A chance to poke around an international airport would tickle the fancy of any engineer, so it was no surprise that the Auckland Airport MESNZ Network Evening was well over-subscribed when the society spent an evening there in March.
While it is usual for aircraft engineering to score the big glory, spending an evening with the Auckland International Airport (AIAL) maintenance department team provided a deeper insight into the complexities of maintaining and constantly improving a facility that is a player on the world stage.
With time and red tape to consider, the party of 60 plus focused on the international apron, where the rubber meets the road. With CAA clearance, the party was bussed in from the Maintenance Depot to the International Apron to view a world seldom seen by the general public. Receiving, processing, servicing and turning around a gigantic A380 requires a symphony of separate actions and interactions as well as impeccable plant reliability. Even something as simple as an airbridge can have catastrophic effect if it malfunctions or fails to function.
The party was fortunate to watch two Airbus A380s prepare and depart, forever dispelling the picture of calm anticipation that most passengers experience once buckled in their seats. On the tarmac, a huge amount of effort goes into getting passengers, baggage and refreshments on board, communications established, pre-flight checks, etc. It was a surprise to many to see that the Airbus front landing gear is actually lifted off the ground to push back, apparently to reduce scrub loads on the wheels.
From here the group was treated to a bus trip around the main runway where they could observe the A380 departure up close and personal and get a real appreciation of the 3.8km long runway as well as the Rescue Service state of the art fire tenders.
Kevin Ingle and his team are responsible for a 1500ha mini city that demands uninterrupted major infrastructures 24/7 including buildings, services, HVAC, wildlife, terminals and runways. Failure is unthinkable and the demands are high. Yet the team are the most well balanced affable people you could meet and somehow you get the feeling they love coming to work.
The MESNZ Network Evenings are hosted to showcase local operations and provide networking opportunities for engineers across all regions of New Zealand. The evenings offer the opportunity to take a look at the host operation and discuss common issues and solutions in a relaxed after work environment. Open to interested members of the public, the nights are well patronised as proven at Auckland International Airport. As well as learning firsthand about the capabilities and achievements of the AIAL team, the audience enjoyed light refreshments and benefited from the opportunity to network with their peers, taking new connections and solutions back to their workplaces.
The Maintenance Engineering Society is active across New Zealand, providing opportunities for maintenance engineers and manufacturing operations to network and share innovations and experiences; both at a national level at their annual national conference or at these regional events. The 2016 National Maintenance Engineering Conference will be held at the Claudelands Event Centre, Hamilton in November.