More and more operations are seeing the benefit of meshing their MRO software with their flight operations IT solutions. Together, the two offer more synergy than perhaps any other pairing to ensure safety, efficiency and profitability. We will take a look at how these two seemingly disparate products can work together to create amazing synergy.
South Korean start-up airline Aero K has gone live with Rusada’s ENVISION software in time for its maiden flight. Aero K initially signed up for ENVISION in December 2019 but was unable to proceed with its original launch plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The carrier is now looking to take advantage of easing travel restrictions and a pent-up demand for travel.
Aero K conducted it first scheduled flight on April 15th, flying an Airbus A320 from its base in Cheongju to popular travel destination, Jeju. It will look to add international destinations such as China, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam as the situation improves.
Rusada worked closely with Aero K throughout the pandemic to get them up and running on 9 of ENVISION’s modules in time for their first flight. Due to the constraints of the pandemic, Rusada used an array of collaboration tools to remotely configure the system, load aircraft data and train staff. Aero K are now using the software to manage their airworthiness, maintenance, inventory, and support activities.
“We are very grateful for Rusada’s support during this implementation, as it has ensured a smooth and successful start to our operations,” Mike Byungho Kang, CEO at Aero K said.
“I would like to congratulate everyone at Aero K following their initial flight. Our worlds have been turned upside down since they initially signed up late in 2019, so to get to this position in the current climate is a huge and impressive achievement,” Julian Stourton, CEO at Rusada said.
Ramco Systems has gone live at a leading aviation MRO specialist with its Aviation M&E MRO Software V5.8, automating the organization’s business processes. This marks the successful implementation of Ramco together with its partner Aeroxchange, who played a pivotal role in the implementation with its AeroComponent connector, enabling seamless integration at client end.
Ramco says their Aviation Software V5.8 enables the MRO specialist with solutions to provide visibility through efficient operational and financial reporting, automate their repair order processing and support day-to-day operations and the growing volume of transactions. Integrated with Aeroxchange through their AeroComponent connector, the solution will connect the ITM/Pool Parts providers with their customers’ systems to facilitate real time exchange of data on both demand fulfilment and core return process. The software has modules for commercial, supply chain management, procurement and repair management, part technical data management and financial management.
“With Ramco Aviation and Aeroxchange’s (AeroComponent) combined solution, customer demand for parts are interfaced seamlessly with pool provider,” Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems, said. “Through this, we are able to put in place a robust and scalable platform, that delivers an exceptional degree of supply-chain process automation in a real-world environment, allowing the organization to offer a highly efficient, tailored and differentiated part support service to their customers. We are confident that the MRO specialist will now be able to meet its AOG and Routine demands, thereby driving overall turnaround time (TAT) reduction and delivering SLA commitments, efficiently.”
Albert Koszarek, president and CEO at Aeroxchange, said, “Through our partnership with Ramco, customers seeking to realize perfect MRO commerce using Aeroxchange’s real-time collaboration network can benefit from the robust combination of our applications. We look forward to continuing to work with Ramco in providing enhanced value for companies in the aviation industry.”
We have all had a flight delayed because of a technical problem and experienced that heart sinking moment when the captain announces that “we’re just waiting for the paperwork”, because it is impossible to guess how much longer it will be until push back. While there is widespread use of electronic logbooks (ELBs) by flight crew, replacing the famous pilot cases, there has been slightly less use of electronic technical logs (ETLs) to replace hard copy documentation and even less integration with other IT systems in the airline, so the response to a problem can be lengthy and relatively disorganized.
For a non-electronic system, from the manifestation of the fault on the flight deck, there is communication of the problem to the Maintenance Control Center (MCC), which will carry out research to find a solution, including generating the necessary paperwork in the Maintenance Information System (MIS) and ordering the replacement parts. Even if the mechanics have pre-warning and replacement parts, they will still always read the tech log, as information can get degraded while passing down the chain from pilot to MCC to shift supervisor to lead mechanic before it gets to them on the line. That still doesn’t resolve problems with understanding bad handwriting or if the crew have made an accurate assessment of the fault. For example, a stall warning can be triggered by landing gear, flight controls or caution and alerting – three different ATA chapters.
If the crew and maintenance can connect to a much wider data pool, diagnosis becomes much more accurate and standardized, with no room for misunderstanding. A database of fault codes generated by the aircraft’s maintenance computer would immediately give the source of that stall warning. With a better idea of how long the problem will take to rectify, plans can be made to minimize delays, perhaps by swapping the aircraft for another on the next sector if the times exceeds the turnaround. Once the problem is resolved, the mechanic can sign off the job on their device and this will alert the crew via the ELB/ETL – no crowding into the cockpit or passing forms through windows. Minutes saved in this way potentially avoid delays and cancellations later.
But why is paper still so common? One reason is inertia in huge organizations. It seems that the push for ELBs sometimes comes from flight operations, where cockpit crew see the immediate benefit, while there is push back from maintenance as they ‘own’ the paper logs. The final procurement decision in this case is usually taken at a management level that has oversight of both departments and so has a greater understanding of the potential advantages to the whole company.
John Stone, VP of Product Management at Ultramain, says the challenge is to help airlines to understand the benefits so they want to get involved early, rather than them feeling that they have to do it because everyone else is going paperless, which seems to be the mentality of the majority of operators right now. Having said that, he notes that it is six years since Ultramain carried out a software implementation that involved paper.
He also points out that an airline with 100 aircraft is going to have millions of paper log pages. They will have been typed up manually, with a risk of error. They may have been scanned into an IT system, but they will still have to be boxed up and shipped to a warehouse, where they will sit useless and unchecked unless there is an accident that requires their retrieval. If regulatory changes are introduced, existing stocks of logbooks will have to be thrown away and reprints ordered in the new format. All of this is costly and inefficient. A good example of new technology here is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from EASA. British Airways, an Ultramain customer, simply changed the ELB format electronically overnight.
He adds that Ultramain’s ELB can also hold details of the previous 50 flights, allowing the mechanic to check whether they are dealing with a recurrent fault. Of course, this data can also be used separately to analyse individual aircraft or the entire fleet. Another advantage of the ELB is that fuel, oil and hydraulic fluid consumption can be monitored and any exceedances quickly identified. Billing can also be expedited. It would take several days in either case with a paper-based system.
With over 1 million sectors flown with Ultramain ELB by customers including Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific (a customer for 20 years) and Japan Airlines, he says the company has accumulated vast experience of airline operations, which help in the development of new and improved products.
However, it is Japan Airlines that he singles out for particular comment, as it has developed a complete maintenance strategy that uses IT to the maximum. This is the Zero-Zero-100 programme: zero irregular operations or inflight shutdowns; zero inflight defects and 100% on time departures. This started in 2016, with AMOS from Swiss AviationSoftware being added in 2018 and Ultramain’s ELB (including a Cabin log) and Mobile Mechanic for line maintenance following in 2019. Also included was Ultramain’s Crew Communication System, which allows flight crew to contact engineering with a single button.
The main driver behind Zero-Zero-100, he explains, was that the airline had been using a paper-based system but the introduction of the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787, both e-enabled aircraft, made this ripe for replacement. However, the airline’s vision extended far beyond the new aircraft to the digitalization of the entire maintenance organization. This is definitely the way forward for progressive operators.
Cameron Hood, CEO of NVable, has a slightly different take on the situation as his company produces CONVERGE, a combination of an Electronic Technical Log and the associated processing software. It was involved in trialling initial versions of the ETL in the 1990s and was the first to introduce the Panasonic Toughpad as a preferred platform for the ETL with an airline and the first to introduce the use of Microsoft Azure and the benefits of scalable, secure cloud architecture to an airline data environment.
In his experience, the ETL procurement decision is usually driven by Maintenance Operations Control, with line engineers the second to benefit as they are usually not catered for at all. Flight crew have their EFBs so are happy but he acknowledges they do have an important input to ETL operations and the decision to acquire such a system needs their acceptance.
He says there has been some confusion between EFB and ETL, with the latter sometimes being called EFB hardware. This leads to most people thinking that all that is needed is an EFB and an iPad, with the ETL software on the latter. This is certainly possible from a technical point of view but he points out that the paper technical log stays with the aircraft at all times, as required by the aviation authorities. He strongly believes the ETL should not be a personal issue device and should also remain with the aircraft at all times.
He adds that a key element is two-way communication, with the device able to transmit data back to base for subsequent analysis and to receive data from the airline’s main server to give salient information to technical staff at work with a problem. This is particularly useful if there is a rogue aircraft in the fleet with unusual serviceability issues or operational restrictions, as they can be made aware of the potential difficulties.
CONVERGE has multiple modules, although three are at the core. The Line Maintenance Module bundles work items from multiple sources into a single work pack for an aircraft, and schedule when it should be carried out. It will then be transmitted to the ETL and be available to action at the appropriate time. Defects are created automatically meaning less work for engineers, and the status is updated automatically via the CONVERGE Website allowing MOC a real time view of exactly what is going on where.
The Damage Module allows full lifecycle management of scrapes and dents. These are located on the appropriate view or chart of the aircraft that are available in the ETL. Once selected, you can scroll around and zoom in and out to allow exact placement of the damage marker and the necessary information is entered. Photographs of the damage can be captured throughout the life of the damaged item to allow degrading damage to be identified and tracked, giving a true timeline of any changes which may occur.
The Document Management module allows distribution of documents from the CONVERGE portal via the Web and ETL devices. Documents are added to a customer defined folder structure and each document revision is stored for auditing purposes. Permissions can be assigned at the Document or Folder level and, with documents having a Published and Unpublished state, you updated documents can be prepared in advance and release across the organization with a single click.
Given the wide range of data that is potentially available, he says it is really up to the airline to select its main requirements and for NVable to develop the necessary solutions. This might include information that is not directly relevant to maintenance. One customer is British Airways CityFlyer, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the flag carrier, operating regional flights with a fleet of 22 Embraer 190s. In this case, NVable collates schedule and flight data and puts it into a ‘warehouse’ so it can be analysed by the airlines as it needs it, perhaps for future operations. Another example might be validation of fuel usage, with pre-defined alert levels if there are exceedances. More complex solutions might be the calculation of a rolling consumption rate on oil. The data store can also be used for defect analysis and engineers can even register their associated repair activities as a useful bonus.
CONVERGE can interface with other IT systems, which was part of the original design, so data use is extended to other parts of the airline if the customer wishes. While the MIS is an obvious option, he also mentions finance for fuel billing but adds, in these environmentally sensitive times, CO2 analysis.
Visualization is again driven by what the customer wants. Multiple dashboards can be created, each tailored to a specific audience. Dashboards update as the data arrives and areas which need attention are highlighted in amber or red according to defined parameters. A Notification Module allows users to create their own notification rules and content, as well remaining in control of who receives the notifications (whether internal or third parties).
If an aircraft is moving on from an airline’s fleet, CONVERGE can produce a pdf of the technical records, more in keeping with traditional paper-based record keeping, but the company is also happy to facilitate getting all the online data moved out into an electronic format that can used by the new operator. This also applies to the damage record.
As for airlines looking for commercial off the shelf solutions, he feels that this will happen as the acceptance of the technology matures, not necessarily because of COVID-19, but the pandemic has given them a reason to think about how these systems might be used to make life easier if another emergency situation arose. For example, technicians could go from working at the airport to working from home as the fleet is grounded. There will still be regular checks required so those procedures could be loaded onto a personal issue device with automatic alerts when they are scheduled to be carried out.
The latest development for Converge is a link-up between NVable and Commsoft. John Wilson, Chief Product & Technology Officer at Commsoft, says CONVERGE is ‘best of breed’ and the intention is to deeply integrate it with his company’s OASES MRO software to help airlines deal more efficiently with technical problems. This will provide a seamless experience across all aspects of aircraft maintenance, flowing from the office, hangar, line activities and to each aircraft.
The company has an annual product road map and the latest version highlighted that customers generally dislike using software that doesn’t allow them to complete their workflow efficiently. Efficiency is particularly important where data is highly dynamic such as short-term planning and material provisioning. The main theme this year is to provide better tools for line maintenance planning and resource management, along with generally improved mobility and growing integration with operations systems and ETLs. Converge will help solve this as a three-day lag in processing paper logs is no longer acceptable and the joint venture is aimed squarely at the MOC and flight operations. If they have real time insight into a problem, he explains, they can start planning contingencies as well as simply resolving the issue, often one of the flaws in the current decision-making process.
Write it Up
Although ETLs have been around for a while, their potential has been under-utilized until now. With e-enabled aircraft and improved communications, along with much more sophisticated software, there is now a real opportunity to radically change maintenance procedures when it comes to resolving problems. However, it might also take a cultural change inside airlines to grasp that opportunity and use the data throughout the organization.
During MRO Americas 2021, Lufthansa Technik AG will put up large amounts of surplus aircraft parts for auction using the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) new MRO SmartHub e-Auction platform, for which the MRO (Maintenance, Repair, Overhaul) giant will act as the launching customer. In the global auction, Lufthansa Technik will offer a broad variety of aircraft parts for almost all current commercial aircraft types.
All auctioned components have been part of the company’s surplus inventory for less than three years and are made available in various sub-packages to perfectly fit the needs of specific fleet operators or MROs. Commercial assets include: Airbus A320, A320neo, A330, A340, A380, MD-11, Boeing 737 NG, 737 MAX, 747, 757, 767, 777, and 787. Regional assets include: Bombardier CRJ, Embraer ERJ and De Havilland DHC-8-400. The material will come with dual or triple release certification (FAA/EASA/CAAC) mainly from Lufthansa Technik and with a 12-month warranty.
After registering via https://go.updates.iata.org/auction, all current customers of Lufthansa Technik will be automatically accredited for the bidding process. New customers can also accredit for the auction via the company’s https://go.updates.iata.org/auction. The auction will start on April 26, 2021.
“In this auction, we offer high quality and well-maintained aircraft components from our extensive surplus portfolio that we are permanently adjusting to the changing demand of our valued customers from all over the world,” said Dr. Georg Fanta, head of Commercials – Aircraft Component Services at Lufthansa Technik. “We are proud to be the first to partner with IATA`s new MRO SmartHub e-Auction platform in order to find new homes for these attractive assets.”
“The IATA MRO SmartHub was created in response to the industry’s need for greater transparency and efficiency in the aircraft components and surplus parts market. By now adding the e-Auction functionality, we can provide an additional trading channel for buyers and sellers alike. We are honored to have such a renowned industry player as Lufthansa Technik as our launch customer and wish them a successful first auction,“ said Tim Schaaf, director Business Development at IATA.
SierraTrax announced the launch of its nationwide scanning network, which provides a secure route for aircraft owners and operators to convert their paper logbooks into digitized records and store them safely in SierraTrax’s cloud service.
Through SierraTrax’s new Digital Aircraft Records solution, what can often be boxes of paper records can be professionally scanned and transcribed into SierraTrax. Using advanced AI, records including log entries, 8130 parts traceability forms, 337s, and handwritten logs are automatically organized into relevant categories and made searchable. Users of the service can privately share and quickly search records by entering a simple keyword or date, allowing for easier inspection of records for Part 91 and Part 135 operations, as well as maintenance facilities.
“We are very excited to bring a secure scanning solution to our customers, which solves one of the largest hurdles in digitizing aircraft records,” says Jason Talley, CEO of SierraTrax. “The industry is asking for digital record keeping solutions and our platform already had the framework built in for this. Our new Digital Aircraft Records service was the next logical step, and we are thrilled to be able to give our customers peace of mind knowing their aircraft logbooks are backed up and always accessible.”
Digital Aircraft Records, launching soon, will be available as a stand-alone service or add-on to a Maintenance Tracking subscription. SierraTrax will offer customized scanning and annotation packages, including access to their SOC 2 compliant nationwide scanning network.
Ramco Systems has opted to partner with EXSYN in the area of aircraft data migration, offering joint implementation services of Ramco Aviation M&E MRO Suite V5.8. This partnership between both the companies will enable new clients onboarding Ramco Aviation Suite to rely on the expertise and bespoke technology of EXSYN in order to smoothly migrate their data from existing systems into Ramco application.
“With EXSYN’s global expertise on migration of aircraft data through their tested process and tools, we believe that our partnership will enable our customers to manage the complex data migration process efficiently,” Sam Jacob, SVP & head of Ramco Aviation, Aerospace and Defense, Ramco Systems, says. “By addressing this critical element, our customers will be able to reduce the time to implement and reap the benefits of Ramco Aviation Suite faster.”
Sander de Bree, CEO of EXSYN Aviation Solutions, adds, “Ramco’s Aviation M&E MRO Suite is a MRO software used globally by many industry leading aviation companies. As EXSYN we are leaders in the migration of aircraft data. Combining our expertise only makes sense in order to ensure a robust data migration process as part of Ramco’s implementations.”
The data migration for Iberia Maintenance & Engineering across 15+ different legacy applications to Ramco Aviation Suite marks the first project of this partnership, put to action.
Commsoft’s OASES, the leading MRO IT software system for supporting airlines and aircraft maintenance organizations, has introduced a new Customs Tracking module to specifically address challenges faced by MROs and airline operators when transporting parts across customs borders.
The new module provides tracking data for both imports and exports, ensuring demonstrable customs compliance through robust data audit trails. OASES customers can now track materials in transit from supplier/manufacturer source to point of receipt of goods, and from one location to another cross-border location.
“Wherever material or equipment moves from one country to another, the relevant data is captured within OASES and this works for both incoming orders and shipments” explained Paul Lynch, VP New Business Development OASES.“ With the continuing uncertainties of a post-Brexit Europe we feel this is a timely addition to enable our customers to manage the step increase in customs-qualifying shipments they now have to deal with.”
User-friendly dashboard views provide real-time insight as customs information is captured at the point the shipment clears customs, rather than only on receipt of the goods in the warehouse. By specifying the customs territory against each address, OASES Customs Tracking allows users to view journey progress between warehouses or to and from a supplier, and ensure the relevant customs information is captured.
“The Customs Tracking module is one of the first new developments in OASES that has benefited from the continuously deployed nature of our Cloud-enabled portfolio. This facilitated rapid agile development between our aviation customer collaborators and the MIT Labs engineers, who provide the developer resource for Commsoft,” Adam Frost, product manager OASES, explained. “We were able to make changes to the UI and UX in real-time which was pushed to all customer’s UAT environments, simultaneously. This is a step-change for OASES and was crucial in delivering this new value feature to our customers with a “no surprises” end game, following the UK’s exit from the EU.”
The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate (AFRL/RQ) awarded ARCTOS Technology Solutions (ARCTOS) the follow-on, $96 million indefinite delivery indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract supporting the Research Enabling Procurement for Aerospace Systems (REPAS) program.
Formerly Universal Technology Corporation (UTC), ARCTOS has supported the AFRL/RQ for over 50 years. Based in Dayton, Ohio, ARCTOS is one of two awardees on the eight-year IDIQ contract and received five of the six competed task orders included with award.
“We’re excited to continue being part of the AFRL community and contributing to the evolution of propulsion and power technology,” said Joe Sciabica, ARCTOS CTO and vice president of Technology Solutions. “Our relationship with AFRL/RQ is longstanding and continues to be a point of pride for the ARCTOS team. ”
As the prime contractor, ARCTOS provides propulsion and power technologies research and development (R&D) to the AFRL/RQ at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Key services include R&D lifecycle efforts focused on air breathing propulsion; electrical power generation and energy conversion; and energy storage and thermal management technologies for integration into Department of Defense (DoD) systems.
Transavia France is adding the suite of TRAX eMobility apps to its maintenance environment. With this addition to their TRAX core maintenance system, Transavia will transition to electronic technical logbooks and digital task cards. The airline hopes to experience gains from going mobile and paperless.
TRAX says their eMobility apps are task-based and intuitive for end users with minimal training required and enhanced productivity achieved. Users access real-time information and are connected from anywhere with mobile off-line capability. Reduced aircraft maintenance delays combined with savings on labor manhours result in huge savings and operational efficiency.
Transavia will implement the iOS PilotLog, CabinLog, QuickTurn, and AeroDox apps along with the web-based Task Control app in Phase 1. In Phase 2 they will bring online the EzStock, VisualCheck, and Production Control apps. The eMobility Electronic Technical Logbook consists of the QuickTurn, PilotLog, and CabinLog apps which allow communication between flight and maintenance crews, reporting of aircraft and cabin defects, a permanent record of aircraft maintenance history, the electronic certificate of release, and other functionalities. The AeroDox app enables search, view and download of reference documentation needed for work performance. It handles OEM publications such as AMM, IPC, wirings, SRM, MEL, and other manuals as well as documentation in formats such as SGML, XML, PDF, Images, Schematics, Videos, and Word docs.
“We are constantly looking to identify innovative solutions for our operations. With this new eMobility tool developed by our partner TRAX, we will streamline the maintenance process for our aircraft,” Hervé Boury, COO of Transavia France, explained. “All the documents useful for managing the continuing airworthiness of our aircraft will be digitized, allowing teams to focus on their essential tasks and save precious time.”
Greater Bay Airlines (HGB), a Hong Kong based airline announced it partnered with FLYdocs to digitize maintenance records for its fleet of Boeing 737-800s.
The start-up airline founded by Hong Kong tycoon Bill Wong Cho-bau signed a five-year deal with FLYdocs to automate and digitize its aircraft records. The partnership will enable the operator to capitalise on digital transformation by utilizing the seamless integration between FLYdocs and the leading M&E platform, AMOS for full compliance-on-demand.
“We are a new player in the market, so it is imperative that we begin operations with processes that deliver on both innovation and efficiency to help us meet our objectives,” Algernon Yau, CEO of Greater Bay Airlines said. “The entire team at FLYdocs instilled confidence and assurance that the partnership we are creating together represents the future of digitization to help us drive operational efficiency into our business as we embark on this exciting journey.”
John Bowell, director of Commercial & Marketing at FLYdocs added, “This is a fantastic opportunity for FLYdocs in supporting a start-up airline which is a first for us. The global pandemic has massively disrupted our industry, so it’s inspiring to see signs of recovery and a very positive outlook with operators like Greater Bay Airlines entering the scene. What is even more encouraging is that the team at Greater Bay Airlines are already championing digital solutions like the FLYdocs platform and AMOS to drive greater safety, sustainability and compliance outcomes. We look forward to growing our collaboration and wish them all the success going forward.”