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Inside TAP's historic maintenance hangar in Lisbon

Inside TAP's historic maintenance hangar in Lisbon

A historic hangar at Hompeto Delgado Airport in Lisbon, Portugal, houses one of the largest maintenance centers in Europe, serving TAP Portugal. Located parallel to the airport, there are three hangars that can accommodate up to 10 aircraft at a time.

At the invitation of the airline, we went to see the largest of them, Hangar 6, where up to 5 aircraft are served simultaneously, 3 of which are wide-body aircraft (Airbus A330ceo and neo, and historically A340-300) and 2 others. Small single-aisle aircraft of Airbus A319, A320 and A321 or first generation Embraer E190 and E195 from TAP Express, operated by Portugal.

The interesting story is that the construction of this hangar began in 1969, when TAP was still operating the Boeing 747-200 and there was talk of building a new airport. Therefore, the barn was designed from the beginning to be disassembled in the near future, in order to be reassembled in a new location. At the time of its completion, it was the largest aircraft maintenance hangar in Europe.

Today, the new airport, named Luís de Camões, is expected to be ready by 2030, and its new location is in Campo de Tiro do Alcochete, on the other side of the Tagus River. However, TAP should not dismantle Hangar 6, but rather build a new, more spacious and modern hangar, in order to meet the corporate reality of the mid-21st century.

In 1969, the same TAP magazine reported on the prospects for the new airport in Lisbon

In total, today, in the company's three hangars in Lisbon, there are 13 teams of employees who work two shifts a day, completely meeting TAP's needs for its aircraft and sometimes the needs of other airlines. The length of Big Hangar 6 is 242 metres, its depth is 66 metres, its height in the upper part (entrance) is 25 metres, and its lower part is 17 metres, which is the back part of the hangar.

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The structure attracts attention due to its material consisting of metal beams divided into blocks, specifically to be dismantled into parts. The upper part is located at the entrance near the door, exactly so that planes enter head-on and their tails are protected.

Once inside the hangar, we came across the A330neo, which was about to complete its maintenance, taking the overnight flight TP87 to São Paulo later that day. Already imposed by nature, the aircraft takes on additional importance with the hangar stall, which is designed so that the jumbo jets can practically touch their nose to the structure, allowing easier access for the maintenance team to reach the second floor of the aircraft. Without the need to use cranes or elevators.

During our visit, two Airbus A330-900neo, one A330-200ceo and one A319ceo were undergoing maintenance. The neos had engine repairs and also internal checks, while the executives had longer repairs.

The A330-200, which has for decades been TAP's backbone for international flights, is expected to be maintained for at least another two years at the company. Today, only three aircraft of this model remain, which are practically repaired on flights to Fortaleza, El Salvador, Recife and New York.

The technical officer in charge of the hangar, Diogo, explains to us that the length of time the plane stays in the hangar varies depending on the type of maintenance: “We have what are called light checks, which are A and B, which can take a few days or more to two weeks, and we also have what is called heavy maintenance, which are C checks.” And D, which takes from four weeks to twelve weeks, depending on the case.”

In the past, TAP Manutenção e Engenharia, or simply TAP M&E, had a division in Brazil, using what was formerly known as VEM, or Varig Engenharia e Manutenção. The Porto Alegre hangar was sold to Chinese company Drayton Aerospace and the Galeão hangar to United Airlines, a Star Alliance partner.

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Today, all maintenance work is done in Lisbon, without the need to outsource or send the aircraft to other countries, with rare exceptions depending on the most urgent cases or the aircraft being far from the center in the Portuguese capital.

Besides the three hangars, there is the entire infrastructure of TAP, including range planning, flight coordination, training rooms and simulators. It is a real city, with thousands of employees, and like Lisbon, it already has its own history and architecture.

AEROIN traveled to Lisbon at the invitation of TAP Air Portugal