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Healthy market in aircraft monitoring

The global market in aircraft health monitoring systems will be worth more than $2.2bn this year, according to the latest predictions from analysts MarketsandMarkets.

And the good news for Airbus, Boeing, Honeywell, Rolls-Royce and the like doesn’t stop there. The research predicts that the market will grow at an impressive CAGR of 6.8 per cent up to 2020 and by the end of the decade will be worth $3.3bn.

Data is a wonderful thing. It’s long been an adage in the world of quality management that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Understanding how an aircraft or an engine works in the real world helps airlines to manage their fleet better, OEMs to design better platforms and MROs to spot and repair potential faults.

It is no wonder then that the market is set for strong growth. According to MarketsandMarkets, demand is set to follow fleet growth with uptake expected to be strongest in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, particularly Brazil, China, India and the UAE, where deliveries of new aircraft are highest.

Widespread deployment isn’t without its challenges though. In particular, the report highlights the limitations of current data transfer technologies and a lack of standardisation.

Another potential difficulty is availability of skills, particularly with new health monitoring technologies on the horizon, such as vibration-based monitoring and those using fibre-optic sensors.

Having access to all this data can be really valuable, but only if you can make sense of it. Many operators don't know how to integrate data from health monitoring systems into their existing maintenance IT platforms or how to best interpret and use the figures that such systems generate.

In researching a forthcoming feature on MRO support contracts, I heard that some airlines are becoming reliant on third parties – be it an MRO, an OEM or a specialist firm – to monitor the performance of their assets for them.

This is a worrying development, without some level of skill in-house, how can operators double check what they are being told? How can they really be sure that they are getting the best out of their aircraft?

That’s not to say that those performing the monitoring aren’t trustworthy, but in my experience two pairs of eyes are always better than one.

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