Thursday, April 25, 2013

ANA Maintenance Facility Tour - Japan trip 2013 part 4

If you're looking for an experience that's uniquely Japanese, it's hard to really top this. Nowhere else in the world that I know of can you take a tour of a major airline maintenance facility in operation - not some mothballed dilapidated hangar on the edge of an abandoned airfield (though that'd probably be pretty cool too), but an actual working facility with in-service airliners being worked on as you walk through.

It's even free, though difficult to sign up for if you don't speak Japanese. Both JAL and ANA give tours of their facilities, though ANA's is a little easier for foreigners to get into because they do at least have an online form (all in Japanese, as will be their email confirmation). Beware, though - you do need to book months in advance.

ANA Component Maintenance Facility Tour
3-5-4 Haneda Kuko, Ota-ku, Tokyo 144-0041
Cost: Free
Reservations Required
Directions: Tokyo Monorail (local) to Shin-Seibjio station, then walk 15 minutes

That's the basic route. When we went, we found hardly any decent directions online to help us get there, so I'm happy to be of service. It's a pretty weird walk, too - as an American, it feels like walking somewhere you're not supposed to be.

Eventually you will see signs, and they are typically Japanese (ie. cute).

The building sign, which says ANA Component Maintenance Building (or "Biru", really).

The credentials you're handed when you arrive, including a neck badge (which you get to keep) and pamphlet about the facility and their planes. It's pretty interesting that ANA is still promoting the 787 so heavily given the problems they've had with it, but no doubt a lot of this stuff was printed long ago.

Later, they also give you a clear file folder with pictures of their planes on it.

Inside the lobby, there's an actual L-1011 cockpit.

The lobby also has a small sitting area for snacking, as well as a gift shop. I didn't get pictures of those, but this guy did. I bought one of those little desk models of a 787 there.

Obviously, the facility is guarded by a giant robot. It's Japan, DUH.

No doubt they expect a lot of kids on this tour, so some of this stuff is for them.  But there does seem to be a promotional tie-in between Gundam and the airline right now.

ANA loves to decorate their planes with cartoon characters. I got a photo of another (real) Pokemon 747 in Okinawa - I'll share that later.

This was in the auditorium - they give you a sort of briefing with a little talk about the airline and several videos showing planes being built and whatnot. Probably my favorite video they showed was actually during "break" time when nobody else was paying attention - it was a history of the flight attendants' uniforms. Other than the lack of a hat, the current ones are actually the best (yes, that's AKB48 in ANA uniforms, but that's pretty much what all their f/a's really look like!). Generally the Japanese airlines have always been very conservative with their uniforms, unlike US airlines.

Interestingly, they tell you at this point that you need to ask permission to use any photos you take on the tour, for any purpose including blogs, Facebook, etc. I'm not sure that's legally enforceable but I did ask for and received permission to use all the photos taken on ANA property in this post. Hopefully that'll discourage some people from stealing my photos, since you'll have ANA after you, not just me.

Inside the hangar. This is one of ANA's 787's being worked on. This was during the plane's grounding, so I'm not quite sure what they were doing. Maybe removing the original battery system to prepare for installation of the new one.

The same plane's tail.

Buried under all that scaffolding is one of the airline's few remaining 747-400D's. The tour guide explained that they were all being retired this year, so this was really a rare treat that I'm glad I didn't miss. This plane seemed to be undergoing a C check. (Incidentally, I later discovered after researching the registration number that this was the same plane involved in an infamous - and fatal - 1999 hijacking that came very close to disaster.)

The mechanics working on the flap and spoiler systems of the 747. Obviously part of the point of this tour is to give you confidence in ANA's safety. It's also partly to promote airline life so kids will grow up wanting to work there.

Tire storage - they had racks for all the different planes they operate. I think they said they can recycle/resurface a tire something like eight times before throwing it out.

747-400D engine being worked on. The tour guide said they can check engines here, but if they find any problem, they have to send it somewhere else to get fixed. (If I remember right, I believe she said they need to send them to Narita!)

ANA's 747's and older 777's have nose wheel cameras, and the guide actually pointed out where they are. Their newest 777-300ER's have a belly camera but I've never seen a nose cam on takeoff or landing, which is a shame. JAL still uses them on their new 777's.

 787 reverse view.

747-400D again. You kind of make a full circle of this hangar, starting inside and up above, and moving down and outside as you come back around.

Another 787 sitting outside. Interestingly, it was powered up despite the grounding and battery issues - I have video of its engines spinning. I wonder what they were doing...

Back over to the first 787 and its engines. These were not running, obviously.

787 tail/empennage from below.

And this is the hangar itself, from the enclosed pedestrian bridge over the road that connects the office building where the lobby and auditorium are. The tour guide pointed out that out the window on the other side, you can see the "D" runway - I took off from that runway for Okinawa the following day.

This was one of the highlights of the trip - not often you get to do something like this unless you happen to be an airplane mechanic. It was really cool.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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