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WestJet Utilizes Very Canadian Solution for Weather Issues

WestJet Utilizes Very Canadian Solution for Weather Issues
Joe Cortez

Canadian carrier WestJet is using some local ingenuity to protect aircraft from summer hail storms. To protect wing flaps from damage, engineers have installed hockey puck boards on parked airframes.

What happens when you have over 50 aircraft parked at Calgary International Airport (YYC) and have to protect them from golf ball sized hail during the summer months? WestJet is using a very Canadian solution to limit the storm damage: installing hockey puck boards over wing flaps. The airline instituted the unique solution this year, in part due to the increased number of idle aircraft.

Puck Boards to Protect Vulnerable Areas

Drawing from problems experienced in past years, the WestJet team wanted a new way to protect aircraft against fast-moving severe weather. That’s where the idea of using puck boards came from: a durable cover to protect spoilers and other sensitive areas on the aircraft.

“The puck board was precisely cut to fit vulnerable spots on these aircraft and will provide an additional layer of protection against weather elements,” a WestJet spokesperson told FlyerTalk. “Working with the aircraft manufacturer the team secured the puck board to susceptible areas, such as critical flight controls and spoilers, which are the hinged plates visible on top of an aircraft’s wings.

Working with Boeing, WestJet cut puck boards to protect spoilers and other critical areas of the aircraft. Photo courtesy: WestJet

Designed to take a regular beating from hockey pucks, the boards are the same kind found at ice rinks across the United States and Canada. So far, the boards have been applied to all of the Boeing 737 airframes parked in Calgary.

Results Positive, but Inspections are Ongoing

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak forcing WestJet to park over 130 aircraft, the airline would park an average of 30 airframes in Calgary on any given summer night. Although the engineering team constantly plans to mitigate weather damage, the puck board solution is showing a lot of promise.

“In terms of aircraft, we are currently inspecting the fleet for any damage,” the WestJet spokesperson told FlyerTalk. Most have returned to service but inspections are ongoing.”

For aircraft in storage, the airline will take extra precautions to minimize damages. Before going back into service, all of the aircraft will receive a thorough investigation to manage repairs and ensure airworthiness before rejoining the active fleet.

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