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Thread: Flights that divert

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    Flights that divert

    I have a question about airplanes, and I guess that there are a few people here who know a lot about the issue so might know. Also, I wasn't sure if it would be proper to put this into Science and Technology, so asked it here.

    My question is, if a flight is forced to divert somewhere, due to a hardware issue, and the airline doesn't have a base at that airport, what happens regarding the gate (if passengers have to get off) and the maintenance. Does the airplane have to wait until the airline can send a maintenance crew to do repairs, or (particularly if it isn't a big problem) does the airline hire a local maintenance company to do repairs? I would guess that it depends a bit on things like whether spare parts are required or not, but just in general.
    As above, so below

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2015
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    I think the answer is it 'depends'.

    Many airlines will co-operate with each other in such cases and will "lend' spares and technical expertise to each other. If the diversion occurs in a remote spot, say at an airport in the middle of the Pacific that doesn't have the spares etc available for that particular, type of aircraft, then a replacement aircraft would normally flown in carrying the required spares and technical staff. This relief aircraft will usually fly out the stranded passengers and once the first aircraft is repaired it will be flown out empty. If there is an accredited repair facility at the local airport and it is cheaper to use them the Airline would do so. I would assume the use of 'gates' would be handled in the same manner.

    In the last few months I can recall aircraft sitting on the ground at Australian airports for a week or so waiting for spares to arrive. The passengers had been re-routed days before but in those airlines view it was cheaper to do their own repairs rather than hire a local company. It was more fun in the 'old' days as I occasionally saw a 5 engine aircraft fly through Perth Airport. At least some versions of the 747 have a special attachment on their wing which is capable of transporting a spare jet engine. The engine is too big to be loaded into the cargo hold of a normal passenger aircraft. The early 747's had a reliability problems with their new more powerful engines for a few years after their introduction and this was a reasonably common cause for a diversion. In the early 1970's when I was working at Perth Airport I can remember an occasion when there were 3 British Airways 747's stranded in S.E. Asia and Australia at the same time due to engine failures.

    Even in such seemingly complex situations as an American aircraft doing an emergency diversion to Iran, as has happened more than once, there is no great problem in organising the repatriation of the stranded aircraft and crew. Of course, somewhere like your neighbour North Korea could be a lot more problematic.

    Most 'normal' countries have procedures in place to handle the unexpected arrival of an aircraft full of passengers. Of course the treatment the passengers receive from the operating airline is very much often a case of 'you get what you pay for'. Airlines like Ryanair will do their best to avoid any and every expense in repatriating their passengers while most 'full service airlines' will expend lot of effort to get their passengers to their intended destination. This may include placing them on competitors flights, often facilitated between members of the various Airline Alliances. One 'oddity' is that the passengers will not have priority over the passengers of the next scheduled flight. Any 'empty' seats will be filled but any unlucky passengers unable to get a spare seat will have to wait for either a rescue plane or seats on other flights/airlines.

    The treatment of International passengers on these sorts of flights,covered by the term force majeure is laid out on page 3.9 of this annex to the Convention on International Civil Aviation.

    https://www.icao.int/WACAF/Documents.../an09_cons.pdf
    Last edited by ozduck; 2020-Jun-09 at 05:52 AM.

  3. #3
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    I'd guess airlines do have reciprocal agreements for such cases. In severe cases, Boeing has what are called "AOG teams", "AOG" meaning "Aircraft On the Ground". For major problems where a plane is stuck they fly out for repairs. I made one such trip myself.

    The "Spare Engine Carriage" hardpoint still exists, at least up through the 747-400. (The -8 has a new wing and I don't know if it was carried over.) Virgin Orbit is making use of that to launch rockets!
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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