As a world traveler and countless number of flights under my belt, I’m extremely familiar with flying from the perspective as a passenger. However, as for the operations side of airlines, it’s quite rare for travelers to see what goes on beyond the flight itself.
That all changed on one of my recent flights.
The opportunity presented itself when I met a pilot on a previous trip who invited me to show me around the Lufthansa maintenance facilities in Frankfurt. It was quite a treat as a traveler to catch a glimpse of the behind the scene operations.
The day started in the briefing area where pilots and flight attendants meet for their pre-flight briefing. Though I didn’t actually sit in one.
Instead, my pilot friend went into an explanation of a pilot’s pre-flight preparations such as flight loading, weather patterns, and flight paths all to ensure the flight goes smoothly as possible. All aircrafts follow a flight path rather than flying by the way the crow flies, which what someone would typically believe. It really emphasized the information available that makes air travel truly an amazing feat in itself.
I have no comparison how other airlines operate, but I got the impression that Lufthansa gives pilots a great amount of control in making pivotal decisions to ensure the flight operates safely and smoothly rather than leaving it up to the front office.
Next up was actually seeing an aircraft up close.
Before entering the maintenance hanger, we had to go through a security checkpoint very similar to a checkpoint if someone were flying, but with much shorter lines.
After clearing security, it was a long walk down to the foreman’s office to obtain permission as to which aircraft we could enter. The two aircrafts available to us were an Airbus A340-300 a Boeing 737-300.
We started viewing the outside of the A340 and the visual pre-checks a pilot would perform starting from the rear and working forward.
I was a bit get lagged, but excited about the novelty of seeing the aircraft up close. I also had the chance to sit in the co-pilots chair, which isn’t something every traveler gets a chance to do.
After sitting in the co-pilots chair, a brief explanation of the instruments followed.
One of the interesting things I learned is that the side windows in the cockpit slides open to make for an escape route via a rope.
Next up was the Boeing 737-300. I flew these a ton of times domestically in the US as American Airlines flies a fleet of these and also few them a few times with Lufthansa flying intra-Europe.
After which, we headed over towards the Boeing 747-400 maintenance facility. Again, we had to check with the office there to see which aircrafts we could enter. The registration numbers distinguishes an aircraft from one to the other. So for those that are wondering, that’s how you tell one aircraft apart from another despite having the same livery.
In this facility, there were several 747 aircrafts not only from Lufthansa, but also from Virgin Atlantic. I speculate that Lufthansa was performing a maintenance contract for Virgin Atlantic.
We entered the flight deck and the seats were completely taped off with warning signs not to move the stick as it could disrupt the hydraulic piping.
After we walked throughout the 747 and around it, we then went to the Lufthansa training facilities were flight attendants and pilots perform training exercises.
I was privileged to enter one of the Boeing 737 flight simulators. I don’t have pictures, as photos were not allowed inside the areas where the simulators were located. To describe it, it’s a long high bay building with the different flight simulators spaced equal distance apart. Access to each flight simulator is made possible by a draw bridge, which retracts when training is taking place (this allows unrestricted movement of the flight simulator).