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August 12, 2013

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Outdoor workers toil in blistering summer heat to keep city going

Outdoor workers say this summer has been more difficult than any they can remember as temperatures have reached record levels.

Armed with a flashlight, tools and clipboard, Yao Chunlei, a senior aircraft maintenance engineer-inspector with China Southern Airlines, rushes onto the tarmac frequently at Pudong International Airport.

With the ground temperature at the airport often exceeding 60 degrees Celsius in the summer, Yao needs to crouch under the fuselage to carefully check the undercarriage, engines, fuel tanks and other parts to ensure everything is in good condition and all nuts, bolts and screws are tight.

Yao has nine years of experience and a perfect safety record. He is one of around 300 airline maintenance employees checking around 100 planes each day.

“I have to fully focus on my work for nine to 11 hours every day because the safety of passengers is at stake,” the 31-year-old Yao said.

He and his colleagues go through check lists required by Chinese and international civil aviation authorities.

After checking the fuselage, tail and rudder, he goes into the cockpit for more checks.

He also makes minor repairs. After all the checks required by civil aviation authorities are completed within an hour, Yao signs a flight log book to confirm the airliner is ready to take off again.

After checking a plane his uniform is soaked with sweat.

After a brief rest — not even enough time for his uniform to dry — Yao rushes off to do the same checks when another plane lands.

“We must not only check every part carefully, but also complete the checks as soon as possible to ensure the aircraft can depart on time,” Yao said. Sometimes a plane is scheduled for a quick turn around but engineers still have to finish all the inspections, he added.

Bird strikes

Bird strikes are among the most common problems, occurring when birds and aircraft collide during take-off or landing. If the birds are sucked into an engine, there can be serious damage.

Some strikes are obvious, but some can be difficult to notice and the engineers have to go over the aircraft carefully, looking for blood, even tiny specs, as well as feathers or dents, all of which could indicate damage beneath the surface.

Lightning strikes are another problem, especially in summer. Whenever inspectors spot a burn on the surface, they check inside parts and electrical systems that could have been damaged by lightning.

If problems cannot be fixed quickly, the aircraft is repaired overnight when possible to ensure the flight schedule won’t be affected the following day.

“Overnight work is quite common for us,” Yao said.

Despite all the hard work and pressure, Yao said he has never regretted his career choice.

Deliverymen are also suffering this summer.

Li Hongming said he has been busier in the last few weeks as people are shopping online more to avoid the blistering heat.

Nationwide, some 800,000 delivery men are on the job every day. Each has to deliver 100 parcels daily, covering about 200 kilometers per day, according to the China Express Association.

The 26-year-old Li has been working for Yunda Express for six years since coming to Shanghai from his hometown in Shandong Province.

He begins picking up parcels at 8am every day from a delivery center in Xujing Town in suburban Qingpu District. Li said he is in the sun at least four hours every day.

He places ice bags under the seat of his motorcycle to keep cool. He also drinks salt water and green bean soup to prevent heat stroke.

“Some customers invite me for a drink. I always accept because it shows people appreciate my hard work,” Li said.



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