Aircraft engine maintenance company Snecma Services Brussels (SSB) recently upgraded its test cell to accommodate the next-generation airliner engines. The work included a wide variety of jobs including adapting foundations and steel structures, installing a monorail hoist and repairing a damaged gate. “We were pleasantly surprised that our preferred crane supplier was perfectly comfortable with all of these tasks,” says Maintenance Director Yves Lagrange.
Upgrading an aircraft engine test cell
The test cell is a crucial installation at SSB, since it is used for testing the maintained engines prior to delivery (see also ‘Time is money in aircraft engine maintenance’). The cell is a structure supporting the aircraft engine while it is operated, replicating real-life conditions. This allows SSB to measure the engine’s actual thrust and compare it with specifications and performance requirements.
A variety of jobs
The recent introduction of a new generation of engines (called LEAP) in a number of Boeing, Airbus and Comac airliners meant the SSB test cell had to be adapted. Yves Lagrange explains: “The new LEAP engines are larger than the CFM engines we have been maintaining and testing for several decades now. For this reason it turned out we needed to extend the main platform. We also had to install an additional monorail hoist to be able to carefully bring the engine accessories into position. In addition, conducting development tests on the new LEAP engines entails a greater workload, including increasingly complex data acquisition compared to the usual maintenance tests we perform on the CFM engines. Instead of checking 100 parameters, we now have to measure ten times that, requiring us to install a whole battery of electronic devices on the platform, some of them fairly hefty. And finally, new safety regulations meant we needed to adapt pathways, stairs, ladders, and banisters.”
I don’t know of many companies with in-house expertise in fields as diverse as cranes, steel construction and general contracting
One company for the whole package
At first, Lagrange and his team thought they needed to contract at least two or three different companies for the job. But during negotiations for the monorail hoist solution, he learned that TCS actually has great expertise in all of the above-mentioned areas. “TCS has been our preferred crane supplier and crane maintenance partner for quite a long time now and we are very satisfied with their work,” elaborates Lagrange. “But we were not aware that in fact they are also steel construction experts and general contractors. I don’t know of many companies with in-house expertise in all of these fields, so we seized the opportunity to hand over the whole package to them. It proved to be a great decision, their construction staff and craftsmen are just as reliable as their crane maintenance personnel.”
Great flexibility and rigour
Lagrange especially remembers the issue he had with the LEAP adaptor, the structure that enables the engine to be lifted and brought into position in the test cell. “The adaptor was made by a third-party,” Lagrange explains, “but once it arrived we found that it didn’t fit into our test cell supporting structure. It was a clear mistake, but TCS fixed that for us. They found a way to rearrange our structure so as to accommodate both the new LEAP adaptor and the old CFM adaptor. A proof of their great flexibility, ingenuity and rigour.”
Time is money in aircraft engine maintenance
Snecma Services Brussels is a subsidiary of Snecma (www.snecma.com), a world leader in the construction of aircraft engines, which in turn is part of the Safran Group (www.safran-group.com). SSB is based at Brussels Airport and is in fact a successor of the engine department of Sabena Technics, the maintenance division of the former Belgian national airline.
SSB employs 240 people and specialises in maintaining CFM engines which are widely used in narrow-bodied airliners such as the Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320. “Engine maintenance is critical for the safety and performance of airliners,” says Yves Lagrange. “In a way you can compare it with car maintenance, with a similar emphasis on reducing maintenance costs by focussing on preventive maintenance in line with actual use. But it’s quite different in many ways too. Engine maintenance in fact often involves revamping the entire engine. That’s not a job you do in one day, we need about two months for that. During that time our customer needs to rent spare engines to keep the aircraft in business. Since that’s a costly affair they need us to finish the job in no more than 55 days, otherwise we have to pay their rent. Time is money.”
- Dismantling of the existing test cell to make room for office space.
- Installing a KBK 1250kg monorail on the ceiling, including radio control.
- Construction of foundations and study, design and production of two 20T anchorage points for the new test cell frame, including tailor-made cables and anchorages.
- Adaptation of platforms and access ways.
- Installation of lifelines for personnel maintaining the technical installations on the roof.
- Adaptation of the suspension structure of the test frame, including a tailor-made reinforcement beam. Adaptation of the adaptor.
- Repair of the previously damaged hydraulic access gate.