Video: Air Canada's Boeing 787 pit crews that meet every flight

Do you know Air Canada often flies its Boeing 787s more than 17.5 hours per day?

Widebodies usually fly more hours than the typical A320 or Boeing 737, but 17.5 hours is a lot - by any measure. As a point of reference, in the first three months of this year, Air Canada's average daily utilization was 9.8 hours. 

Air Canada's 787 strategy is so aggressive that the airline has devised an unusual way to service planes when they're on the ground in Canada. Since turn times can be so short, the airline now has what it calls pit crews that meet every plane. 

Here's how a story in Skiesmag.com describes Air Canada's approach. 

While other international carriers routinely assign two workers to carry out a series of maintenance tasks, Air Canada has opted for a “pit crew” concept for its Dreamliners, with five to eight employees descending on each arriving aircraft.

Each Dreamliner pit crew consists of two licensed aircraft technicians, two licensed avionics engineers and a “trim and finish” mechanic, at a minimum. Another specialty worker often on hand is an in-flight entertainment technician, who troubleshoots the seat-back screens.

The end result is that Air Canada is able to turn around a Dreamliner in 80 minutes, compared with other carriers that might take two hours.

I spoke recently with Ben Smith, Air Canada's president, who told me how hard the airline flies the aircraft. It is not unusual, he said, for Air Canada to fly a Boeing 787 from Vancouver to Shanghai and back, and then, immediately after, fly it to Tokyo. "We are putting the airplane on very long missions," Smith told me. "So far we are quite pleased with the airplane."

I asked Smith if he had any complaints about the 787s, and he said he had no major ones. But he said the airplane is challenging because it takes up so much space at gates. 

"At some airports, we are having gating issues," Smith said. "We knew about that. But it's almost as wide as a 777. That is the extent of our issues with the airplane."

As you may know, Boeing has solved this problem - at least for the next-generation Boeing 777. Those aircraft will have folding wingtips to allow them to park in tight spaces. 

Curious about where Air Canada is flying its 787s? Here's a map from the airline's website. I live in Los Angeles, and I know many of my readers also live here, so you might be interested to learn L.A. will soon become Air Canada's only U.S. 787 destination.