This spring two new CRJ900 NextGen aircraft joined Adria's fleet. They have been given the names Urška and Vesna. A new addition to the fleet is like the birth of a child. A big event for every family – or airline – which also requires the involvement of professionals. In our case instead of doctors and midwives we have experts from the engineering, commercial, finance and legal departments.
Shyly, but with a great deal of curiosity, I made the acquaintance of the two "new arrivals" in the aircraft "maternity hospital" at Mirabel in Canada. Once the "penpushers" had sorted out the contracts, it was time for Urška and Vesna to undergo a health check. This was carried out by half a dozen Adria experts who checked the functioning of twenty systems in the air and on the ground and physically inspected the aircraft.
Vesna's acceptance flight was carried out by Bombardier test pilot Esteban Arias and Adria technical pilot Jernej Levičar. The third seat was occupied by aviation engineer Simon Ješe, who was there to help ensure that the acceptance flight was completed safely. Before handing over a new aircraft, the manufacturer is required to demonstrate the normal functioning of all the aircraft's systems. The checks take place according to a special checklist during a two-hour flight and cover thirteen procedures. I was one of the lucky passengers on board the acceptance flight, and the experience was truly unique. The procedure that made the biggest impression on me, as an observer, was when during a steep climb the pilots brought the aircraft almost to the stalling point. The pilot is warned of an impending stall by the vibration of the control stick, at which point he lowers the aircraft's nose and the flight continues normally. Perhaps the most painful part for anyone with a cold is the cabin pressurisation test. This involves switching off the air conditioning and allowing the pressure in the passenger cabin to fall gradually. Passengers feel this as a severe ear pain and a feeling of tiredness. The test ends with the automatic activation of the oxygen masks in the passenger cabin, which allow passengers to breathe normally. The pilots also tested the functioning of the ground proximity warning system and the warning system for a gear-up approach and incorrect flap configuration.
During the acceptance flight the pilots detected a defect: a slight imbalance in the functioning of the brakes on the left landing gear wheels. In accordance with the procedures recommended by the manufacturer, the defect was immediately remedied.
During the acceptance flight the cabin crew manager Samo Oblak checked the location and suitability of cabin equipment and the safety instructions for passengers, tested the communication, lighting and audio systems and inspected the equipment in the kitchen and toilets.
Back on the ground, the engineers tested seven different systems, all of which functioned perfectly. Flight operations director Peter Šenk explained that as well as a physical inspection, a full technical inspection includes checking that the aircraft conforms to relevant technical documentation. An airline can refuse to accept an aircraft if it does not meet all technical requirements (for example a poorly finished passenger cabin or poor quality paint), or if individual elements do not conform to the contract.
Vesna passed her health check with flying colours. At Adria's request, the Civil Aviation Agency then issued an airworthiness certificate and confirmation of entry in the Slovenian Aircraft Register, thus clearing the way for the aircraft to begin its journey to its new home.
"Both the new CRJ900 NextGen aircraft – S5-AAU and S5-AAV – have been leased as new aircraft," explained Adria finance director Silva Stopar. "This represents the conclusion of Adria's restructuring programme, one of the goals of which was to deleverage the company." "Adria has taken the aircraft on an eight-year lease from aircraft asset managing specialist Falko", added Alenka Klemen. "This company currently offers the best terms and has shown great confidence in Adria Airways."
During the eight-hour flight from Canada to Slovenia, with a stopover in Keflavik in Iceland, Vesna's engines, which represent a third of the value of the aircraft, burned 13 tonnes of aviation fuel. The next "health check" (officially known as the "C Check"), will be carried out by Adria Tehnika after 6,000 hours of flying (in other words in three years' time) and will take 12 working days. Until then the two newcomers, which have already been flying across Europe for just over two months, will mean a more economical fleet, lower costs and better competitiveness for Adria.