From Swiss Magazine:
Back from the Desert: The Ferry Flight of HB-JHH
In the early-morning hours, as the sun rises over the Jordanian desert, a long-haul aircraft awakens from its three-year sleep. A team of SWISS technical personnel and crew members have been working to make HB-JHH, the last of the company’s Airbus A330s which have been stored in Amman since the COVID-19 pandemic, airworthy once again. We joined ‘Juliett Hotel Hotel’ for her ferry flight back to Zurich.
Amman Airport, Jordan, Friday at 08:45. The sun has already risen over the desert, driving off the freshness of the oriental morning. The airport’s maintenance base is already a hive of activity. “Another new day,” says Markus Gubser, our SWISS Ground Time Manager who is stationed here. Markus is in charge of servicing the SWISS aircraft which were flown to Amman for storage following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s also responsible for preparing them for their return to SWISS service. Those aircraft include HB-JHH, the last of our Airbus A330s so stored, which is about to return to Switzerland after its three-year sojourn. We’ve come here to help bring it home. And one thing is clear to us already: it’s a complex affair.
The last Airbus A330 parked in Jordan for the past three years carries the registration HB-JHH.
There’s a lot of Swiss German to be heard at the Amman crew hotel. Just as there’s a lot of bundled SWISS expertise behind the repatriation ahead. Alongside Markus Gubser, Jonas Dangel and Lukas Muther of SWISS Technics have also been out here for the last few months. And the enlarged on-site team have now further been joined by the SWISS crew who flew in a few days ago to perform the quality checks required before HB-JHH’s ferry flight can be performed. Commander Markus Müller, First Officer Pascal Ganz, Flight Ops Engineer Mike Gachnang and Maîtres de Cabine Franziska Mösch and Karin Grütter are a well-honed team, with several such operations already behind them.
Amman Airport, at the Jordan Aircraft Maintenance stand – Joramco for short.
Welcome to Amman!
The SWISS Technics team on site: Lukas Muther, Jonas Dangel, Patrick Meier, Markus Gubser and Daniel Beyerlein (f. l. t. r.).
The SWISS crew arrives in Amman in the last days before the ferry flight to bring the plane home: Markus Müller (CMD), Karin Grütter (M/C), Pascal Ganz (F/O), Franziska Mösch (M/C) and Michael “Mike” Gachnang (Flight OPS Engineer).
Ground check, check flight, ferry flight: three steps in three days?
Such experience is invaluable: reactivating an aircraft is a multi-step procedure that requires ground checks, a maintenance check flight or MCF and then the ferry flight itself. Three steps in three days, we’d assumed. In fact, the process took more than a week. “That’s not unusual,” says Flight Ops Engineer Mike. “In our crew we assume a few extra days. Checking, testing and fixing anything that’s not working correctly, which often means waiting for a replacement part: it takes as long as it takes.”
Mike is one of four OPS engineers who sees our SWISS aircraft back home after major maintenance abroad. “Twenty-seven Airbus A320s, 38 Airbus A330s and A340s and 2 Boeing 777s so far,” he says with pride. “Get to a hundred and they’ll let you retire,” jokes Commander Markus. For Markus, HB-JHH holds a particular significance. “It’s not just our last long-hauler that we’re bringing back home,” he explains. “I had the privilege of collecting this aircraft brand-new from Airbus in Toulouse back in 2010.”
Flight OPS Engineer Mike Gachnang goes through the checklist that has to be done on the ground and in the aircraft before a ferry flight.
Markus Gubser, Mike Gachnang (centre) and Pascal Ganz are a well-rehearsed team. This is not the first plane they have brought to Zurich together.
“I already had the privilege of collecting this aircraft brand-new from Airbus in Toulouse.”
Commander Airbus A330/340
Spares from Los Angeles and 236 seats to test
Before HB-JHH can head back to Zurich, though, there’s a checklist of more than 70 pages to work through on the ground in the cockpit and cabine. Engines, power supply, hydraulics and countless further systems all need to be rigorously checked to ensure they’re in full working order. “Three years of storage leave their mark,” Mike observes. In the cabin, meanwhile, Maîtres de Cabine Karin and Franziska are checking the aircraft’s 236 seats, lavatories, doors, equipment and galleys and passing on details of any defects or shortcomings they discover to the local maintenance team.
The days are long. On the Friday, the team spend 12 hours at the aircraft’s stand, yet the ground check remains incomplete. “The air conditioning isn’t working, and there are still some spare parts we need to order,” Markus explains, “some of them from as far away as Los Angeles.” The process continues, and the maintenance check flight is postponed to the following week.
The mood within the team is still refreshingly upbeat, though. The SWISS maintenance crew can laugh and joke with local maintenance provider Joramco, too. Friendships have developed over the many months of their Jordan posting. SWISS Ground Time Manager Markus Gubser has been here overseeing the storage and the return of our SWISS aircraft since 2020. But with the repatriation of our last three Airbus A320s between now and November, the ‘Return to Ops’ project will be concluded, and Markus and his team will be able to devote themselves to more ‘normal’ activities again. Those include the SWISS fleet’s major maintenance such as Heavy Maintenance Visits (HMVs) that our Airbus aircraft undergoe every six years. HB-JHH also underwent such an eight-week overhaul after its long desert downtime.
Franziska Mösch, Karin Grütter and Lukas Muther at the cabin check. Every detail is checked, because the quality requirements are high.
The empty Economy Class
Technical Support Assistant Lukas Muther during the exterior check
… together with Commander Markus Müller.
During the turbine test
The SWISS Technics team maintains good contact with local maintenance. Here: Lukas Muther (right) with a team member from Joramco.
Despite the long day, the mood is unclouded.
Markus Gubser has been in Amman as SWISS Ground Time Manager since 2020 and has already been involved in the decommissioning of SWISS aircraft here in Amman.
Two SWISS Airbus A320s on the left and right of the picture, waiting for their return to Zurich. The fleet will be complete again by November.
The maintenance check flight: taking it to the limit
The following Tuesday, with the spares ordered all delivered and installed, the crew take HB-JHH for its four-hour maintenance check flight in the airspace over Nicosia in Cyprus. Like the ground check before it, the flight is conducted in strict compliance with regulations. The long MCF checklist is used to check the systems and their redundancy, the release of the oxygen masks, a 30-degree climb, a 15-degree descent, 67-degree left and right turns and a go-around, too. Edge-of-the envelope flying. “Check flights like this aren’t everyone’s thing,” says Mike, “and you need extra training to conduct them. I always advise during the special manoeuvres to sit in the middle of the aircraft – that’s the stablest point, and feels the least like a roller coaster.” After a debriefing with Markus Gubser and the technicians on the ground, the day is over. The crew is once again satisfied with the good teamwork that is indispensable for such aircraft inspections.
“You need extra training to conduct check flights like this.”
Team Leader Flight OPS Engineers
Before the checkflight, a rejected take-off is carried out to test the function of the brakes. Before continuing, the brakes have to cool down.
The checkflight will take place in the Nicosia area, Cyprus.
Jonas Dangel and Markus Gubser from the Technics Team follow the checkflight from the ground.
The check flight is over after four hours.
Debriefing in the First Class cabin with SWISS Technics and the SWISS crew
A long day is coming to an end.
The ferry flight: new adventures ahead
On Thursday the day finally dawns. As the sun slowly bathes the city of Amman in a golden light, HB-JHH bids farewell to the Orient and sets course for Zurich. “It’s a wonderful feeling to give her a new lease of life,” says Commander Markus. “And it’s a sign to all of us at SWISS that things really are taking off again.”
06:00 p.m. Amman Airport – The HB-JHH is ready to fly to its home base in Zurich.
By 09:00 p.m. the plane is back in Zurich, ready to take its guests to faraway places.©
One thing is for sure: the next destinations are waiting, and HB-JHH will soon be back doing what it does best – transporting customers wherever they wish to go and giving them an outstanding flight. And our Jordan crews will soon be back in regular service, too, to help add a further shine to our customers’ air travel experience.
Text & Images: Tanja Fegble