Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Tour of the Monarch Airlines hangar at Manchester

Monarch Airlines are raising money for charity by offering tours of their maintenance hangar at Manchester Airport. The first tour was this morning, and a few of us Concorde guides had been invited to attend along with some TAS (The Aviation Society) members; seven of us altogether.

We assembled at the Runway Visitor Park in time to be picked up by the Monarch minibus and driven round to the hangar. After being given security passes our host, Martin Francis, led us into the main part of the building where the aircraft are worked on. There were two in there this morning; a Monarch Airbus A321 undergoing an 'A' check, and a Fed Ex Boeing 757 cargo aircraft in for x-raying of part of its structure.

As ever, click (twice) on any picture for a larger image.

The Monarch Airlines A321

Federal Express Boeing 757 freighter

 A321's cargo door open

First, we had a look around the A321. It was due out of maintenance at lunch time and so the staff in the hangar were busy ensuring it would be ready. 

Martin Frances, our guide, on the right of one of the A321's engines

The back end of one of the engines

 Martin points out the fire detectors on the engine

 The back of the fan, and the side of the engine core

 The APU (Auxiliary Power Unit) in the tail of the A321

 The APU is a small jet engine which provides electrical, hydraulic, and air power when the main engines are not running. The air intake is the oblong-shaped orifice in the middle, and the compressed air for main engine start comes out of the APU in that thick pipe which is slightly blued at the APU end.

 The left engine, with all the cowls open. It was these that were left unfastened on the BA A320 at Heathrow a few months ago, resulting in loss of the cowlings in flight and a rapid return for the aeroplane.

 Main undercarriage detail, showing the radially-mounted multiple hydraulic brake slave cylinders. The pistons in the cylinders extend when the brakes are applied, and press the static and the rotating brake discs together to brake the wheel.

 The view as one stands inside the right hand main undercarriage bay. The twin wheels of the right hand gear, when retracted, occupy the space this side of the aluminium beam, up to the top of the bay. There is, of course, a similar space on the other side of the aeroplane for the left hand gear.

The A321 from the front, our party in front of the wing

Nose wheel assembly, showing the hydraulic cylinders for steering the aeroplane on the ground

Avionics bay under the nose

Total Air Temperature sensor, just like those on Concorde

 The nose wheel bay. During retraction, the main undercarriage wheels are automatically braked to prevent them rotating in the bay after take off. The nose wheels have no brakes, so when they retract the tyres rub on these two strips in the bay to stop post-take off rotation.

A321 flight deck. No yokes, just side-stick controllers

 The P1 side stick. Think I prefer traditional yokes, myself......

.....Or better yet, a proper stick like this (Yak 52 G-BWVR  I part-owned for a few years)

 A321 overhead panel

P1 pilot's panel

 Centre panel detail

 The author tries out the P1 seat

P2 DV (Direct Vision) panel open

Next, we moved across to the Boeing 757

An unusual view of the 757

A close look at the right engine

The 757 is perhaps one of the more graceful of today's airliners, though it is vanishing from passenger service these days and more are relegated, like this one, to freight

 Martin tried to find some passenger steps for us to board the 757, but none were available. So we volunteered to use these 'service' steps at our own risk!

The 757 flight deck - like the A321 a 'glass cockpit', but a generation or two older and of course being a Boeing, it has traditional pilot's yokes instead of side-sticks. This picture was taken before Martin powered up the displays.

The displays with power on

The author tries the P1 seat of the 757. I so much prefer yokes to side sticks! Or, of course, my real preference of a central stick; see Yak52 cockpit picture earlier.

The interior of the 757 freighter 

A last look at the 757 before we leave the hangar
Many thanks to Monarch, and to Martin in particular, for not only allowing us into their hangar but also ensuring we got full access to both aeroplanes, and a full explanation of any points that required clarification. We willingly contributed a generous donation to their charity as left after a really superb morning.
If you get the chance to go on one of these tours, grab it. I guarantee that if you have the slightest interest in aeroplanes you will have a wonderful time.


  1. Great Post !
    The aircraft is loaded with all the latest automated systems.The interior and the exteriors impressed me a lot.Thanks for sharing.

    Bruce Hammerson

    Hydraulic Hammers

  2. Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the post, Bruce.