The Crucial Role AOG Logistics Services Play in Keeping Airplanes Flying
Last holiday season, a record 42 million passengers passed through U.S. airports. If you were one of them, you know how chaotic holiday travel can be. It’s hard to comprehend the logistics involved in moving that many people, not to mention the 30 million bags they checked-in, in such a short, two-week window. One significant disruption, such as a severe weather event, can cause delays that sometimes ripple across the entire country.
Yet for all the stress that holiday travel can cause, air travel has one huge advantage over all other forms of travel: safety. Air travel continues to be one of the safest forms of travel available; and while this year has seen several tragic accidents, the fact is last year was one of the safest in the history of aviation: zero commercial passenger crashes or deaths were reported in 2017.  Aviation’s outstanding safety record is possible thanks to strict maintenance standards. Maintenance is performed by a nation-wide network of aviation mechanics working around the clock to make sure the aircraft in which you and your loved ones fly meet — and exceed — safety standards. Behind them: a massive aviation spare parts network that is unparalleled in the logistics world.
No spare part, no take-off
Today’s aircraft are infinitely complex. Operating tolerances are stringent, and aircraft parts are highly specialized. What if part should wear out prematurely, or break unexpectedly? If a mechanic doesn’t have the right spare part to make the repair, the airplane is grounded. In aviation this is called an “AOG” or “Aircraft on Ground”.
A grounded aircraft can cause major headaches for both passengers and the airline. As repairs are being made and/or a replacement aircraft is located and put into service, passengers experience delays which may cause them to miss connecting flights; in turn, they may need to be rebooked onto another flight. If the next available flight isn’t until the following day, the airline may be obligated to put passengers up at a hotel, sometimes hundreds of passengers at a time, providing transfers, meals etc. From the passenger’s perspective, you can imagine (or perhaps know from personal experience) how unpleasant it is to be stranded in the “middle-of-nowhere”, even as family awaits. From the airline’s perspective, you get an idea just how difficult — and costly — resolving a single unplanned AOG can be.
Speed is key
So in the event of an AOG, speed is critical. An aircraft mechanic reports a problem to the airline. In turn, the airline goes into emergency mode. Some frequently needed parts such as tires and brakes are sometimes available at the airport, but this is the exception. There are simply too many aircraft models, too many parts, and too many airports for every airport to stock every part for every aircraft. If an aircraft is grounded, spare parts will need to be brought to the plane, not the other way around. A spare part might be located anywhere in the country, or in the world. Regardless of their location, shape, or size, spare parts need to travel fast.
This is where logistics comes into play. “In the U.S. we’ve built up an extensive network to serve our AOG customers. Our AOG Desk in the U.S. serves a growing network of 53 major U.S. airports,” says Tanguy Largeau, Head of Aerospace for the Americas at DB Schenker, “and because our network is global, we’re able to source parts anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice.” On-board couriers are frequently used to hand-deliver parts to the airline mechanic due to the part’s value and time sensitivity. Most deliveries in the U.S. are made the same day: an impressive feat considering that a part can be anything from a single bolt to an entire jet engine, and anything in between!
Worldwide, DB Schenker maintains 40 AOG desks handling some 85,000 AOG shipments in 2018 — up 25% over the last two years. Each operates 24 hours per day, 365 days per year. The ability to call any time, 24 hours a day, and speak with an on-duty AOG professional, who can both locate the part and get you a time/cost quote is critical. Airlines are also able to see where their parts are in real time with DB Schenker’s online tracking system called ATOL (AOG Tool OnLine), so they know exactly when to expect their precious cargo.
Thanks an army of dedicated AOG professionals around the globe — aircraft parts can now be delivered wherever they’re needed, as quickly as possible. So if you should be one of the tens of millions traveling this holiday season, and you experience an unexpected delay … take a deep breath, relax, and know that you will get there. Also know that, behind the scenes, every measure is being taken to get you to your destination … as quickly, and as safely as possible!
For more information about DB Schenker’s Aerospace service, click here.