If you work at Emirates' sprawling engineering operation, you need a head for heights and an eye for detail.
When the airline rolls a double-decker Airbus A380 into one of the giant hangars at Dubai International Airport, some of the engineering crew will be working on the vertical stabiliser which is seven storeys high.
On the top floor of the specially designed platform that surrounds these giant planes, you get a close-up look at the lightning conducting static wicks on the vertical stabiliser and the tiny camera that provides the popular overhead view of the fuselage on passengers' entertainment screens.
Beside the plane are laid out a good number of its four million parts - one million more than in one of the Saturn V rockets that sent men to the Moon. A team from Emirates inspects the A380 parts, and if necessary, replaces them.
Pilots' seats are arranged among panels and crates of new kit on one part of the platform. Inside the plane, the two decks stripped of their seats and side linings, exposing the insulation, look like large, low warehouses.
The premium bar - a distinctive part of the Emirates A380 - is in pieces ahead of modifications. Further forward, there's a good view of the plumbing of one of the two showers in first class. Some of the 520km of wires and cables that snake through the plane are visible and the flight deck is almost dark, stripped of much of its avionics equipment.
The 6.5-year-old Airbus A380-800, registration number A6-EEG, was being stripped back to its bones as part of a ''3C-Check'', done every three years.
It's an epic task on the biggest passenger plane in the world, and takes up to two months with as many as 80 engineers working round the clock on the plane every day.
The gargantuan planes can weigh up to 575 tonnes and according to Murray Cranston, line support shift manager at Emirates Engineering, their size presents big challenges for workers.
''Fittings are so heavy. In the past they could have been moved by one or two people but now need pulleys and slings - that's one of the challenges of the 380, the size and weight of everything,'' says the Kiwi who has been working for Emirates since 2005.
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Seats are taken out to give access to floor areas not normally visible during more regular inspections. Engineers are looking for any flaws or faults that need repair, and interiors and inflight entertainment in seats need updating regularly.
''If we have to modify new aircraft with new cabins, everything has to come out - that's one of the biggest parts of the job,'' says Cranston.
Planes in the hangars need full electrical ground power - enough grunt to supply 40 homes - to run air-conditioning and inflight entertainment systems. Aircraft auxiliary power units can't be run when the hangar doors are closed.
Moving the big planes in and out of the buildings is a delicate job. The skin on top of an A380 is thin layers of carbon fibre and aluminium.
Emirates has by far the biggest A380 fleet of any airline, with 110 of the planes and another 14 on order.
The aircraft has worked well for its operations through the big Dubai hub and into the large global cities which contain roughly two-thirds of the world's population within an eight-hour flight.
But the economics of the big four-engine plane are no longer adding up. When the airline decided this year that it would not order any more, that was the end of the line for the double-decker which has had only lacklustre support from other airlines.
Cranston says this may create some challenges getting spares, but the airline would move aircraft into maintenance earlier and roll older planes out of the fleet sooner.
Robert Aiken, senior manager of engineering facilities, says the total staff of just under 6000 work in 24/7 shifts with 1800 a day on site.
Twelve fully air-conditioned hangars form the largest free-span structures in the Middle East. The seven heavy maintenance hangars can all handle A380s. They're each more than a hectare in area and workers get around in golf buggies or on trikes.
They need to be bigger than ever.
Aiken points out that the horizontal stabiliser's wingspan at the rear of an A380 is the same as the main wingspan of an Airbus 310, the plane built for Emirates just two years after the airline was launched in 1985.
Emirates also has the world's biggest fleet of Boeing 777s, with 158 already flying and another 150 on order. It will be the launch customer of the 777X, a plane that makes more use of carbon fibre.
He says these aircraft are more complex to fix if their skin is damaged. Alloy planes can be more easily patched.
In another hangar, a 777-300 is undergoing inspection and testing of its framing as part of a Federal Aviation Administration-ordered programme for the planes around the world.
Engines are maintained on a cycle dictated by their manufacturers.
On-wing testing of engines will be done in an engine run-up bay, within surrounding 15m-high acoustic walls which ensure the jet blast is directed safely upwards and engine noise is reduced.
There's also a dedicated engine maintenance centre with capacity to overhaul up to 300 engines a year, 40km from the main engineering base's airport location. Here, engines with a thrust of up to 115,000 pounds are tested following maintenance work.
This facility is capable of handling future engines with up to 150,000 pounds of thrust, making it one of the very few facilities in the world that can accommodate such power ratings.
At the engineering base, aircraft also come in every six months for "A checks". Airframes and engines are inspected and parts that are likely to fail are replaced.
A team of about 25 people carry out 750 staff hours of inspections and component replacements.
Cranston, who was formerly an Air New Zealand engineer, says the desert environment is particularly tough on planes.
''We have to do a lot of compressed air cleaning of the engines because they do collect a lot of dust and their performance deteriorates over time.''
Fuel and air filters have to be replaced more regularly than elsewhere and air conditioning systems also get clogged up.
The cavernous paint shop was based on the Airbus paint hangar in Hamburg. Because of 40C plus temperatures outside in Dubai, it needs a huge air conditioning system.
Crew clad in heavy duty breathing gear perch on six adjustable height tele-platforms (worth $1.6m each) that glide along the 72m length of A380s as they spray multiple layers of paint.
On an A380, a paint stripper is used to cut through to the first layer of primer to avoid damaging composites; on a 777 it is used to strip them back to metal.
A full paint job takes 14 days for A380 and nine days for a 777.
Up to seven coats of paint weighing more than a tonne cover an area of 3076sqm on the entire exterior of an A380
The aircraft are finished in ''brilliant white'', a custom colour for Emirates, and a gold mica paint is used for the airline's insignia and logo.
• The Herald travelled to Dubai courtesy of Emirates
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