By Mikhail Baraboshin, Boeing Russia
As their flight prepared to take off from a Middle East airport, the cabin crew of a Boeing-built airplane felt an impact while it taxied on the runway. To be on the safe side, the airplane returned to the gate for a potential incident investigation. However, an external visual inspection did not show any signs of damage to the fuselage, wing or landing gear.
Still, the crew wanted to ensure the sight inspection hadn’t missed anything. In stepped the Boeing Design Center (BDC), with teams in Moscow, Russia, and Kyiv, Ukraine, whose service engineers provided an inspection list. They focused on two areas: the hydraulic door-opening mechanisms and the cargo compartment bulkhead wall.
In minutes, the BDC engineers pointed the ground crew to shifted cargo that had dented the wall in the front cargo hold.
BDC engineers then reviewed the dent details and determined the panel could safely and capably carry the designated loads. The flight took off on time.
When operators believe an airplane may be compromised, it is critical that the plane be evaluated and fixed quickly — to minimize flight disruptions for airlines and the flying public.
The BDC often turns canceled flights into safe, timely departures.
Boeing maintains this 24/7 customer support operation to assist anytime, anywhere, especially when potential damage is outside the scope of approved repair limits for the airline. Customer requests submitted from anywhere in the world during European working hours are assigned to a service engineer in Moscow or Kyiv; those during North American business hours are routed to the Boeing customer support team in Seal Beach, California.
The BDC and its 500-member customer support team play a critical role supporting the Boeing global fleet and making sure all repair procedures are executed properly. Implementation of a round-the-clock operation model for engineering support allows airlines to minimize the time any airplane in their fleet is out of service.
When operators submit a service request to Boeing, service engineers are on the front line, identifying the issue and integrating necessary experts from a multiskilled team to expedite the airplane’s safe return to service. Customer support unites the service engineer with stress analysts, design engineers, Federation Aviation Administration engineering unit members and subject matter experts in a wide variety of areas.
The team’s first step is to determine a complete damage definition, including detailed photos and measurements. However, visual indication is only good for preliminary evaluation because underlying issues may be undetectable to the naked eye, which is why the results of a nondestructive evaluation (NDE) are vital for Boeing customer support to evaluate and, in turn, substantiate a repair plan to the airline. Receiving an NDE recommendation from Boeing as soon as possible means a faster solution.
This efficiency was paramount for a Boeing airline customer in Madrid recently, when an airline reported damage to the cargo door surround. Passengers were already at the gate, and cabin crew regulations only allowed a one-hour delay before the flight would have to be postponed an entire day.
In this case, the BDC’s Moscow/Kyiv team was able to determine that there was no damage beyond what was visible to the eye: high-impact damage to the fuselage skin. The BDC coordinated with the customer while the stress team performed the analysis required to show that the airplane met certification requirements without instrumented NDE. The BDC also supplied the customer with proper approval documentation that allowed the airline to get regulators’ approval to take off, and the flight was only delayed 30 minutes.
Since its establishment in Moscow in 1998, the BDC has provided many instances of safe and speedy diagnoses for Boeing customer airlines. Today, the BDC is a full-scale operation that creates a competitive advantage for Boeing — and allows teammates around the world peace of mind, knowing our customers are getting expert support day and night.
About the author: Mikhail Baraboshin is the engineering team lead for 787 structures service engineering in the Moscow Boeing Design Center.
Airplane modification, home edition
Boeing recently completed its first entirely virtual commercial modification. Due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Boeing was unable to provide standard in-person support for a 777 interior issue on an airline customer’s airplane at a maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility in China.
By leveraging the company’s global footprint and engineering expertise as the original equipment manufacturer, Boeing set up a 24/7 network to support both the MRO facility completing the work and the airline. Boeing engineers in the United States, Ukraine and Russia used live video conferencing, detailed photographs and computer-aided drawings to work with the airline and the facility to troubleshoot any issues and keep the complex modification on schedule.