When it comes to at the airline business, we think of pilots, shiny aircraft proudly bearing the company livery but there is so much that goes on behind the scenes to keep the aircraft not only in the air but on time too.
One of the seldom heard of departments working tirelessly around the clock to make sure that aircraft depart on schedule is the Maintenance Control Centre (MCC). The MCC runs 24 hours a day 7 days a week operation to ensure safe serviceable aircraft remains on schedule.
Aviation is the most safety conscious industry in the world and as a result air travel remains the safest means transport. The reason that it is so safe is due in part to the meticulous maintenance regime and the fact that aircraft don't take off even with the most minor defect. The balance between ultimate safety and maintaining reliable schedules is where MCC come in. Sure they do a lot more than that but the instant decision-making and fault diagnostics is what keeps the team on their toes.
Should a warning appear in the cockpit while an aircraft is in the air, the crews go through a checklist and consult the operations manual. Once they have completed their check and assuming that the problem hasn't been solved, they contact MCC. The MCC technician uses his wealth of experience to diagnose the fault. On the ground of course, there is much more information available in the form of comprehensive maintenance manuals and IT systems.
Modern Aircraft have electronic manuals, which not only help with fault diagnosis but also offer solutions to rectify a problem. Together with the technicians high level of training and expertise a solution can be found quickly. A pilot may in the interests of safety turn back should a fault occur was it not for MCC being able to offer advice and solutions.
Very often the fault can be rectified and the flight can carry on as normal. There are circumstances where the fault cannot actually be rectified but the technician; having in depth knowledge of the aircraft systems can access whether the fault compromises safety. The technician will never ever compromise safety but often he knows that a minor fault will not affect the operation of the aircraft and advise the flight deck crew to continue to the destination.
Often a fault has nothing to do with the operation of the aircraft but more to do with passenger comfort. A blocked toilet or an inoperative galley item for example, will inconvenience passengers. The crew always aims to offer the best service and will contact MCC for advice. Should the fault not be rectified the MCC technician will contact technicians at the aircrafts destination to ensure that the fault is repaired before the return flight leaves.
Should a problem be detected on the ground the flight deck crew get in touch with MCC and try to find a solution so that the flight is not delayed. The MCC technician again will never compromise safety and can only offer pilots advice. The Captain will ultimately make the decision as to whether the flight can depart anyway, or not.
So, what kind of person works at MCC you might ask? Well, these are very special individuals. They have to be the most highly qualified technicians that have worked their way through the ranks and are familiar with all aircraft types. Not only that, they have to be the type of people that remain calm in a crisis and yet will not be pushed around by other people. They need to be logical and clear thinking and on top of that they must be prepared to work shifts.
The Maintenance Control Centre works closely with the Operation Control Centre, planning, hangar staff and flight deck crew among others. Not only do they respond to events as they happen on a daily basis, the also co-ordinate longer term maintenance. Should a problem occur that would result in an aircraft being withdrawn from service, MCC is involved in the process of finding a replacement quickly enough for minimum interruption to the flight schedules.
Like the old advert used to say, one day without really knowing us, you really need us. That's the way it is for the Maintenance Control Centre.