April 15, 2013
Credit: British Airways
Tying maintenance devices and systems together with lightning-fast and accurate digits, rather than with slower and less-reliable tapping fingers, is a goal of all aircraft maintenance organizations. Faster accurate data should mean smarter maintenance and operational decisions, as engineers anticipate, rather than react to, problems.
Three British companies have taken a major step toward automating data transfer. “I don't know anyone else who has done it,” says Mark Leather, continuing airworthiness manager at BA CityFlyer. “Nor do I,” concurs Nick Godwin, managing director of Commsoft.
“It” was the collaboration by CityFlyer, Commsoft and NVable, which makes the Appixo Electronic Technical Log (ETL), to create an automatic, real-time interface between the ETL and Commsoft's Open Aviation Strategic Engineering System (Oases) application.
Appixo, a Class 1 technical log, is on the flight deck on a Panasonic CF-19 Toughbook. It now collects data entered by flight crew and engineers that include sectors records, delays, fuel uplift, oil and hydraulic fluid uplift, defects, minimum equipment list and component changes. After each sector, Appixo automatically sends this data via a 3G or General Packet Radio Service cellular network to an NVable ground server, which forwards it to CityFlyer systems and thus to Oases. Eventually Appixo will receive data on Out-of-Phase maintenance task accomplishment.
Appixo has a series of hard and soft validation checks to ensure data are more accurate than in a paper log. Data transfer from ETL to Oases is automatic and digital, avoiding transcription errors and reducing the workload on clerical staff.
The most important gain is speed. It usually takes two to three days to manually enter technical log data into a maintenance management system. CityFlyer operates out of London City Airport, but its engineers work near Manchester, so the transfer took at least this long. Now it happens instantly after each sector is flown.
“It is very important for fuel monitoring, which was part of the business case,” Leather says. “We now have real-time aircraft defect information in Oases, enabling us to react quicker to any adverse reliability trends. It can record a defect shown by the pilot or clearing of a defect by engineering. We get data on defects quickly and can address them quickly.” The linkage allows engineers to monitor aircraft reliability more proactively and provides a greater visibility to all areas of flight operations.