VIDEO: How Ryanair Maintained Its Grounded Fleet During COVID

Ryanair typically operates thousands of flights a day. From before dawn until after dusk, their fleet of around 460 737s and 20 A320s is busy whizzing around Europe. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the airline’s fleet was effectively grounded. This left Ryanair with the task of keeping its fleet airworthy.

Ryanair, COVID-19, Maintenance
Ryanair has had to adapt its maintenance procedures to cope with a grounded fleet. Photo: Ryanair

Unlike cars, aircraft can’t just be parked out of the way until they are needed again. They have lots of delicate and intricate parts and systems that need to be used regularly or placed into deep storage. Ryanair decided to keep its fleet operationally ready for when it was needed.

Two types of checks

Ryanair’s aircraft typically fly most days. However, with only 20 routes in operation at the height of the pandemic, most aircraft spent an extended period on the ground. Ryanair conducted two types of regular checks on its fleet while grounded. The airline’s director of maintenance explains it in the following video:

The first check is called a Ramp-1 check. This is like the pre-flight walkaround that a pilot does before each flight. This inspection checks for visual damage to the aircraft, and anything obviously out of the ordinary, such as a barn owl peering out of the engine. Virgin Australia previously had this issue, while Vueling recently found a birds nest inside an A320 wing.

Ghost flights

Every two weeks, the carrier carried out more detailed checks on every aircraft. This involved flying every aircraft to ensure that all of the systems still worked as intended. This had the added benefit of ensuring that pilots remained current while not flying their full schedule. If you’re interested in the process when aircraft aren’t regularly flown, Etihad has the answer.

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To illustrate the importance of the checks, let’s look at the analogy of a parked car. If you leave a vehicle parked for an extended period, the brakes may seize, and the battery may die. Now, think across to the aircraft that is many times more complex. If they were simply left at the side of an airport with no love, many problems are possible.

Ryanair, COVID-19, Maintenance
The airline has also altered its overnight cleaning processes to be more COVID friendly. Photo: Ryanair

Regarding the checks, Karsten Muehlenfeld, Ryanair’s Director of Engineering said,

“At Ryanair, the COVID-19 lockdown presented the engineering team with many challenges. We thought a lot about how to maintain our aircraft to the highest safety standards – this included visual inspections every 2 days as well as test flights every fortnight to ensure all their systems were operating correctly.

Of course, alongside many other airlines, Ryanair is adapting to the new COVID normal. This means that every night, the airline is now deep cleaning high touch surfaces such as window blinds, seatbelts, and tray tables.

Additionally, the airline is spraying the aircraft with fluids that kill bacteria and viruses, and won’t allow COVID 19 to settle on surfaces for the next 24 hours.

What do you make of Ryanair’s COVID maintenance regime? Let us know what you think and why in the comments!