Aircraft on Ground: How a technical fault can cost millions

Few problems are costlier than a plane that breaks down before take-off.

When this happens, Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, is responsible for getting replacement parts to customers as soon as possible. When an aircraft is grounded – know as an AOG or Aircraft On Ground –  because of a technical malfunction, it can cost an airline up to US$150,000 an hour. Ensuring an aircraft can fly is no laughing matter.

There are currently around 14,000 Boeing aircraft in operation today. Of these, the B787 Dreamliner is the latest wide-body aircraft, offering exceptional fuel efficiency and a passenger experience that reduces fatigue thanks to higher cabin humidity and less noise. Launched in March 2017, the B787-10 is the newest iteration of the Dreamliner, capable of carrying 310 passengers.

Justin Hale is the company’s 787 product marketing leader. “[The Dreamliner] has roughly two million parts, and each of those parts has to show up at exactly the right place and time in order to be integrated into the build of an airplane,” he says.

“If you think of all of the thousands of suppliers that might be building just the smallest piece of an airplane, that will then be integrated into a sub assembly, and then a final assembly to be made into a complete airplane… it’s a huge operation. We have pieces of the electrical system that come from France, wing tips that come from Korea – elements of the systems and structure that come from all over the world.”

And when there’s a technical issue, it’s not only passengers that are held up, it’s cargo too. “We’re flying cargo – the mail that you receive. Maybe you’ve ordered something online or, products that you need to keep your business running. If those things are coming in on an airplane that’s broken down or failed to do its job, that’s a critical interruption to your life and business.”

Without air cargo, these expedited shipments would never take place. Land or sea doesn’t cut it – not for industries that need on-demand deliveries, or airlines that lose millions for every grounded aircraft.

“Everything in aviation runs on a schedule,” says Hale. When an airline customer requires parts, the ability to deliver that part on time to any place in the world is essential to our business and to our customers.”

IAG Cargo works with Boeing to ensure aerospace parts reach their destinations as quickly as possible using the non-offloadable product Critical, for shipments that must fly.