THE CONNECTED AIRCRAFT – PART IV
The Closest Thing to Crystal Ball Maintenance [Infographic]
Tight aircraft turn times are the great differentiator when it comes to profitability. The ability to get maximum usage out of aircraft assets by getting planes back in the skies in the shortest time possible is crucial to airlines’ bottom lines.
A major part of the reason is that block time is expensive. Airlines for America estimates that each minute of block time in the U.S. can cost $64.44. The FAA has calculated that average block-hour costs for wide-body, long-haul aircraft run between $9,103 and $14,592.
For each hour of delay, costs are compounded by flight schedule complications, crew rest-rule scheduling conflicts and passenger compensation.
As Deepak Sharma, director of technical at A.J. Walter Aviation, told the MRO Network, “In the aviation business the most critical strategy is to have the right part at the right time.”
“In the aviation business the most critical strategy is to have the right part at the right time.” Deepak Sharma, director of technical at A.J. Walter Aviation
Considering the costs associated with delays, the sooner airlines know that parts and maintenance are required, the better.
Discovering issues while on the ground already makes airlines late to the game. Health-monitoring systems in connected aircraft are essential to predictive maintenance — that is, an inflight reporting system that reports back to operations on the performance of critical parts in real time. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has projected that new technologies, including modern connected aircraft, could reduce airline MRO costs by as much as 20 percent.
By knowing in advance that parts may be required, airlines can dispatch parts and maintenance teams to be ready to roll when the aircraft lands. This improves the chances of shortening those critical turn times.
“Airlines are turning to Panasonic for connectivity solutions because they appreciate the competitive and operational advantages of this real-time aircraft health reporting,” says Emmanuel de Traversay, Sr. Director, Panasonic Technical Services.
There are many line-maintenance and repair facilities in the world who will eventually benefit from having quick or even live access to aircraft system data. Panasonic’s IFEC line-maintenance and repair network includes 60+ locations around the globe and over 1,300 experienced technical services personnel, which makes it the world’s largest network.
As with other aircraft components, connectivity boosts the benefits of the ground maintenance services Panasonic provides.
At many airlines the work of the maintenance teams is based on feedback by the flight crew written down in the log book. Many of those entries are up for interpretation, so by the time an issue is identified and analyzed the plane may have to take off again before the issue has been resolved. And just like that an operational inefficiency has become a matter of passenger satisfaction, sometimes even with direct financial implication if passengers need to be compensated.
On connected aircraft, Panasonic’s automatic BITE offload sends built-in test equipment (BITE) maintenance data to the ground in real time which, with predictive analysis, can help schedule preventive maintenance services.
For the unexpected, Panasonic’s maintenance teams receive system health diagnostics from eXConnect aircraft at an LRU level. In an ideal case, maintenance personnel will either chat live with the flight crew or remotely log into the system to address issues at the spot. Most of the time though engineers will wait at the gate with the right parts in hand to resolve issues without any impact on turnaround time or the passenger experience.
Essential to those efforts are Mission Control Centers (MCC) like the one Panasonic operates at their Lake Forest Headquarters. Dedicated staff members monitor diagnostic data 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Glancing over their shoulder is like looking into a crystal ball – in the form of a dozen of monitors in a high tech office space in Southern California. MCC staff members are in close contact with either Panasonic or airline maintenance teams to provide tactical support or to help with long term prognostic analysis of data adjusting operational processes to increase the efficiency of MROs.
There are many line-maintenance and repair facilities in the world who will eventually benefit from having quick or even live access to aircraft system data.
Reactive Doesn’t Fly
Reactive MRO planning, with the all too typical AOG rush, is a costly business practice. But without the “view” of the aircraft from the ground that connectivity delivers these events are largely inevitable, given the technical complexity of aircraft.
This leaves too many things to chance and is no way to run a healthy business — especially not a business as cost-sensitive as an airline.
Grounded airplanes profit no one. Proactive maintenance keeps aircraft and airlines profits where they belong: sky high.