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UPS Supply Chain Solutions®

Japan Airlines Customer Story

We deliver a lot of critical parts. Only a few of them weigh 3,500 pounds

Japan Airlines (JAL) was one of the first to fly the revolutionary Boeing® 787 Dreamliner® aircraft. It’s the cornerstone of JAL’s fuel-saving strategy, and customers love its unmatched creature comforts. But being an early adopter of new aviation technology means that even a routine problem can become a challenge when you’re the first to face it. When a ramp incident damaged an engine cowl on one of JAL’s 787s, they faced an AOG (airplane on ground) situation they’d never seen before.

Cowling being loaded on an airplane to fly to Hawaii
"We needed a top-notch logistics partner to handle this unprecedented challenge. We chose UPS because we believed their professionalism, practical expertise and knowledge uniquely qualified them to deliver this huge aircraft part."

Takashi Ogata, Logistics Management Staff Manager, Japan Airlines Engineering

The Challenge

Labor Day weekend in the U.S. is one of the year’s busiest travel times. So if an AOG situation arises, it’s a big deal. In 2014, a JAL 787 Dreamliner bumped a jet bridge at Honolulu International Airport, damaging the left engine cowl. This disabled the plane, making it impossible to return to Japan for repair. For an older aircraft, this might have been a quick fix. But finding spare parts for a brand-new plane—especially a part that weighed nearly two tons—wasn’t so easy on a holiday weekend.

The Solution

With the clock ticking, JAL turned to UPS to solve the logistical conundrum of transporting a 3,500-pound cowl more than 2,600 miles over land and sea. Fortunately, situations like this weren't new to UPS. Airline executives received almost hourly updates as UPS logisticians addressed the colossal and meticulous task of delivering a replacement cowl. UPS arranged ground transportation for a new cowl on a flatbed from Chula Vista to the San Diego International Airport. The 16-mile drive required special permits and an escort vehicle. In San Diego, the cowl was loaded onto a chartered Boeing 747, because only a 747 with nose-loading capability could accommodate the immense part. It quickly departed for Honolulu, the plane was repaired and the aircraft departed for home. To finish the job, UPS shipped the damaged cowl by ocean freight to the U.S. mainland for its long road trip for repairs at a factory in Alabama.

The Results

The Honolulu airport had given JAL seven days to remove the grounded plane. Through its integrated ground transportation, aircraft charter and ocean freight network, UPS not only got the new cowl to Hawaii with time to spare, it got the damaged part back to the factory for repair. JAL was grateful for the fast, skillful response. “I think that, but for the UPS team’s support, we could not have successfully accomplished this task,” said Takashi Ogata, Logistic Management Staff Manager for JAL Engineering.

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