Behind the Scenes
Behind the Scenes
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Behind the Scenes
By: Pat Brown 2 minute read

The aircraft maintenance facilities that Burns & McDonnell designs and constructs are leaner, more efficient, more environmentally friendly and more technologically advanced.

If an airline passenger were to make a list of all the things that make an airport experience great, the maintenance hangar wouldn’t even appear as a footnote. But these critical facilities play a key role in every passenger’s travel.

Today’s air travel environment is leaner. Capacity and schedule reductions magnify every travel problem. There are fewer options for rerouting, so fleet reliability is paramount.

While passengers never see maintenance operations in action, these critical functions ensure the reliable dispatch of the aircraft that take them to their destinations. The leaner operating models of today’s airline include condensed aircraft maintenance services and facilities that reliably support the flight operation. These support departments also must minimize facility development and operating costs.

The aircraft maintenance facilities that Burns & McDonnell designs and constructs are also leaner, more efficient, more environmentally friendly and more technologically advanced. New aviation facility design is focused on customizing space for specific support functions, replacing the cavernous, open hangars of the past.

While line maintenance hangars remain large, open buildings that serve the off-schedule maintenance needs of the airline, heavy maintenance and overhaul operations demand facilities designed for precise operations. Hangar designs for heavy maintenance include buildings that are more compact, focused on support of the work docks and equipment to provide efficient overhaul operations. New equipment technologies contribute to shorter turn times for aircraft in maintenance.

Beyond Operations

In addition to accommodating the required work functions, the facility must operate efficiently, conserve energy and respect the environment. New fire protection technologies save facility development costs. High expansion foam fire suppression systems reduce water required to suppress hangar fires. That reduced water demand reduces the piping and equipment to supply that water. Chemicals used in suppression systems are also more environmentally friendly and, as a result, do not require expensive retention basins and controls.

New developments in energy efficiency — such as cleaning and recirculating exhaust air from aircraft painting operations — dramatically reduce energy consumption in paint hangars. Similar advances have been made in water systems for industrial settings. For example, in the Boeing Shanghai Airlines hangar at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, aircraft wash water is recycled, and environmentally safe detergents have less impact on the waste stream.

Hangars are notoriously leaky when it comes to sealing air in or out. Because giant hangar doors must open an entire wall for aircraft entry and exit, effective sealing of the door perimeter is difficult. New hangar door designs provide effective seals that conserve conditioned air and block infiltration of dust, rain and snow.

The Work Environment

The scale of a hangar provides vast wall and roof areas ideal for bringing daylight into the workplace. With appropriate controls for heat gain and loss, daylighting can dramatically reduce the need for artificial lighting. Advanced designs for insulated, translucent wall and roof panels bring natural light into the space, while controlling heat gain in the summer and heat loss in the winter. In Shanghai, as on most sites, building orientation helps control heat factors. Atriums in office spaces also increase the available natural light.

While the maintenance hangar is invisible to the public, it plays an essential role in every traveler’s experience. A hangar that works efficiently and allows crews to work effectively helps place the right aircraft at the gate, on time, day after day.

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