Like many other carriers, Brussels Airlines has had to drastically reduce its operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the airline is one of a handful that has suspended all flights. With the exception of a few aircraft being on standby to bring stranded Belgians home, the carrier’s entire fleet has been parked and stored at Brussels Airport. The photos put out by the airline are eery and fascinating at the same time.
“If you think this is a simple task, just like parking a car, you should guess again. Storing an Airbus A330 takes about 400 man hours, as our Maintenance & Engineering teams meticulously follow Airbus manufacturer instructions to make sure that our birds are stored safely.” -Brussels Airlines
No small task
The airline explains on its website the number of actions and processes that need to take place in order to properly park and store an aircraft. It also shows this in video-form (embedded above) with scenes of workers prepping the airline’s fleet. Edited together without music, the scenes are surreal and haunting.
This includes the following steps:
- All windows are taped to prevent sunlight from decoloring the interior
- Landing gears and engines are thoroughly packed to prevent corrosion and birds nesting
- All seats are covered to keep them clean
According to Henry Harteveldt, an airline analyst with Atmosphere Research Group, if an airline plans to store its planes for several months, the jets will need to be put into an “airplane coma.” This involves the further steps of draining or replacing all liquids and sealing the doors. We don’t know how long this ordeal will last, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that for most airlines.
Routine maintenance for parked aircraft
The airline continues by explaining the routine maintenance required for stored aircraft. In fact, the teams of Brussels Airlines‘ Maintenance & Engineering department are kept quite busy in order to keep the fleet “in tip-top shape”.
Wheels have to be turned just slightly on a daily basis to prevent warping under the weight of the aircraft. Every week, inspections and tests need to be performed. All of this is carried out by the 30 members of the Maintenance & Engineering team, working full-time to perform these tasks. “They make sure that our fleet is ready to welcome our guests on board once we’re able to take off again,” the airline says.
Brussels Airlines announced Mid-March that it would suspend its operations for a month, announcing that it would not operate flights between the 21st of March and the 19th of April. Effectively surrounded geographically by two much larger carriers (Air France and KLM) and connected by Western Europe’s extensive rail network, the airline has very little need to continue non-essential operations.
We are just over a week away from the end of its suspension date. However, it is uncertain if this suspension period will be extended, or to what extent flights will resume initially.