it necessary to put a third device in hybrid storage. This inevitably generates substantial maintenance costs.