On arrival back in the UK from my trip to pick up a brand new British Airways Boeing 777-300ER from Seattle, we landed at Cardiff Airport. This may seem an odd choice, but the reason was that British Airways do all maintenance work on their B747-400, B767-300 and B777-200/300 fleets at this dedicated facility, known at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (BAMC for short).
I was surprised to learn that BAMC had opened as long ago as 1993 – making next year its 20th anniversary! When you arrive, you wouldn’t think it, as the building is modern and airy.
We were given a tour of the facility (following a lovely cooked breakfast in the canteen!) by some of the staff there. They started by introducing themselves and just how much they love working there – the majority are from this part of Wales, so the facility is a fantastic resource for local employment.
Behind the entrance, offices and canteen areas, a huge three-bay hangar complex fronts onto a dedicated apron at the airport. It is big enough to house a Boeing 747-400 in each slot simultaneously, and on our visit we were presented with two examples having D-Checks – G-CIVY and G-BNLE.
Perhaps the nervous flyer would find the sight terrifying, but I was fascinated and really got to grasp just how big and complex a task it is to keep these machines flying for 20+ years. The tour gave us the opportunity to see inside ‘LE, which had been completely stripped of its interior, apart from the overhead lockers and some galley areas. It was an impressive sight, having only flown on a BA 747 a few days earlier and seen the big difference. Upstairs, the cockpit had been completely stripped to allow access to the airframe behind it, whilst outside engineers worked along the length of the wings on small issues that had been flagged with orange labels.
Outside, a new jetbridge has been constructed which allows another aircraft to park up and receive less intrusive attention. Today, the B777-300 we had just arrived on (G-STBF) had been pulled up. Workers were already aboard preparing the front cabins to receive the First and Club World seats before the aircraft enters passenger service in March.
For the spotter, there are various opportunities at Cardiff Airport to see what’s going on at BAMC. The hangar is visible from the car park area outside the terminal, and the roads leading up to BAMC. You may have difficulty seeing what’s inside unless the doors are open, however!
It was a fascinating tour, and a great end to our trip. Thanks to British Airways for arranging, and providing transport back to Heathrow.