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Plugging in power outlets. Refilling tanks of potable water. Loading cargo containers. Locking the forward cabin door.
These are just some of the things airline passengers rarely see but are critical to getting a modern jetliner ready to fly.
"It definitely takes practice," said Kevin Trau, a Boeing field service representative whose job it is to help airlines operate their fleet. "You have to get some training, both for safety sake as well as understanding how the airplane systems work."
Trau and his colleagues recently hosted a select group of ANA ground service agents to show them the unique characteristics of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. ANA (All Nippon Airways) of Japan is gearing up to be the first airline to fly the all-new airplane.
"My first impression was "what a great airplane". Being able to see it with my own eyes and touch it with my own hands is a really valuable experience." Yasuo Shioiri, ANA Mechanic
"My first impression was "what a great airplane". Being able to see it with my own eyes and touch it with my own hands is a really valuable experience," said ANA ground service agent Yasuo Shioiri.
Over several days at Seattle's Boeing Field, Boeing trainers and ANA technicians practiced every phase of servicing a 787 while it's on the ground, including unlocking and opening the forward cabin door; towing the airplane in and out of a stall; and loading containers in the cargo hold.
They were all procedures the technicians have learned during maintenance training courses but there is nothing like performing them on the real thing.
"Having touched it for the first time, as a ground handler, the displays and the locks are really easy to use," ANA ground service agent Shinji Katsura.
"I was really impressed. They really study hard. They're very knowledgeable. They care [about] every detail." Hiroki Sayama, Boeing Field Service Representative
To adjust to the 787 Dreamliner - which comes with a suite of new, state-of-the-art features like extensive use of lightweight composites and more electric systems - ANA teams have spent years preparing procedures for the 787 to ensure a smooth entry into service for passengers and crew.
"It's a brand new plane, which means it comes with high expectations and, on the other hand, some worries," said Daiki Noma, ANA's operation & airport services manager. "But, having actually been able to touch it during training, all those worries have disappeared. In fact, now my expectations are even higher."
The select group of technicians will become teachers themselves as they will show their colleagues back in Japan what they've learned and they know there's a lot riding on it. Boeing is set to deliver the first 787s to ANA in the third quarter of 2011.
"There's not much time left till we put the 787 into service, which makes today all the more valuable," said Shioiri. "I'll go back and tell all my colleagues what it was like and we will make our first flight a huge success."
In July, Boeing and ANA will work together to help prove the 787 Dreamliner's readiness to enter service on a commercial basis. Using the second flight test aircraft, known as ZA002, they will simulate in-service operations across several airports in Japan.