In 2007, European low-cost carrier (LCC) EasyJet outlined an environmental code and three core promises: to be efficient in the air and on the ground, and to lead the way in shaping a greener future for aviation.
Within these goals as part of its “Corporate and Social Responsibility Report,” the airline states that it emits 27% less carbon per passenger-kilometer than a traditional carrier flying the same routes. On the ground it uses less equipment to further reduce emission levels.
For an airline that has embraced greener thinking for almost a decade, the decision to move vigorously toward paperless operations was a natural next step.
An entirely paperless cockpit
In 2014, EasyJet announced it was flying with an entirely paperless cockpit, relying on digital navigation charts from Lufthansa Systems for its flight operations, adopting the IT services provider’s Lido/eRouteManual cockpit solutions, Lido/
iRouteManual and Lido/Enroute apps.
It also installed various customized apps to help streamline processes. These include an app for fan changes in the event of a bird strike and another for its operations control center designed to assist engineers and crew to resolve technical issues more easily.
EasyJet clearly prides itself on having a paperless cockpit, but it also strives to be innovative with solutions across all areas of its business.
The airline has continuously showcased how cutting-edge technologies can pave the way for a greener future, and in 2014 it announced that it would test UAVs for external inspections and introduce 3-D virtual reality to help reduce aircraft-on-ground (AOG) situations and turnaround times.
The introduction of Panasonic ToughPads to its cockpits in the same year was another big step, making the airline one of the first to use these devices. With the Toughpads, the airline has eliminated the extra weight that paper documents add, leading to a substantial reduction in fuel costs.
By having an advanced suite of tools that can deliver important fleet data on demand, EasyJet not only improves its flight operations, internal organization and air-to-ground communication but also its maintenance processes.
According to the airline, its “smart maintenance philosophies” allow it to enjoy a leading edge within the European short-haul market while reducing costs and improving the passenger experience.
As part of this philosophy, the airline uses AerData’s Stream (Secure Technical Records for Electronic Asset Management) documentation management system to digitilize records that can be used during maintenance processes and shared with third-party companies such as SR Technics during equalized maintenance (P checks).
EasyJet also benefits from around-the-clock access to a plethora of fleet data with Stream, including audit trails and release certificates. It also can annotate documents and filter data by categories such as daily workpackage summaries and fleet tech logs.
Swiss AviationSoftware’s (Swiss-AS) AMOS maintenance management system also features in its paperless structure, helping to improve the efficiency of maintenance operations and processes.
Together, this paperless setup has provided invaluable support to the LCC’s operations, delivering a consistent platform that supports both daily flight operations and maintenance needs.
Speaking about EasyJet’s Stream paperless engineering project, Swaran Sidhu, head of fleet technical management at the airline, says that it has allowed EasyJet to “develop process-driven workflows that have supported growth of the fleet from 166 aircraft in 2010 to 248 aircraft in 2016, with no associated increase in direct headcount within the records department.”
Since 2014, the airline has been working toward integrating the two solutions to automate the export of key information such as repair files, modifications, airworthiness directives and service bulletins from AMOS to Stream.
“The intent is to be able to join up the dirty fingerprint records to each of these files, which will allow status and compliance to be displayed on one single platform,” says Sidhu.
He says that the integration process, which he expects to complete by the end of 2016, will allow EasyJet to digitize the indexing for asset numbers, component part numbers and serial numbers information, for example, while having the ability to publish
e-sign documentation into Stream.
There have been some challenges with integrating Stream with AMOS, and Sidhu describes the principal challenge as being the “lack of standardized data feeds” for use between the two tools.
Another challenge is “the ability to extract data fields viewed as reportable within the maintenance, repair and overhaul system but that actually only exist as display values on demand,” Sidhu says.
While there is still some work to be done with the integration between Stream and AMOS, EasyJet has greatly benefited from using the two IT solutions.
“The main benefit has been the implementation of electronic workflow management processes that have allowed a focus on the timely availability and quality of maintenance paperwork returns. This in turn had a significant benefit to the end-of-lease process in terms of timely return of aircraft,” says Sidhu.
And while the implementation of IT software (and the handheld devices that host them) requires additional staff training, the benefits of using such tools are well worth the initial upfront investment.
For example, some topline benefits include more streamlined operations, lower maintenance costs, higher efficiency and improved safety. Tools that can be accessed remotely allow an airline to reduce turnaround times and keep its fleet off the ground, thanks to key information being available with just a few clicks, including information on structural repairs and damages and back-to-birth records.
“A paperless system allows any errors to be quickly identified and resolved, thereby avoiding the grounding of aircraft,” Sidhu says. “It also has the capability of remote fleet management, hence saving time, and the capability of giving intelligent reports that allow maintenance processes to be improved as required.”
Certainly, EasyJet’s proactive maintenance strategy allows the airline to benefit from lower lead times, fewer AOG events and increased aircraft reliability and fleet growth. But what role has its paperless engineering project played in delivering such benefits?
Thanks to on-demand access to digitized and indexed information, EasyJet’s paperless setup allows the airline to proactively plan and carry out maintenance work, as well as communicate with other areas of the business with ease.
In addition, paperless operations make it easier when EasyJet’s A320-family aircraft are undergoing P checks because during this shop visit, technical fleet, component and parts data need to be accessed as quickly as possible to return the aircraft to service in a timely manner.
Sidhu emphasizes the importance of having “ready access” to key information and says paperless engineering allows the airline to “validate airworthiness records with a minimum of delay.” Moreover, “any issues can be identified and dealt with before escalation at the end of the ‘EasyJet life’ of a particular asset,” he adds.
Next steps for the paperless mission
Sidhu says the airline’s paperless mission is not over just yet: The airline is currently “working toward the goal of lease return-ready records,” he says.
While Stream features a repair map that records aircraft damage, repair details and documentation, it is crucial for leased aircraft to be returned to a lessor with complete documentation in order to avoid further expense.
Sidhu also says Stream will have the capability of integrating with wireless devices in the not-too-distant future. The information currently entered onto a wireless device and into AMOS has to be exported into Stream.
Another focus of the airline is the adoption of e-signatures, which should be ready for implementation by December 2016 and will lead to “significant benefits in a volume reduction of the amount of paperwork that is still generated, to the order of 80%,” says Sidhu.
“This will of course make a significant difference in terms of resources and cost of labor while maintaining a flat head count,” he says, adding that electronic tech logs are next on the list.
“E-tech log is the next project we are reviewing after implementation of e-sign, and this will have a further reduction in the amount of paperwork generated including transport cost.”
While there is no definitive date for the implementation of E-tech log, EasyJet is working on a “fit for purpose solution,” which is under evaluation.
With EasyJet’s paperless engineering project going from strength to strength, the carrier is keeping its promise to shape a greener future for aviation.