Estimated reading time 8 minutes, 14 seconds.
As helicopter operators and airlines around the globe are grounding flights in response to Covid-19, the oil-and-gas market, and other pressures, they are scrambling for cost-effective ways to preserve out-of-service aircraft. In the absence of adequate hangar space, many companies have been forced to simply park aircraft on idle ramps or runways at airports and let Mother Nature take her toll.
However, long-term exposure to the elements can present problems for aircraft when not in use. Moisture can collect, causing rust and corrosion in gas tanks, fuel lines, and engines. Sunlight can deteriorate tires and damage paint. Pests can make nests in small access points or do damage by chewing through wires and components.
To keep grounded aircraft in good condition, companies have only a few options. One is a labor-intensive maintenance schedule, in which technicians and pilots regularly inspect and run up aircraft to keep them in working order. Another is to park them in a climate-controlled warehouse; however, warehouse space is costly and limited.
Protective Packaging Corporation offers an alternative: AirProPak preservation kits that completely enclose helicopters and planes in layers of vacuum-sealed, mil-spec moisture barrier packaging, allowing them to be stored indoors or out. Protective Packaging developed this preservation process through years of working with the U.S. military and private companies to store a variety of equipment and machinery. Within the last five years, the company has customized the process to meet the needs of helicopter companies all over the world to preserve helicopters during transport and storage.
This preservation method is a modern twist on mothballing or cocooning. The process includes unique, flexible, yet robust, moisture barrier films designed to keep even minimal amounts of moisture and humidity from reaching the aircraft, its engine, and electrical parts, ensuring no corrosion for a minimum of three years.
Vacuum sealing removes all moisture and air and aids in completely controlling the environment around each helicopter, without the expense associated with indoor climate control. To ensure the low humidity inside each package, desiccant is distributed throughout the aircraft while humidity sensors on the outside provide a real-time indication of the relative humidity for the remainder of the packaging. A heavy-duty shrink film is then added as the outer sacrificial layer, protecting the inner heat sealed foil. (More about this process can be viewed here.)
A proven record
The Covid-19 pandemic isn’t the first-time helicopter companies have had a need for Protective Packaging’s services. In 2016, the oil industry downturn idled millions of dollars of oil-and-gas equipment worldwide, including nearly a fifth of the helicopters used to ferry workers and supplies to offshore rigs. In response, a major offshore helicopter operator turned to Protective Packaging to help it preserve its inactive fleet.
“Using our experience in helping protect idled U.S. military equipment, vehicles, planes, and technology from environmental factors and idleness, we were able to develop and install a complete solution for the helicopter operator,” said Steve Hanna, CEO of Protective Packaging Corporation. “Our solution is much more cost-efficient than an expensive controlled environment warehouse or hangar.”
The helicopter operator, serving offshore rigs in the North Sea, needed to protect its idled aircraft from corrosion, mold, mildew and other environmental factors until market conditions changed. They also needed access to rotate the blades periodically during storage. The company wanted to make sure the aircraft would not require any cleaning or refurbishing when they were finally needed for service.
Using its flexible moisture barrier films, Protective Packaging provided a packaging process that completely controlled the environment around the aircraft. Protective Packaging technicians traveled to Scotland in March and completed the entire application process in less than a day.