United B787

The Challenge, Solution and Result

The Challenge

One of the USA’s busiest carriers, United Airlines, purchased new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in 2016-17, and found new challenges during maintenance activities, especially with access around and over the top of the engines. A maintenance facility at LAX services these engines. And despite being detached during the process, the engines stand at over 115 inches from the ground up. Routine maintenance between flights, with the engines attached, also became an issue for mechanic welfare at height.

The contractor was continuing to use standard ladders, particularly a well-known specialised bent ladder, which while being technically compliant and providing access, was dangerously flimsy when scaled to the top. United needed a similarly-shaped ladder with the same hand-manoeuvrability, but with the addition of a non-flexing construction.

The Solution

Besides the design of a non-flexing version of the previous ladder, SafeSmart Aviation found other points of access around the engine which could benefit from easier access. To integrate with the new ladders, a completely modular and adjustable system was designed and manufactured per the 787 engine’s dimensions and specifications.

A combination of high grade aluminum stairs, work platform areas, heavy duty castors and edge protection elements work together to provide close yet safe access to the turbofan, compressors, combustors and turbines, under cowlings and nacelles, right through to the exhaust nozzle. The modular system halves are easily wheeled together to create a unique bridging system of the top of the engine, too.

The Result

Being lightweight aluminum, yet extremely strong, this system makes it easy for MROs to gain access to the engines quickly, safely, and in compliance with strict OSHA regulations. United’s LAX technicians are gaining more efficient productivity through being able to scale the engines with all their tools, too, eliminating constant ascent and descent of stairs during their shifts.

With the Dreamliner fleet being a relative newcomer in the history of commercial aircraft, there is scope to distribute this system to any operator with a similar fleet.

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