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Saturday, July 1, 2006

GAMCO Wins Part 21J DOA

Gulf Aircraft Maintenance Company (GAMCO) has won Part 21J Design Organization Approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The company adds this to similar approvals from the UAE, Oman and Qatar. Susan Abdul Aziz, head of marketing and communications, tells Aviation Maintenance that it took two years to win the approval including practicing processes, writing procedures, and two assessments by the UK Civil Aviation Authority.

Ms. Aziz tells AM "More than 25 European operators use GAMCO. EASA/European registered aircraft come to GAMCO [sometimes] requiring deviation, repair or modification. GAMCO now does this under its EASA approval 21J.163. The aircraft...now have approved repairs.

"Many operators lease aircraft from European registered leasing companies. These companies need any work done on the aircraft to be approved to EASA standards so that they can be smoothly transferred to another European airline, operating under EASA rules. Continued airworthiness can be assured."

More than 70 airlines use GAMCO's facilities in Abu Dhabi which look after airframes, engines and components. Ms. Aziz tells AM "We are proud of this achievement which adds credibility to the engineering department of GAMCO and expands services to the customer."

An example of GAMCO's capabilities is checking Airbus elevators for water ingress. As composite materials have become more common on airliners, techniques for ensuring their integrity have become more widespread. GAMCO checks Airbus elevators by thermal imaging.

A large proportion of the elevator structure is carbon fiber honeycomb and it can absorb water through capillary action in the fiber matrix. Large temperature changes during the aircraft's normal operation can expand the water/ice and cause skin disbonds.

GAMCO checks elevators by thermal imaging as their temperature changes. They can either be heated or cooled and as the temperature returns to ambient, areas with water ingress change temperature less quickly than other areas.

GAMCO has a 40-foot long refrigerator which it uses to cool components well below freezing. On removal, technicians have just a few minutes to make their thermal observations.

The company used very low temperatures for another purpose recently. A main landing gear axle on an Air Sahara Boeing 767 needed changing because of overheat damage caused by a brake seizure. A hydraulic extraction tool was used to remove the axle and a new one was fitted by cooling it in liquid nitrogen at minus 198degC.

Contraction allowed the new axle to be fitted easily, although great care has to be taken with such cold objects as any contact with human flesh causes severe burning and frostbite. --

By Ian Parker



Blaze Destroys Sabena Technics Maintenance Hangar

On May 5, still at night, a fire destroyed a Sabena Technics maintenance hangar at Brussels international airport and the four aircraft it was housing. Six people were injured--four firemen and two Sabena employees. One of these two was severely wounded and was still in a hospital as of May 17, although making good progress. The burnt-out aircraft were a Belgian C-130 military transport and three Airbus A320s, respectively belonging to Hellas Jet's, Armavia's and Armenian Airlines' fleets.

According to the company, the fire expanded rapidly because of the metal structure of hangar no. 40. Firemen put it out in about two hours. The investigation has not determined the cause of the blaze yet.

Some 150 employees used to use hangar no. 40 for heavy maintenance work on transport aircraft. Sabena Technics and parent company TAT Industries have reorganized their operations to dispatch heavy maintenance into other facilities, including French ones in N�mes and Dinard. All 150 employees quickly found another place to work, either in another heavy maintenance hangar or in light maintenance activities. Those working on the C-130 were provided with a Belgian Ministry of Defense hangar. None went on furlough.

Brussels International Airport Company, the owner of the hangar, will probably rebuild a hangar. "It sounds logical to rebuild something; however, no decision has been taken yet and all options will be considered," a spokesman told Aviation Maintenance. Sabena Technics employs 1,200 persons in Brussels. It was taken over in 2005 by French-based TAT Industries. The one-year-old group will unveil its new name on June 21. -- By Thierry Dubois

Sogerma to Close Main Facility

EADS' maintenance subsidiary, Sogerma Services, was still in a rather confusing predicament as of May 17. On May 12, EADS' board of directors strongly urged Sogerma's executives to restore profitability swiftly by focusing on those activities which have some growth potential. One spectacular decision was to close the firm's main facility, in Bordeaux M�rignac. Housing both the headquarters and civil maintenance operations, it employs 1,050 persons, out of a total of 3,850 in Sogerma. EADS pledged new jobs inside the group for every employee in M�rignac.

Since, the French government made it clear that it was opposing EADS' decision. Many Sogerma employees went on strike. A 200-person demonstration invaded the runways of neighboring Bordeaux airport, causing it to close for two hours. Unions and local politicians reproach the French government with having in 2002 selected a foreign company for the maintenance of the country's C-130 military transports. The pressure exerted on EADS might now have the group change his mind.

Last year, Sogerma's difficulties worsened. Losses of EUR237 million (nearly $300 million) represented over one third of the revenues. Debts now stand at EUR339 million ($425 million), EADS insists. To explain Sogerma's difficulties, the group also cited the competition from low-labor cost countries in maintenance. Last, but not least, the diversification in VIP cabin completions has not proved successful and its future is therefore uncertain.

The French State, together with the Lagard�re group, has five of the eleven seats in the European giant's board of directors. Therefore, it has indirectly named at least two of those directors. -- By Thierry Dubois

The Future of Aviation Maintenance Summit Held At ERAU

The 2006 Future of Aviation Maintenance Summit was held this past May at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Daytona Beach campus. This year's summit attracted nearly 90 representatives from industry, education, and the FAA. The focus was on how schools and industry can work together to meet the growing need for qualified technicians.

One key point discussed was the disconnect between what current FAA training standards require students to learn and what they actually need in the field. With rapid advancements in structural and electrical systems the consensus was that current training has to evolve. The solution that garnered the most support from the attendees is something called "Outcome or Competency Based Training." Graduation would be based on the technician's ability to demonstrate understanding and competency in a given area rather than on accumulated training hours. Education committee members felt this would be a major step in eliminating one of the biggest hurdles facing aviation programs-the 18- to 24-months it takes a student to become employable. Along with the challenge of getting students on the job faster is the continuing problem of new graduates not being able to do the work they are hired to do. "Schools are graduating them, but they just can't do the job," one attendee said. Summit attendees agreed to proactively work with the industry to find out what they really need. -- By Dale Smith

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