This article was first published in the summer of 2019 as part of a 100 part series on the history of British Airways and its predecessor airlines, Imperial Airways, BOAC and BEA. You can browse the full series of 100 stories in numerical order, by theme or by decade.
Amongst all the coverage of blockbuster advertising campaigns and premium cabins, it would be remiss not to mention those staff who are responsible for ensuring aircraft stay in the air, the engineers.
BA has significant engineering teams at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as well as at dedicated facilities in Cardiff and Glasgow. The demands on engineers have of course changed over time. Flights used to operate with in-flight engineers. Concorde also used to demand a relatively huge number of engineers per aircraft.
In 1993, with the aid of generous grants from the Welsh Development Agency, BA opened a maintenance centre in Cardiff which carries out maintenance work for much of BA’s long-haul fleet. This is where significant long-haul aircraft projects such as the refurbishment of the Boeing 747 fleet have been carried out. Some work such as the refurbishment of Gatwick Boeing 777s and maintenance of Airbus A380 aircraft is carried out overseas. Short-haul “heavy” maintenance is carried out in Glasgow.
BA engineering, together with Iberia, also offers “Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul” services to other airlines.
Like all parts of BA, engineering has not been immune from competitive pressures and under the watchful eye of its parent company IAG it must be competitive against third parties. However, this is one part of BA where management has rightfully resisted the temptation to fully outsource. As well as a carrying out an important safety critical function, it also serves as an important entry point into the industry for future engineers on work experience and apprenticeships around the UK.